‘Although Macbeth is a play where superstition and spiritual forces are important, the main theme is one of earthly retribution.’
‘Macbeth’ is a political play that explores the fragility of the mind, human character and the idea of good vs evil. In Shakespeare’s time, belief in the supernatural and spiritual forces played a big part in everyday life, thus the plot of Macbeth is woven with witches and apparitions that personify evil, dramatizing the story in an interesting manner for the Shakespearean public. But the play’s foundation is the natural order of things where evil is not punished by a higher power, but by those who are good.
In the opening scene of the play, evil is introduced as three witches who speak in rhyming couplets, pronouncing, ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air.’ The eerie supernatural apparitions are our first relation between evil & Macbeth when his dialogue resembles the witches’, ‘So foul and fair a day I have not seen.’ For a Shakespearean audience, the dark correlation would suggest a curse in action, but in Scene 3, Act 1, we see the witches as a persuasive force that use simple speech to manipulate the human mind, not one of action who takes control over humanity to cause wreck – which was believed of supernatural forces such as Satan. The true evil is not their prophecies, which ‘greet [Macbeth] with present grace, and great prediction of noble having and of royal hope’, as Banquo puts it, but Macbeth’s vaulting ambition and violent nature that turns to darkness. ‘Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear things that do sound so fair?’ Banquo questions his partner as he withdraws into himself, revealing the turmoil of a troubled mind. Macbeth acknowledges his criminal intentions – ‘this supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good. If good, why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs against the use of nature?’ – which shows what is truly at power to commit crime, not the supernatural solicitings of the three witches, but man’s earthly nature which acts on cruel decisions at times for its own success.
Another supernatural image of evil is Lady Macbeth, who calls to evil spirits to erase her conscience, taking away her womanly nature of empathy and care, in order for her to commit the terrible regicide: ‘Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe top full of direst cruelty’. The supernatural in this scene plays the part of the most evil you can imagine, and Lady Macbeth is seen by a Shakespearean audience as pure evil to want to become such a cruel creature as the evil spirits. Although the unearthly devils are an important theme, the actions of Lady Macbeth indicate her trying to put aside her moral values to give way to her ambition, something many humans find themselves willingly doing. The true crime will not be committed by the spirits,...