The Evil Theme in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Macbeth. Shakespeare used the evil theme through the witches
‘Macbeth and Banquo Meeting the Witches on the Heath,’ oil on canvas by Théodore Chassériau, 1855. Shakespeare used the evil theme in the play, Macbeth (Image: Public Domain)

The evil theme in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is easily observable in the play. Witchcraft is particularly emphasized. This theme of evil is introduced right at the beginning of the play. It affects the protagonist, Macbeth, and the other characters. The theme also influences the prominent features of the play’s setting. It influences the characters’ behaviors and defines the character of Macbeth. In addition, the flow of the entire story is under the influence of this evil theme. Thus, the success of Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a tragedy is based on the effectiveness of following this evil theme.

Macbeth’s character, all the characters’ behaviors, and the play’s tragic end are all based on the theme of evil.

The Evil Theme and the Three Witches

The theme of evil in Macbeth is established at the start of the play when the witches appear. The witches tell Macbeth about his supposed fate. For instance, they tell him that he will become king. The mere appearance of the witches to him is enough to set the theme of evil that defines the rest of the play.

Witches were considered evil at the time of Shakespeare. People believed that witches were even worse than rebels. Thus, the witches symbolize the evil that unfolds throughout Macbeth. This evil theme is even intensified when Shakespeare includes not just one, but three witches.

Macbeth’s Character and the Evil Theme

The evil theme defines the character of Macbeth. When the witches tell him that he will be king, they motivate him to work to achieve the crown. They do not tell him to kill King Duncan. However, the inception of the idea of his ascension to the throne is a temptation. Macbeth eventually works his way, following the evil fate that awaits him and the other characters.

Macbeth eventually considers the idea of killing King Duncan. This thought ultimately leads to the scene where he kills the King. Thus, the witches’ prophecy about his fate motivates him enough to kill the king. These events highlight the play’s theme of evil.

Good and Evil in Macbeth

Shakespeare’s play’s theme also shows the dichotomy of good and evil. Even though ascension to the throne is good in itself, the way Macbeth achieves it is evil. He murders the king for this purpose. In relation, the witches’ message to him also has this dichotomy of good and evil. In their message, the idea of his ascension to the throne shows goodness, but the witches are symbols of evil. Also, they hatch a plan in Macbeth’s mind for the murder of King Duncan. Even though there are such good sides, the theme of evil encompasses the play.


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