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Macbeth essay writing guide

21 Dec 2016Guides

William Shakespeare's Macbeth contains a great deal of the life lessons. The number one: Don't listen to stranger unshaven ladies when walking through a haze. The number two: It means Never let anybody spook you into accomplishing something you would prefer not to, regardless of the possibility that it's your wife. And the Number 3? If you need to end up king, the execute everything in your path strategy as seemingly successful will undoubtedly backfire.

Macbeth summary

Macbeth is for sure a cautionary story of power, greed and ambition. At the play's centre, it is about humanity's inclination for evil and ruthlessness, especially when powered by the desire for the ascension. Macbeth who was a Scottish well nobleman fresh from the ruthlessly victorious battle did stumble upon the pack of prophesizing witches who infer that the kinghood is in his future, successfully talking to his head and inner self. Just a couple of some words which make Macbeth in the movement accomplish his destiny of becoming a king instead of giving things a chance to unfurl normally. Here is the Macbeth summary.

Beginning of the play

Act one of the play opens to thunder and lightning. The Three Witches make up their minds that the following day they could meet with Macbeth as who is the Thane of Glamis. At the time, Macbeth had just defeated Norway and Ireland. Because of this, Macbeth was praised because of his bravery and fighting abilities.

Macbeth enters the play with Banquo (his war partner). While they are discussing their victory they meet the Three Witches who greet them together with the prophecies.

Prophecies in the tragedy

The witches proclaim Macbeth to be "Thane of Glamis" the "Thane of Cawdor", and to "be King Hereafter". Banquo challenges these prophecies and The Witches informed him that he will do fathering the line of the kings, however, he will not be a king himself. After the witches leave, a messenger arrives and pronounces the King with his new title which reads "Thane of Cawdor".

Lady Macbeth as a part of the plot 

Macbeth tells his wife about the prophecies. Lady Macbeth comes up with a plan to murder Duncan to secure the throne for Macbeth. She persuades Macbeth to kill Duncan and he does. Lady Macbeth frames the servants of the murder.

Uneasiness in Macbeth

Although Macbeth is an experienced success, he often feels uneasy because of what he has done. He also knows about the prophecy that was given to Banquo and it is constantly on his mind. One day he welcomed Banquo to the royal banquet and discovers that he has a son. Macbeth determines a plan to kill the son. After committing the act, he is visited by Banquo's ghost. Because he is disturbed, he visits the Witches. Warnings The Witches give Macbeth further warnings and prophecies. They tell him to "beware Macduff", that "none of the woman born shall harm Macbeth", and "never vanquished be until when the Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him." Because of these warnings, Macbeth puts to death everyone at Macduff's castle.

Results of the play

The aftermath of his actions causes Macbeth to appear like a tyrant. Lady Macbeth becomes caught up in guilt. A battle takes place between Macbeth and Macduff. During the battle, Macbeth noticed too late that he misinterpreted the witches prophecies. Sadly, he is beheaded as the play ends.

Macbeth characters

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are the main characters of William Shakespeare's tragedy "Macbeth" (1606). The story of "Macbeth" by Shakespeare is based on "the Scottish play" from "The Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland" by R. Holinshed Shakespeare. Shakespeare story was based on the episode of the murder of Scottish King Duff by feudal Donald taken from a completely different part of the "Chronicles". Shakespeare squeezed time events: historically Macbeth reigned much longer. This concentration is contributed to the enlargement of the hero personality. Shakespeare, as always, moved away from the historical source.

However, the character of Macbeth is based on facts. And his wife character is a fruit of Shakespeare's imagination. In the "The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland" was underlined only inordinate ambition of Lady Macbeth.

Unlike other Shakespearean "villains" for Macbeth crime, it is not a way to overcome his own "inferiority complex". Macbeth has almost a harmonious personality; he is the embodiment of power, military talent, luck in love. But Macbeth is convinced (and rightly believes) that he is capable of more. His desire to become king comes from the knowledge that he deserves it. However, on his way to the throne is the old king, Duncan. And he does his first step to the throne, and to his own death. Macbeth murder Duncan in his own house at night. And further crimes follow one after another: a true friend Banquo, Macduff's wife and son. And with each new crime in the soul of the Macbeth also something dies.

