One of William Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies is that of Macbeth. It is also known as “the Scottish play,” primarily because of its Scottish setting and because it is based loosely after the life of a real King Macbeth of Scotland. (Mendham) This play is considered a tragedy because the protagonist of the play, Macbeth, will suffer a terrible downfall as the result of his actions. From the beginning of the play, Shakespeare effectively establishes the atmosphere of the play as one of doom and despair, where even nature is at war with itself. The main themes of this tragedy are power and betrayal. Throughout Macbeth, Shakespeare explores aspects of the human conscience. He pays particular attention to our sense of right and wrong, innocence and guilt. Once Macbeth has a taste of power he is continually driven by his desire for it. His fear of having his power taken away from him drives him to continue to act ruthlessly in order to eliminate all threats of being found out for his treasonous deeds and to maintain his position of power.
Macbeth has many admirable qualities. The first of his three greatest qualities to be brought forward is his courage as a dauntless war captain. “… As sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion. They were as cannons overcharged with double cracks, so they doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe.” (Macbeth Act 1, Sc 2) It is admirable to have such courage when fighting for something one believes in or to defend one’s home and King. In the beginning, fighting for his kingdom was the primary application of Macbeth’s courage, but as events progress and his morals are corrupted we will find that his courage becomes a resource for his wicked deeds. Macbeth’s original pure-hearted courage fades away and what is left of it becomes twisted to serve his selfish power hungry interests to the point that there is virtually no true courage left, but rather cowardice.
He also displays honor as a valiant war captain. Upon returning home from the battle in which both he and his comrade, Banquo, were victorious they are praised by King Duncan and a captain in his army for their outstanding valor. King Duncan said, “They smack [have the flavor, taste] of honor both.” (Macbeth Act 1, sc 2) Thane of Glamis is no doubt an honorable position as well which demands the respect of the general public. Macbeth appears to maintain his image of honor (in the public’s eye) when he is promoted to thane of Cawdor; however, his new ambitious thoughts are anything but honorable.
Macbeth’s greatest strength is his ambition. With it, he pursues greatness for himself in a position of high respect and honor. His ambition gives him an edge that is not easily dulled. Along with great ambition comes determination; and with great determination, many things are made possible. His ambition in itself is a strength; however, it’s the intents of the heart that determine whether the ambition is truly a strength or a weakness. In Macbeth’s case, his...