The play Macbeth (or the Scottish play as actors and theatre makers call it) is filled with “direst cruelty” – and moreover, Shakespeare has made the play this way by exploiting the conventions of language and theatre. One of the ways he does this is by making Macbeth seem helpless in which it seems like the more power he gained and the more power he wanted the less real power and influence he truly had. The further Macbeth went into being king the more people he killed and the more tragedy he caused to secure his position of king the more he started to lose his vision of what he had wanted in the first place. He had wanted to gain the throne and he did but in doing this he also lost all his power and influence over the people of Scotland and not only that but he also lost all his friends admirers and in the end he lost his wife and his own life.

One example of Macbeth not having control over Scotland is how much the welfare of its people has declined since King Duncan was killed and Macbeth took the crown. This is shown in the play when Malcom and Macduff are talking in Act 4 Scene 3 Malcom expresses his concern about the welfare of Scotland by saying “I think our country sinks beneath the yoke. It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash Is added to her wounds.” Malcom is therefore explaining how he thinks Scotland is suffering, in saying this Malcom is also implying that Macbeth is an unfit ruler.

Another example of Macbeth losing his power is in the final battle before Macbeth was killed. Before the battle Malcom says “none serve with him but constrainèd things Whose hearts are absent too.” By saying Malcom means that none of Macbeth’s soldiers are truly fighting for him and that if they had a chance to leave him they would. Then when they are in the battle Malcom is proved to be right when Siward says “The tyrant’s people on both sides do fight,” Malcom replies with “We have met with foes That strike beside us.” This is a good example of Macbeth losing his power because even though he was King and every one of those soldiers was sworn to protect and fight for their King and could be killed for treason if they ever betrayed their oath, some of them still decided not to fight for Macbeth their King but to fight for what they believe in. They believe that Macbeth is an unworthy and unfit ruler and they probably suspect but can’t prove that Macbeth killed Duncan. And therefore this is a great example of how how the more power he gained the more power and control he truly lost. Is also a great example of how Shakespeare made the play cruel, in this instance fate was cruel to Macbeth because lost everything and truly never gained anything. it was also karma because Macbeth had done many cruel things to become King so it was karma that he lost it all in the way he did.

An example of how Shakespeare made the play cruel was when the witches summoned the second apparition who then told Macbeth “Laugh to scorn The power of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth.” then after that the third apparition says to Macbeth ” Macbeth will never be defeated until Birnam Wood marches to fight you at Dunsinane Hill.” after Macbeth hears this he gets overconfident and starts to think the witches are on his side, that they are helping him when the witches were actually on nobody’s side. They were just trying to manipulate him into becoming overconfident and overconfidence when directed into the wrong thing can be just as bad as ambition for a man like Macbeth. Macbeth’s overconfidence in the witches and in himself led him to believe that he truly would be King until he died a natural death. Again this may be karma that Macbeth did cruel and bad things to become king so fate would become cruel to Macbeth. Such as making him believe that he would live a happy life as King and would never become harmed or overthrown by anyone. When really they were simply giving him hope then taking it all away which is much worse than never having hope in the first place.

Another example of how the play was cruel was that before the witches told Macbeth the he would one day become King there was no evidence to suggest that he had any interest of ever betraying anyone to gain the throne. Indeed he didn’t even fully want to kill King Duncan, he was pushed into it by his wife Lady Macbeth. after Macbeth had killed Duncan ever person he killed he told himself he had gone too far to turn back now and he also felt that if he did turn back he would have killed Duncan for no reason. So instead he pushed forward trying to gain the Throne killing Duncan, Duncan’s two guards, Banquo, Lady Macduff, her family, her household and Young Siward in the process. This is not only an example of how the play is cruel but how the witches who are closely related to fate turned Macbeth into a cruel heartless person who would do everything and anything in his power to gain the throne. This adds to the universal meaning of the play because it shows how Macbeth was turned from a trusted friend of the king into a traitor who would do anything to gain power.

One of the main themes throughout the play was the idea of how power corrupts man and one logical reason of why the actors and theatre people may have called it the “Scottish play” was that back in those days when kings ruled it was dangerous to talk about the subject of ambition and how power corrupts and that is exactly the subject that this play is based off. So the people may have been scared to refer to the play as Macbeth because it would have been a touchy subject around those time when things like the events in the play  Macbeth could actually happen in real life. This trend of calling Macbeth “The Scottish Play” may have carried on even though nowadays we have no reason to call it that.

Shakespeare made the play the way it is because he had wanted to approach those controversial subjects such as ambition and how power corrupts some of which other theatre makers back in those days would not have written plays about. This is one of the reasons that Shakespeare was so groundbreaking in that not only did he write amazing plays and in such depth and with such structure to the way he wrote but he also wrote about controversial subjects that  no one else would write about. This made his plays all the more exciting to watch. The play Macbeth would have been controversial at the the time what with the king and many other high up people getting murdered and all the talk of Scotland falling to ruin and such but in the end Macbeth has a great moral witch is that too much ambition or power will always either bring out the worst or best in people and for Macbeth it brought out his worst,


Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. Mr Waugh im not sure if im on the right tangent with my essay so far … could you give me some pointers

  2. Hi Quinn,

    Yes, you are definitely on the right track. I like the idea you’ve developed of his becoming more helpless. I’d encourage you to map out the events you want to concentrate on and, as part of this mapping, identify which features of language or dramatic effects Shakespeare’s using at each point to reinforce Macbeth’s loss of control.


  3. Monday was a day off and we watched the play on tuesday
    and you said i could have two periods if i need them

  4. Once ive finished all my paragraphs should I write a conclusion summing up everthing

  5. Hi mr Waugh can I do my extra time between 4.15 to 6.15

  6. 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.

    Your ideas are extremely strong – and original – in this essay. At the end of the year, in the examination, when you are asked to show your understanding of Macbeth, this will serve you very well. In this assessment, the focus is on the writing itself – it’s a test of your skill in formal writing. Your strengths are in the clarity of structure and the precision with which you express your ideas. The areas for development are in the crafting of your own language to add more nuance to your argument. Had you noticed, for example, that you started every body paragraph with the same phrase? You could use those topic sentences to show how your argument is developing.

    It will be very interesting to see what effect any additional writing support might have on the fluency of your writing.



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