In the final, he realises that he doomed himself to a terrible curse, loneliness. But his confidence and strength inspire him with the desperate determination to fight it in the final, convinced of his invulnerability for a mere mortal.

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In Macbeth character is reflected not only the duality of many Renaissance heroes, strong, bright personalities, forced to go on the offense for the sake of the Incarnation itself (such as many of the heroes of the tragedies of the Renaissance, for example in K.Marlo Tamerlane), but also a higher dualism that has truly existential character. The man in the name of the Incarnation itself, in the name of the execution of his life purpose, has to transgress the law, conscience, morality, law, and humanity. Therefore Macbeth is not just a bloody tyrant and usurper of the throne, which eventually gets a deserved retribution, but in the full sense of the tragic character, is torn by contradiction and his human nature.

Lady Macbeth personality is also very bright. First of all, in Shakespeare's tragedy, it is repeatedly emphasised that she is very beautiful, captivatingly feminine, fascinating and attractive. She is really great, worthy of her husband.

But unlike her husband, Lady Macbeth knows neither doubt nor hesitation, knows no compassion. She without a doubt can be called an "Iron Lady." And because of these qualities, she is not able to understand that she had committed crimes and sins. Repentance is alien to her. She understands it only when losing her mind, in a frenzy when she sees the blood stains on her hands. In the final, in the heat of a battle, Macbeth receives news of her death.

Macbeth essay topics

You may have come across this article because you are looking for unique topics to discuss Macbeth essays. Well, I can assure you that you are in the right corner.

But, before going through the possible Macbeth essay topics, let me first introduce to you some interesting background of Macbeth. Knowing these facts will help you write your essay easily.

Essay question: Who Is Macbeth?

William Shakespeare is very well-known in the world of drama through his literature. He is popular in his writings about comedies and tragedies. And, Macbeth is one of the most famous and shortest tragedies were written by Shakespeare.

The story of Macbeth is about a Scottish soldier who heard of a prophecy about him from the three witches. This prophecy is about his dream of becoming a king. And, the witches revealed the ways for Macbeth to follow in fulfilling his dream.

Overpowered by his dream to become a king, Macbeth developed a plan, an evil plan, with the help of his wife, Lady Macbeth. Though Lady Macbeth ended up committing suicide, she had made a big part in persuading Macbeth to kill the current king of Scotland, King Duncan.

Macbeth was guilty of killing many people, everyone who will prevent his way of becoming a king was wiped-out. Although many helped him execute his plan, he was the most responsible for his own destruction and evil.

Essy question: What is Macbeth Essay?

Macbeth essay is an article that tells about any topics related to the story of Macbeth. Like any other essays, Macbeth essay may also be composed of the following essay outline:

1. Introduction

An introduction contains background why you have chosen a specific topic and a statement relative to your conclusion.

2. Body

A body describes in details the topic you have chosen.

3. Conclusion

The conclusion is a reiteration of your topic and an interpretation of it.

Unique and Powerful Topics

In arriving at a unique and powerful topic for your essay, you may start with answering the following questions to yourself:

  • What is your favourite part of the story?
  • Who is/are your favourite or most hated character?
  • What are the characteristics of your favourite or most hated character?
  • What are the lessons I learned from the story?

After doing so, analyse which among your answers made a powerful impact to you. Something that after reading the tragic story of Macbeth made your mind keep thinking and assessing. And whatever that thing is, will surely be a powerful topic to your essay because, in an essay, you can write anything on your mind and just do the final editing afterwards.

List of Possible Topics for a Macbeth Essay

1. The plot of the story

  • How did Shakespeare begin the story
  • What are the plot of the story
  • The roller coaster emotion while reading the story
  • How did Shakespeare end the story
  • The location of the story

2. Characters

  • Macbeth
  • The Three Witches
  • Lady Macbeth
  • Banquo will never be a king
  • King of Scotland
  • Hecate
  • Banquo’s sons will end up being a king

3. General topics about characteristics

  • A traditional tragic hero
  • Crime
  • Prophecies
  • Evil destruction
  • Dream
  • Magical potion
  • Curse
  • Sleepwalking due to stress
  • Suicide
  • Insulting as way of motivation
  • Ambitious and power-hungry man

Closing Remarks

Remember, a good topic for an essay, whether it is a Macbeth or not, is the topic that you are most related to and had made a powerful impact in your heart.

