In the most literal sense, retribution is defined as “the dispensing or receiving of reward or punishment especially in the hereafter,” according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary. In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the ideas of “give and take” are based on one’s actions. It is a theme that’s located in every aspect of the text, wherein the characters gain or lose power and/or life due to actions taken against them as well as by them. Nothing is inconsequential or coincidence. Things were all planned, though not in the sense of destiny and preordained fate but rather in the combination of man and greed and the fight for power.
In Act 1, what caught my eye was the word “hereafter” in both the text and the definition. Of this word, the dictionary offers three ways for it to be expressed: as an adverb (after this in sequence or in time), a noun (an existence beyond earthly life), and as an adjective (future). The witches in Act 1 Scene 3 line 50 refer to Macbeth as “king hereafter.” They are using this as a lure, just as when they granted him the title Thane of Cawdor. This title is given in recompense of the previous Thane’s betrayal to the king. His actions led to the opening of his lands and titles, conveniently enough for Macbeth.
Act 2 is filled with the art of conspiracy. In Scene 2, the Macbeth and his Lady scheme against the crown and plot to murder Duncan in his sleep. The role reversal of husband and wife is represented in the belittling of Macbeth, his own “retribution” for being incompetent to carry out the plans exactly. Macbeth, after murdering Duncan and implying that his sons had their hands in the act, becomes king. This is his reward for betraying the trust that the late king had put in him so faithfully. Death, in turn, has become Duncan’s ill – fated reward for having placed trust in one that is not to be trusted farther than he can be thrown. In the very act that made him royalty, Macbeth became no better than the least of the creatures on this earth. He betrayed king and country, his own conscience, and the last shred of sanity and goodness that he had left. In the first scene, we saw the beginnings of the insanity and paranoia that begins to overtake Macbeth. The vision of the dagger belies the fact that stress is beginning to eat away at his mind. To have courage, he (subconsciously) conjures an apparition that frightens him into action while giving him an outlet to blame the murder on, also.
Act 3 carries on in much the same vein as the previous two. With power comes great responsibility, and Macbeth does not have the capacity to manage the country because his scope is limited to his own desires and paranoia, especially regarding Banquo and the prophecy that threatens Macbeth’s possibility of a lineage of power. Because of the prophecies given to them by the witches, Banquo knew that he would never be king but his children would be. The speed bump in this road comes in the form of one...