Universal themes are communicated to the audience in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth through the use of varying literary techniques and dramatic effects. This essay will look at the timeless nature of themes such as ambition and appearance versus reality in Macbeth, and how their transcendence of human nature contributes to the play’s relevance today.
In Macbeth, ambition is one of the dominant themes. People who are motivated by their ambition can produce great things. However, when enticed by their burning desires, people pull themselves apart. The modern world constantly promotes the idea that ambition is enriching and necessary, but Macbeth reminds us that uncontrolled ambition is one …show more content…
Shakespeare focuses on characters being hoodwinked by what is not real, and the vile consequences that follow mistakes in judgement about appearance. Characters including Lady Macbeth, Macbeth and King Duncan are all hoodwinked by false appearances. From the very first line of the play spoken by the witches “Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” Shakespeare fills the play with characters and events who are not as they seem. Shakespeare uses foreshadowing in this quote to suggest that there is more un- natural evil to come in the play. The witches establish the play’s tone, which is uneasy, dark and foreboding. Shakespeare’s choice of paradoxical words, show the audience that the relationship between one’s appearance and reality is paradoxical. In Act 1 Scene 5, Lady Macbeth says “Look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.” When Duncan is murdered, part of the reason of his demise if that he is too trusting of Macbeth. Lady Macbeth tries to persuade Macbeth to commit the crime by telling him to act innocent like a flower but be like a poisonous serpent, ready to spring. Lady Macbeth’s advice contains a biblical allusion. Shakespeare alludes to the deceiving snake who tricked Eve into eating the sin causing apple. The serpent doesn’t appear dangerous to Eve, similarly, Macbeth didn’t appear dangerous to Macbeth. But, like the serpent, Macbeth has a destructive nature hidden by his lies and a false appearance. In reality, Macbeth’s honourable persona fell victim to his vaulting ambition to remove anyone who stood in his way for the crown. Consequently, appearance versus reality is a major theme which is mentioned from the very beginning to the very end of the play. Shakespeare uses this theme to convey to the audience that people are not always as they seem, and that the truth hidden behind your appearance eventually must come out.
In summary, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth explores universal themes such as