Macbeth essay questions

Question 1:

- Weird Sisters play a significant role in the overall reputation of the play. Can it be said that their role is as strong as Macbeth himself? Why are they referred as “Weird” Sisters by Shakespeare?

Answer 1:

Weird Sisters are the three witches who basically introduce the play to us. Shakespeare, in his original edition, spelt weird as weird, derived from the Anglo-Saxon word. Although the word is weird but its meaning has seemed to have evolved during centuries. What Shakespeare meant was not odd or strange (as today’s meaning of weird goes), but it actually has to do with fate or destiny. And it makes sense as Weird Sisters could foresee future and already say Macbeth’s downfall coming.

But it was the element of evil which gives these witches a twisted element. The fact that they play a negative and evil role takes them far away from being just a supernatural element.

Usually, this kind of fairies or witches plays a side role, giving the play a beautiful look from the outside. Like Nymphs from The Tempest, these characters are usually beautiful, like angels or goddesses, who add the truthful element in the play, motivating the protagonist to take the righteous path. These witches, on the other hand, takes the complete opposite role and ends up driving Macbeth to be a murdered. Here, Shakespeare gives these witches an ugly and displeasing look, thus, inventing a whole new plot altogether.

Question 2: 

Macbeth, the play, is a true tragedy, but can Macbeth, the king, can be considered a true tragic hero? Why and how?

Answer 2: 

The primary definition of a tragedy and a tragic hero has been provided by the great Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Aristotle says that a true tragic hero is a character of significance; whether he is a king, a knight, or a warrior. And that hero’s journey from his significance to a complete downfall is a basic feature. But what truly adds up and makes a hero tragic is a tragic fault, which is actually the reason for his downfall.

Macbeth is an important general in Scotland to the King of Duncan. And it was his tragic fault to believe in the Weird Sisters and his own ambitious which leads to his complete downfall and eventually his death.

Question 3: 

Can Macbeth be called a play which deals with protagonist’s psychology? How is Macbeth similar to Hamlet in this essence?

Answer 3: 

Macbeth primary fault lies in coming under the influence of the witches, which is exactly what Othello does when he comes under the influence of Iago. But while Othello’s story ends at that fault, Macbeth only begins.

After killing the king, Macbeth surrounds himself by fear, guilt, and paranoia. And that part is the scariest, which evidently reminds us of Hamlet. This loss of self-control, this restlessness, and becoming a victim of your mind is the biggest of tragedy. To see the hero becoming a puppet of his own spirit is painful.

Hamlet is driven by the pain of his father’s death and his mother’s betrayal. Macbeth is driven by the guilt of murdering a king and fearing of his life. Even though the situations are miles apart, it is their mental psychology which ultimately leads to the tragedy for both of them.

Famous Macbeth quotes

Macbeth is one of the best-written plays full of some of Shakespeare's greatest works. The play has important lines that will inspire you. Some lines in the game have gone on to be quoted by people while others have become idioms. This dark and powerful play is not only entertaining but also educational.

Famous Macbeth Quotes:

" Fair is foul, while folly is fair."

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"When shall the three of us meet once again in this thunder, lightning, or in the rain? When hurly-burly is done, then the battle is lost and won."

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"If taking a chance can make me a king, then why does chance crown me."

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Nothing in this life became him, he liked leaving it; upon his death, he died as a person that was studied in his untimely death to destroy some the dearest things he owed as if it were just a careless trifle."

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Yet do I tremble at your nature; As it is very full of milk from human kindness."

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"I dare to do everything that may lead to becoming a man; Then no one dares to do more."

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Screw your own courage to the sticking-place."


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- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"I do not have a spur to hurt the portions of my intent, only the vaulting ambition, which often leaps by itself, and then falls on others."

