In the Shakespearean play ‘Macbeth” many tools are utilised to convey the main theme and to convey the idea that Macbeth’s deterioration of the mind. Shakespeare uses a range of language features such as weak foots, metaphors, dramatic irony and more, these are all clever ways of expressing suppressed feelings, ambition and despair, throughout the play Shakespeare pushes an idea that ambition is not healthy at all times and how drive can be deadly, he cleverly uses lines to break through to the audience and being them out of their trance on the play and pulls them back to reality, this is all done using language and subtle language features to push the idea of deterioration of the mind and ambition. 

The theme of ambition and desire is expressed through Lady Macbeth, She plays the role of setting the future events up and even though it was written in a time where women didn’t hold a place in society, didn’t control things and weren’t allowed to be in the play she was able to set up events that would lead to Macbeth’s despair and the ending of her life. Shakespeare used the discrimination of women and underlying problems with men to push the play into the direction it went to.Shakespeare utilizes language and text to set up the fate of the play this is present when Lady Macbeth is talking to Macbeth and says “Was the hope drunk wherein you dress’d yourself? hath it slept since? and wakes it now to look so green and pale at what it did so freely” before this quote Macbeth was stating that he will no longer go through with the murder and was later talked out of it by Lady Macbeth this was the beginning of the end of Macbeth’s sanity. “When you durst do it, then you were a man; and to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man” Lady Macbeth is taking away the “man” title this will rethink his decisions and will make him think about what a “man” really is and what they stand for, to belittle a man’s title or masculinity will send them into a downwards spiral where they will attempt to prove they have more masculinity than what you said they have. In this case it is shown in the way that once hearing his wife say this among other persuading he chooses to go through with the murder of King Duncan. “how tender ’tis to love the bag that milks me; i would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out, had i so sworn as you have done to this.” Lady Macbeth was stating that if she had sworn she would do something she will carry it out unlike Macbeth has done with the murder of King Duncan this language was used to make his second guess himself and re-think pulling out because Lady Macbeth is guilt tripping him into doing it by making it seem as if she had lied to him.These ideas relate back to the main theme of ambition because Lady Macbeth had a desire and want for her husband to be the king thus pushing her to persuade Macbeth to carry on with the killing of King Duncan which would make him take his place of king. 

 The witches play a big role in Macbeth because they fed his ambition and his desire and they played with fate and the future this relates to the main idea that Shakespeare is pushing throughout the play. When the witches spoke Shakespeare changed their pattern of speech to give them and unworldly feature to push the point that they were not of this world. The witches also played an important part in the Scottish play because if they were not there to put the ideas into Macbeth’s head and present the “future” that was reserved for him he wouldn’t have killed to speed up the process and wouldn’t have committed the amount of misdeeds that he did. The witches played with his desires and wants to manipulate the future and Macbeth. “for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth”  The witches used apparitions to manipulate what Macbeth was to do in the future and to build his security, the thing with the witches is there was always a loophole and way around what they said. In this quote an apparition that was summoned states that no one of women born can or will kill Macbeth this builds up Macbeth’s security and stability because he thinks he is now invincible until Macduff comes with an army to overthrow Macbeth just to be laughed at by Macbeth because “all” of them were of women born this is until Macduff reveals that his mum had a caesarean section (c-section) meaning he was not of woman born and this i feel is a clever tool that Shakespeare used to control the story, the events that took place and when/why they occurred. “When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battles lost and won”  the witches speak in inverse trochaic tetrameter compared to blank verse/ iambic pentameter blank verse is when they have a pattern of speech but do not rhyme. This is used so the audience understands who’s who or in this matter who’s what, the speech pattern in Macbeth plays a huge part on showing a characters mental state or if they’re not like the others. it tells the story as well as the dialogue. thous wast born of woman. but swords i smile at weapons laugh to scorn, brandish’d by man that’s of a woman born” throughout the play Macbeth the witches have lied and deceived him and they were the ones that diminished his sanity because all of their predictions were flawed, in this quote Macbeth is faced with Macduff and he doesn’t take any of this seriously because he was told he cannot be killed by man of woman born and he starts to laugh at the face of danger and swords and death. The witches had built up his confidence and his certainty that he would be king and stay king only to have it destroyed when the flaw or loophole had been revealed. “do not turn to mediums or seek out spirits, for you will be defiled by them, i am your lord your god.” In the bible He says not to turn to mediums or seek out spirits and i feel this relates to the witches, for Macbeth sought out for the witches Intel and used the spirits to dictate his future and they did defile him and play him, this is what god warns us/ him about and i feel religion plays an important part in ‘Macbeth’ because if he had listened to god and understood his words and his wants then he would not have committed his misdeeds and he wouldn’t have fallen into despair. In the play ‘Macbeth’ he is influenced and controlled by the witches, his actions and who he became was in the hands of the witches, i feel this could relate to every generation except the witches are the expectations of society and some people within society, they tell us who we should be, what we should look like and what actions we have to take,  they control our actions and who we are as the witches did for Macbeth, they forced an idea into him and watched him carry them out until it went bad and then they had nothing to say about it. As said in the introduction if this paragraph this goes back to the idea of ambition because the witches fueled his ambition and he had a want to control the future, know the future and change it, this is why he goes back to the witches and seeks out their word even though they are playing with his desires.

