Macbeth Themes

Macbeth presents a dark and gloomy world in which the forces of good and evil battle each other – and it is not always clear which will prevail. The play shows a man surrendering to evil desires and in so doing unleashing a reign of terror and destruction into his world.
In this play things are not always as they seem, and the difference between good and evil is not always clear. The play opens with the agents of evil, the witches, who tell us that “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”: Banquo warns Macbeth that the witches are ‘instruments of darkness’, who in order to “seduce us into evil tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles,
to betray’s In Deepest consequence.”
In some respects Macbeth wants to be deduced by the predictions of the witches. It is as if they have awakened his deepest and most secret ambitions. The ideas of evil, the contemplation of murder – if not the actual event-is not without its attraction. Shakespeare suggests that we are all tempted at one stage or another to do evil. Macbeth gives into that temptation, and evil dominates the rest of his life.

Order and Chaos

The Elizabethans saw the world as operating in harmony with the forces of ‘order’. When the order was challenged a series of horrible events, or ‘chaos’, was believed to be let loose on the world. Such concepts form a large part of the dramatic fabric of Macbeth. In this case, chaos let loose by Macbeth’s evil desires and actions.   The harmony of the world before the crime is noted by Banquo when he arrives with Duncan’s train at Macbeth’s castle,
Harmony is destroyed, however, after Macbeth murders Duncan. Nature has been violated; Macbeth has acted against his own nature, a subject has killed his rightful king and the natural world is in turmoil.   On the night of the murder the weather seems to be unseasonable.

The Supernatural

The role of the supernatural is partly connected to themes of good and evil and chaos.   Macbeth opens with the witches – whose presence set...