Motifs In Macbeth

  • Created by: Alharg
  • Created on: 09-01-20 10:32


  • Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have hallucinations which serve as reminders of their joint culpability
    • E.g when Macbeth is about to kill Duncan he sees a dagger ('Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feeling as to sight?')
    • Lady Macbeth as suffers from hallucinations but not until later in the play. Her headstrong attitude means she ignores it for longer but breaks harder when she does break - causing in her suicide
  •  Macbeth sees these as signs of the supernatural showing him his own guilt.
  • The play doesn't tell us if they are real or not.
  • But we can say for sure that they are representing the deranged minds of both of the characters, caused by their guilt.

Hallucinations show the characters guilt and reminders of the growing body count.

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  • Macbeth is famously violent
  • From the beginning, when there is a battle ('brandished steel smoked with bloody execution') to the end where Macbeth and Macduff fight one last fight
  • Blood by the end of the play seems to be everywhere
  • However in the beginning:
    • In the violence is not a sin but rather a job 
    • It is rewarded and praised
  • However at the end:
    • Violence has been used to kill innocent people
    • It's corrupted the royal throne

Violence is seen throughout the play but it's role changes throughout the play.

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  • Prophecy sets the whole play's plot in motion
  • All the prophecies set out by the Weird sister come to be true (except the one about Banquo's heirs)
  • It is unclear whether these are self-fulfilling, e.g Macbeth wouldn't have become king unless he had killed Duncan - which he only knew to do since he saw the Weird Sister
  • The prophecies are riddles in such that they don't mean what they actually mean or they may have different outcomes

Prophecies play a huge role in the start, the middle and end, so even though they take up a small portion of the play, they cause most of the plot.

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  • Sleep symbolises peace and rest during the play, as well as representing the lack of peace
  • After Macbeth kills Duncan, he goes back to Lady Macbeth and says he heard a voice say 'Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep'
    • This could show the fact that he has lost his peace and will never get it again
    • It also shows that he will be haunted in his sleep as he does 'murder sleep', showing his guilt will always be there.
  • Lady Macbeth also has disturbed sleep to show her guilt
    • The doctor and gentlewoman see he sleepwalking and saying things like 'will my hands never be clean?'
    • This clearly shows her deranged mind but also her disturbed sleep.

Sleep throughout the play shows their mental state, i.e Macbeth and Lady Macbeth both have disturbed sleep to show their disturbed minds.

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