Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for Macbeth by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in Macbeth and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of William Shakespeare's Macbeth in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Macbeth at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Power of Power
One of the most profound and disturbing themes in Shakespeare’s Macbeth involves the power that power exerts over an individual who has ascended to a post of authority. Under the influence of unchecked power, Macbeth takes actions that have serious and devastating consequences for himself and for other characters in the play. Once Macbeth has committed an act in which he uses power for negative ends, he finds it increasingly difficult to restrain himself from resorting to the perverted use of power. Ultimately, it his inability to distinguish the adaptive and maladaptive functions of power from one another that prevents him from realizing his potential greatness.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Role of Witches in Macbeth
Macbeth introduces an element of fantasy into the normal tragedy narrative through the characters of the witches. The witches are important figures in the play, as their function is both to predict Macbeth’s fate and to signal to the reader what is to come. Far from serving as a distracting element, the witches help focus the reader on some of the darker and more sinister aspects of the play. Shakespeare’s use of this fantasy element is effective as a narrative technique.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Role of Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth is a character who makes an easy reading and interpretation of the play impossible. Like many female characters, Lady Macbeth was cast into a role not entirely of her own choosing; however, like her husband, she finds that once she is on the path of darkness, it is impossible for her to turn back. In fact, Lady Macbeth becomes even more bloodthirsty than her husband, and she encourages him to use his power to perpetrate violence against others. A character analysis of Lady Macbeth reveals that she is a complex character who adds depth to an otherwise straightforward play about power dynamics.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Blood Imagery in Macbeth
Violence and the bloodshed that results are important symbols in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. While the blood that is shed is a tangible reminder of the outcomes of misused power, it also serves as an image that provokes Macbeth to reflect upon his deeds, even if he does not change his behavior. Macbeth becomes obsessed with the blood on his hands. Unfortunately, this reminder of his guilt does not prevent him from continuing violent acts.
This list of important quotations from Macbeth by William Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Macbeth listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of Macbeth by William Shakespeare they are referring to.
“Let not light see my black and deep desires…." (I.iv.51)
“Yet I do fear thy nature. It is too full o the milk of human kindness….Thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it." (I.v.16-20).
“Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe
topful of direst cruelty!" (I.v.41-43).
“…We but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague th’ inventor" (I.vii.8-10)
“O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart Cannot conceive nor name thee!" (II.iii.63-64)
“[B]lood will have blood." (III.v.121)
“I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing To those that know me." (III.v.85-86)
“Something wicked this way comes." (IV.1.45)
“The spirits that know All mortal consequences have pronounc’d me thus: ‘Fear not, Macbeth, no man that’s born of woman Shall e’er have power upon thee.’" (V.iii.6-7)
“The time approaches That will with due decision make us know What we shall say we have, and what we owe." (V.iv.17-19).
Reference: Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. In Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In The Riverside Shakespeare. Eds. G. Blakemore Evans and J.J.M. Tobin. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 1360-1390.
Light and dark represent good and evil in the play. During the time in which Macbeth was written, the king was associated with the sun. The sunset symbolized his death or overthrow. The quotes “When shall we three meet again . . . ” and “That will be ere the set of sun.” (I. i. 1,4) foreshadow the king’s death. The imagery of light and dark continues throughout the play. “Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.” (I. iv. 50-51)demonstrates Macbeth’s step toward evil. Most of the corrupt or unusual events in Macbeth occur under a cloak of darkness. The murders, Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking, and the appearance of the witches all take place at night. Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene is the epitome of the light/darkness symbol. She once craved the darkness but now carries a candle to dispel it. The line, “She has light by her continually; ’tis her command.” (V. i. 19), symbolizes Lady Macbeth’s fear of darkness or evil.
The image of blood plays an important role in the event of Duncan’s murder. It represents Macbeth’s guilt and shame about the horrific crime. After killing the king, Macbeth comments on his blood stained hands by saying, “As they had seen me with these hangman’s hands.” (II. ii. 28) Macbeth refuses to return to the crime scene to smear blood on the guards, fearing the blood will somehow implicate him further. Macbeth feels uncomfortable with blood on his hands. He immediately tries to remove it after killing the guards.
The archetypal pattern of purification by water is prominent in the play. It symbolizes the removal of guilt. Following the murder of Duncan, Lady Macbeth reassures her husband by telling him, “A little water clears us of the deed”; (I. ii. 67) Later in the play, Lady Macbeth repeatedly rubs her hands together, representing washing her hands. She hopes to clear her conscience by removing the “spot” from her hand, as she says, “Out, damned spot! out, I say! . . . “(V. i. 31) Water symbolizes the purification of a guilty conscience.
Symbolism plays an important role in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It is used in numerous forms to relate the overall theme of murder to the actions of Macbeth. Light and darkness represent good and evil respectively. Blood represents Macbeth’s and his wife’s guilt about Duncan’s murder. Water symbolizes purification of the conscience. These symbols effectively portray the ominous theme of murder in Macbeth.