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Do I see a dagger infront of me. The handles toward my hand? "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Will all massive Neptune's ocean clean this blood from my hands? No, this hand of mine will prefer the multitudinous oceans incarnadine, and make the green turn red. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"There are daggers in most of men's smiles. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"What is done is done. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"By the piercing of my thumbs, there comes something that is wicked in my way. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Double, double the toil and the trouble; Let fire burn, or the cauldron bubble. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Out, of the damned spot! get out, I say! "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"The many perfumes from Arabia cannot appease this little hand. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Out, out, short lived candle! Life is but a moving shadow; it is a weak player that staggers and frets his time upon the raised platform and then it is not heard any more: it is nothing but a tale that is told by idiots, full of sounds and fury, signifying nothing. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Out, out, short lived candle! Life is but a moving shadow; it is a weak player that staggers and frets his time upon the raised platform and then it is not heard any more: it is nothing but a tale that is told by idiots, full of sounds and fury, signifying nothing. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Be bloody, resolute and bold. Love to challenge the human's power, for there is no one that is a woman born, can harm Macbeth. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Let not the light see my deep and black desires. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Come, all you spirits that cater for mortal thoughts, untie me here. Please fill my body right from the head to my toe filled with the direst cruelty. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"I have chosen to give such, and become aware how tender it can be to love the baby that milks my breast. I will, while it was busy smiling in thy face, extracted my nipples from its boneless gums. And then removed the brains out, If I had so sworn lie you have sworn to this. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Look like innocent flowers on the farm but be like the serpent that hides under it. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"There is danger in men's smiles. The near is blood, the nearer is bloody. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Let your blade fall on the vulnerable crests; I bear a good livelihood, which should not be to a person born of a woman. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

"Things that are without remedy should always be without regard: What is done is done. Make an informed decision to read more Macbeth quotes and access wise information that you can apply to your life. The quotes are wise, relevant and entertaining. "

- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Macbeth essay prompts

Introduction of Macbeth

Essay prompt regarding any subject is good means for provoking critical and analytical thinking, imagination and craftiness with words. But especially with the subject of Macbeth, which is one of the most complex, perplexing and intriguing plays that he's written, and especially the most intense and emotionally powerful. So naturally, one needs a little push in forms of questions when it comes to Shakespeare in general, let alone this play. But on a bright side, if the former wasn't bright, questions can conjure thoughts, opinions and perspectives you didn't even know you are capable of. That is the beauty of Shakespeare, well, at least one of them. So let's begin with sub-themes that could be analysed.

1. What kind of character is MacBeth?

When we think of the character of Macbeth, the word „madness“ is usually the first thing that comes to mind. We view him as a negative, power hungry character. But before dismissing him as such, maybe one should examine the character more closely. Yes, he did kill in order to attain and maintain power, but he also suffered from anxiety attacks, fear and anguish, and may well be what caused the madness. Closer inspection of his negativity might be realised through the comparison between him and his wife, Lady MacBeth. She doesn't suffer from madness, at least not in the beginning, and seems pretty calm and rational when killing emerges as a possibility, trying to neutralise MacBeth's feeling of turmoil and attacks of madness. He is undoubtedly negative, but maybe there is some good in him as well.

2. What is the role of the three witches?

The three witches come in the beginning of the play, and they foretell that Macbeth will become the king of Scotland. From that moment on, he transforms himself from an honest and decent hero into a power hungry villain. But he, as we said before, has episodes of negative reactions to his moral deeds and he was good before becoming a kind after all so that fact also have something to do with the previous question. But what's at stake here if the question of predestination of the three witches' prophecy. Shakespeare was, as were all renaissance artists, heavily influenced by mythology, literature, history and culture of ancient Greece. And in plays of that period, characters' actions were predestined. What the prophecy said they have to fulfil, regardless of their will. Is it like that in Macbeth? He does become the king of Scotland, but he struggles a great deal with what comes with it. Maybe the prophecy didn't give as much information or the three witches' role have another purpose – to show that people would live better according to their own plan because following prophecies isn't always the best solution for their life.

3. What is the role of supernatural occurrences?

Throughout the play, supernatural things happen quite often. It is one of the hallmarks of the play. They often foretell events which usually do happen. Their other role is the representation of fears and a guilty conscience, as when ghosts of dead people MacBeth killed come to haunt him. For example, Macbeth is the only one who saw Banquo's ghost at dinner. Does that mean he is haunted by fears of is he simply superstitious, or maybe insane? Are the supernatural occurrences simply „symptoms“ of the 11th-century culture or do they signify deep psychological demons? Maybe Shakespeare wants to say that all supernatural occurrences are simply what we feel deep within ourselves.

Conclusion to Macbeth

These questions are chosen so that they conjure deeper thinking. It is our opinion that simply memorising facts is less important than understanding it at a profound level. Hopefully, these questions and suggestions will succeed in that intention.

Macbeth essay quick quiz



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