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What are some of the key motifs explored in Shakespeare's Macbeth?

Throughout Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, he explores various motifs in order to portray his underlying message to his audience, both Elizabethan/Jacobean and contemporary alike. The motifs that he implores however range, yet all stay relevant to the time of writing.

For example, one of the key motifs explored throughout the play is the supernatural. Contextually speaking, the Elizabethan/Jacobean audience would have had a deep interest in the supernatural as a whole, with the majority connecting the supernatural to the work of the Devil, a particularly fearsome subject in the highly religious age. This is why, throughout the play, Shakespeare makes it abundantly clear that witchcraft is evil, making Macbeth seem to have cut all ties of his chances of entering heaven until Macduff -- who can be seen as a heroic, more religious counterpart to Macbeth -- ultimately beheads him. One must also consider that the King would have enjoyed the fact that Macbeth, after having committed genocide, quickly becomes doomed to hell.

Another motif explored by Shakespeare is deception, as characterised by the witches, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth primarily. Shakespeare demonstrates that deception will be central to the play through his structural decision to begin the play with the equivocation of the Witches, for example "When the battle's lost and won". From here, the audience witnesses the equivocation used by the Witches as being almost spell-like, enthralling Macbeth when they praise him as a King-to-be, which some individuals claim to be the moment where Macbeth discards his old self, praised by others as "Worthy Macbeth" as well as connotations to him being like a "lion" or "eagle", and accepts his dark path to royalty. When Lady Macbeth enters the play, the audience may be expecting her to don the stereotypical role of women, particularly the role in those times, of the loving housewife and mother figure. Instead, Shakespeare subverts the expectations of the audience and portrays her as hungry for power, some may argue more than Macbeth. When speaking in her soliloquy, she mentions how she wishes the spirits would "Take my milk for gall" where she deliberately trades her motherly role for the predatorial role. What is interesting about this soliloquy however is that she is very eager to embrace the supernatural world because of the power that it has over the mortal world, even claiming that she wants it to "fill me from the crown to the toe", where one can observe that she already sees the crown upon her head. An argument that could be made is that the spirits obey her wish and in fact possess her until the eerie sleepwalking scene, where they leave her, a shell of who she formerly was, so affected by the murder that she evenually takes her own life, after hallucinating the blood on her hands that will "ne'er be clean". The motif of deception is used therefore to aid Shakespeare's message that individuals should be honest and good as they are expected to be by their faith. 

_________________________________________There are of course more motifs that Shakespeare explores during 'Macbeth', but I am not certain as to how long a response I should write. 

Alistair G. A Level -Personal Statements- tutor, A Level Biology tuto...

1 year ago

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