Tragedy Of Macbeth


Macbeth is one of the most recognized works from prolific English playwright William Shakespeare. Thought to have been first performed in 1606, the tragedy’s supernatural elements as well as its exploration of the dark side of human nature continue to influence writers of genres ranging from horror to psychological and political thrillers. Many scholars view the play as an example of how desire for wealth, power, and influence can corrupt otherwise good men and women. Parallels between the rise and fall of Lord and Lady Macbeth are evident between the success and ultimate downfall of many historical and modern figures, allowing the story to resonate with modern audiences.


Macbeth opens with the title character, along with fellow nobleman Banquo encountering three witches on a dark and stormy night. Macbeth, a lord and commander in the army of King Duncan has just won a great victory. The witches prophesize that Macbeth is destined to become king of Scotland, while Banquo will father a long line of kings while never being king himself. Although Macbeth is skeptical of the prophecy, he informs his wife who becomes obsessed by the idea of her husband becoming king. She convinces him to do everything, no matter how terrible and inhumane to achieve this goal. At this stage in the play it is apparent to the audience that the character of Lady Macbeth has already been completely corrupted by her desire for power. While her husband is much more reluctant, he nevertheless agrees to murder his kinsman King Duncan so that he himself may take over the throne. Once the new king starts down a dark path, he becomes increasing evil and ruthless, even ordering the gruesome murders of Banguo, along with the wife and child of his rival Macduff. While Lady Macbeth is later overcome with guilt for her horrible actions and ultimately commits suicide, King Macbeth continues to rule as a murderous tyrant. His tyranny soon inspires a large rebellion led by Macduff, who is seeking to avenge the death of his wife and child. Macbeth is unafraid of his rival, as the witches have prophesized that he “cannot be killed by anyone born of a woman”. When the rivals meet on the battlefield however, Macduff reveals that he was not born, but rather cut from his mother’s womb before killing Macbeth and becoming the new King of Scotland.


Macbeth has proven to be a time honored tale about how greed can corrupt the human soul. Many view the play as a metaphor for the high cost of fame, wealth, or success and the guilt that it inspires within those who achieve their goals at the expense of others. As long as human society continues to value success at any cost, Shakespeare’s work will continue to be as popular and poignant in the 21st century as it was in the 17th.