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Macbeth Essay

957 words - 4 pages

It is impossible to achieve happiness through actions that are motivated by greed and blind ambition. This is one of the numerous themes explored in William Shakespeare’s famed play, Macbeth, yet it is arguably the most relevant to modern society, which is so obsessively focussed on attaining an idealized vision of prosperity. The theme is illustrated most effectively in the conversation between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth before the palace banquet, which shows that evil begets evil, guilt is a crippling burden, and acts of wrongdoing lead to a haunting fear of retribution. The story of Macbeth and his wife, who betray their country and their moral principles to elevate their status, serves as a cautionary tale to all those who believe that they can be content with success achieved at the expense of others.

In the talk between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth before the banquet, it becomes clear that evil actions facilitate the perpetration of more wickedness. For example, towards the end of the conversation, Macbeth appeals to the dark night: “Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond / Which keeps me pale!” (III, ii, l. 54-55). In this quotation, Macbeth calls on the forces of evil, represented by the dark night, to aid in the killing of his friend Banquo. He feels that Banquo is suspicious of his recent actions and is thus a risk to his exalted new status. In order to conceal the violent nature of his ascendance to power, Macbeth must perform increasingly desperate and violent actions, making it difficult for him to enjoy the benefits of his authority. So significant is Macbeth’s discontent with his position, that he prays for the death of one of his most loyal friends. Another example which proves that evil begets evil can be found immediately after the first, when Macbeth tells his wife that “Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill” (III, ii, l. 60). This conceptualizes the idea from the previous quotation, by saying that wicked actions are self-replicating. The fact that Macbeth reaches this conclusion demonstrates that he is not content in being the King of Scotland. He understands that the only way to preserve his rule is through further acts of violence. In summary, Macbeth must continue to commit acts of bloodshed to protect his status, which subsequently prevents him from enjoying the benefits of his kingship.

The exchange between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth before the palace feast reveals that feelings of guilt for committing immoral actions can significantly diminish the satisfaction gained through these acts. This is evidenced by Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy, in which she reflects on the path she and Macbeth have taken to power, stating that “Nought’s had, all’s spent. / Where our desire is got without content” (III, ii, l. 6-7). This serves as an introduction to her conversation with Macbeth, and through it, Lady Macbeth...

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