In the play “Macbeth” his mental state is shown slowly deteriorating by different events of the play two of these are seeing figures and non-existent objects Shakespeare does this by using a dramatic irony metaphor. Macbeth loses his ambition, his drive and his desire because of a numerous amount of factors throughout the play such as the witches and his suppressed guilt which is what ill be expressing in this paragraph, guilt.“Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feeling as to sight? or art thou but a dagger of the mind, false creation, proceeding from the heat oppressed brain?” As Macbeth’s sanity starts to fail him, so does his vision his mind was playing tricks on him and this could be a sign of unknown or suppressed guilt. Shakespeare uses the tool of a dramatic irony metaphor to present his idea, the idea that if a bad deed was done and not fully mentally confronted then your sanity will slowly deteriorate and your guilt will present itself in ways that seem impossible to imagine. “If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong.” In the bible god also speaks upon guilt and says if confronted and if talked about (to Him) all is forgiven or cleansed i feel like this relates to Macbeth because in that time he would’ve been christian or a christian in despair and this could also be what led to his fall in mental health, he didn’t confront or talk about the sins that had taken place leading him to a place of rethinking his faith and the christian belief, this is not rare when a person starts to fall into mental despair. ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ ” says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool’ in this verse god invites you to talk over your misdeed and he will grant great relief, after Macbeth starts his rain of murderous events he shut out god and he shut off his religion to suppress the guilt that would come from his plans and this is why he falls into a deep despair when his wife dies and the woods move from Dunsinane, he had no one and nothing to fall back on and after suppressing his emotions and feelings he would’ve found it hard to undo. To further present the idea that Shakespeare was trying to push, Banquo’s ghost is presented to Macbeth and no one else this shows the point that i had made earlier is that after guilt is suppressed it can manifest at any time and in any form, to Macbeth his guilt in killing Banquo had formed in his ghost at a dinner party with friends, this pushed him to the edge of losing his sanity, for he starts to yell at the ghost making his guests see him as unstable. Shakespeare used dramatic irony to push this point. ay and a bold one, that dare look on that which might appall the devil.” Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were holding a dinner party when the murderers of Banquo come in to tell him the deed is done but they have lost the son of Banquo, Macbeth sinfulness comes back to play a trick on his mind to present that he is losing his sanity and his mentality, he is slowly becoming mentally unstable and it is due to his misdeeds that have brought him to the point he is currently at.

Macbeth is like a set of dominoes one action leads to affect the doer of the action and those around them in this example Ambition and desire killed Lady Macbeth, due to her ambition she pursued the murder of King Duncan leading to a deep internal guilt, if she had not had the deep desire for her husband to be king she wouldn’t have killed herself out of guilt and Macbeth wouldn’t have fallen into a state of despair. Nearing the end of the play Macbeth loses his wife to suicide and he realises his time is running out his speech loses its pattern his speech starts to have a weak foot. for example “To the last syllable of recorded time;” this sentence ends with a weak foot and also sums up what Macbeth is trying to say about time being short and time running out he also uses a metaphor within this example he was referring to the ‘last syllable’ as if time was measured in syllables instead of minutes, hours, days etc Shakespeare is also trying to push a point that life is like a script this point is then backed up when he says “a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more” in this example he could be seen as saying the witches played him and his future as a play does for a character, in this example Shakespeare is also breaking through the play and breaking the wall between reality and fantasy and making a point to the audience pulling them out of their fantasy state of mind, Macbeth’s falter in his mental state when he makes these comparisons because they all push a point of life is pointless and holds no significance. Macbeth was in a state of religious and mental despair. Ambition has a domino affect, ambition lead to the murder of Macduff’s family and the suicide of Lady Macbeth. 

 Whilst studying Macbeth my eyes have been opened to the forcefulness ambition can have and how everything that you do and say takes an effect on those around you, i also have realised how a play can break through the fantasy realm and make a point to each and every person in the audience and how you can do all this through language effects. The play ‘Macbeth” makes me as the reader think differently about people ambitions and their drive/want for the actions they have taken and i feel this is what Shakespeare was trying to do other than push a key point i feel he was trying to teach a timeless lesson through his plays. Shakespeare was smart in the fact he wrote the character Macbeth well enough that everyone related to him one way or another, taking out the murder and every misdeed Macbeth was just like everyone else.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Georgia,

    Each of these paragraphs has strength internally in that they set up an observation about Shakespeare’s intention and then makes a clear connection between this and the devices he uses to convey these intentions. You do so with strong evidence and decent analysis.

    The area you need to consider seriously is the over-all coherence of the piece. At the moment it reads like a series of largely disconnected paragraphs, each of which make a good point in their own right, but which don’t build a larger argument.

    This can’t be solved simply by writing an introduction paragraph that ties them all together, as a well-structured essay will continue to build an argument or develop it’s case throughout, where each observation adds to the next to create a single whole.

    Pay close attention to the accuracy of your writing.

    Consider re-wording the question into a statement ‘Shakespeare conveys the idea(s) that… using… and …”

  2. Achievement Achievement with Merit Achievement with Excellence
    Develop and structure ideas in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas convincingly in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas effectively in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control to command attention in formal writing.


    This essay is abundant in ideas, many of which are convincingly supported with evidence. The area for development is in the control over language. On many occasions your sentences are spliced together using multiple commas. Sometimes the sentences don’t confirm (complete) and there are some uncontrolled lurches from one idea to another, without sufficient explanation.

    In future pieces, I strongly recommend that you take more time and pay closer attention to the written accuracy of your work. An approach that might help you is to read your work very carefully, paying attention to the sentences as you’ve actually written them (as opposed to what you think you might be saying).

    If you’re uncertain about how to construct a sentence correctly, please speak to me and I will show you the rules.


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