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MACBETH : . Shakespeare’s views and values: THEMES, SYMBOLS AND MOTIFS. Shakespeare’s views and values. It is important to consider what statements Shakespeare is making about humanity through Macbeth. What views and values does he show through the play?

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Shakespeare’s views and values:


shakespeare s views and values
Shakespeare’s views and values
  • It is important to consider what statements Shakespeare is making about humanity through Macbeth.
  • What views and values does he show through the play?
  • When discussing the themes and ideas of the play, you must discuss them as Shakespeare’s views and values.


Shakespeare suggests that it is wrong to seek greater power than the position that is given to you in the social order.

He reveals that ambition to overthrow authority will eventually lead to destruction.

ambition continued
Ambition continued


Macbeth is “brave” and “valiant”, not naturally inclined to commit evil deeds, yet he deeply desires power.

He makes his changing morality clear by asking in an aside for the “stars to hide their fires” should they reveal his dark and deadly purpose or intent to kill King Duncan. (I.4.52)

Spurred on by Lady Macbeth, his “vaulting ambition” quickly goes out of control.

His paranoia about being caught and desire to maintain leads him to further murders, until he loses all sign of a moral conscience and appears to have gone mad with power.

ambition continued1
Ambition continued

Lady Macbeth

More determined than Macbeth, she goes to the extent of calling on evil spirits to allow her to obtain her goals.

Lady Macbeth leads her husband on mercilessly to kill Duncan and urges him to be strong in the murder’s aftermath.

However, she is eventually driven to distraction by the effect of Macbeth’s repeated bloodshed on her conscience and she cannot withstand the consequences of what she has done.

She is also driven insane, but ends up taking her own life.

ambition quotes
Ambition- quotes


If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, without my stir (Macbeth, Act I, Scene 3).

Macbeth hopes in an aside that fate not murder, may bring him his kingdom instead.

I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’er-leaps itself and falls on the other. (Macbeth, Act I, Scene 7).

Macbeth has nothing but his ambition to drive him to commit the deed and act rashly.

appearance and reality


Shakespeare suggests that deception is an undeniable part of society.

By showing how deception brings Macbeth’s destruction, he makes clear his value that people should be honest and match their actions to their words.

appearance and reality1

The idea of things not being as they appear:

-The ambiguous statements and prophecies of the witches. They actively confuse Macbeth, at Hecate’s orders.

-The Thane of Cawdor is identified as a traitor, demonstrating that traitors are common (the title is ironically awarded to Macbeth, foreshadowing his future)

-Lady Macbeth and Macbeth- both try to hide their inner desires and put on the appearance of loyalty to Duncan; they continue to disguise their actions.

-Duncan cannot see past people’s outwards appearances.

Nothing is but what is not

appearance and reality2
  • Macbeth is eventually destroyed through the false hope offered by the apparitions prophecies.
  • There are many references to people wearing clothing that does not fit them. (“Now does he feel his title/Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe /Upon a dwarfish thief” )
  • There are many references to people wearing masks.
appearance and reality quotes
Appearance and Reality Quotes

Fair is foul and foul is fair. (Witches, Act I, Sc 1)

The witches comment on what is going to happen. What looks beautiful is ugly and what seems evil is good. This sets the tone for the play.

Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t. (Lady Macbeth, Act I, Sc 5)

Lady Macbeth wants Macbeth to appear as if he is still the loyal servant of the king, trustworthy and loyal, and strike when he least expects it.

There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face (Duncan, Act I, Scene 4)

A naive comment, and ironic, given the fate of Duncan. He believes that it is easy to see a man’s true self by looking into his face.

appearance and reality quotes1
Appearance and Reality Quotes

Away and mock the time with fairest show, False face must hide what the false heart doth know (Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 7)

Macbeth knows he must conceal his crimes.

There’s daggers in men’s smiles (Donalbain, Act II, Scene 3)

After learning of his father’s death, Donalbain does not trust those ‘loyal servants’ around him

good and evil


-Shakespeare shows that when someone is tempted by evil, they should turn away rather than engage in it.

-He also suggests that good will triumph over evil.

-Evil actions will upset the natural order of the world.

good and evil1

-When meeting the witches, Macbeth is quickly “rapt withall” and becomes completely absorbed by their prophecies.

-However, Banquo’s response is to not become involved.

“But ‘tis strange! And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.”

-Lady Macbeth calls upon the powers of evil to give her the strength to follow through on her plans.

good and evil2

-Throughout the play, we see Macbeth and his wife in a constant struggle between the ‘good’ and ‘evil’; within themselves.

-After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth believes he has committed his soul to hell and can “sleep no more.”

-Macbeth’s actions become increasingly horrific and he is described as a “hell-hound”.

-Macbeth’s qualities as an evil tyrant are clearly compared to the kingly qualities of a good king shown by Malcolm and also the King of England.

good and evil continued
GOOD AND EVIL continued

Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness (Lady Macbeth, Act I, Scene 5)

-Lady Macbeth fears that her husband’s conscience and humanity will prevent him from committing the crime.

Come thick night, and pall in the dunnest smoke of Hell, that my keen knife not see the wound it makes not heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, to cry, “Hold, hold!” (Lady Macbeth, Act 1, scene 5)

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. (Lady Macbeth, Act I, Scene 5).

“Not in the legions/ of horrid hell can come a devil more damned/In evils, to top Macbeth.” (Macduff, Act 4, scene 3)

kingship and tyranny


-Shakespeare makes it clear that a king must have honourable qualities or “king-becoming graces”.

-A true king rules for the good of their subjects, not for their own power.

-Violence is necessary to defend the state, but violence used for personal gain is a misuse of power and has terrible consequences.

-Duncan is always referred to as a ‘king’, while Macbeth soon becomes known as the ‘tyrant’.

kingship and tyranny1

-When Malcolm tests Macduff ‘s loyalty in Act 4, he makes clear the kingly qualities: “Justice, Verity (honesty)... Mercy... Devotion... Courage” (IV, iii, 90-93)

-These qualities are displayed through the actions of Duncan and Malcolm, but Macbeth shows the opposite.

-Macbeth brings only chaos and death to Scotland, symbolized in the bad weather and bizarre supernatural events, his violence is not just, but power-mad!

-The violence of the battles in Act 1 and Act 5 is justified.

-When Malcolm regains his position as King, order is quickly restored.