NCEA Formal writing 1.5, Literary Essay: Macbeth

In the famous Shakespeare play Macbeth , the lead character Macbeth starts of as a noble and heroic figure. But as the play progresses Macbeth falls into the trap of becoming hungry for more power and his mind falls with it. He becomes like an eagle constantly watching above for prey to extend his monumental power, but also on the lookout for predators that threaten his place up in the sky. As Macbeth continues to be consumed by this role as an eagle for his every lasting power, his mind begins to spiral out of control. We will also get an insight of Shakespeare’s ideas that absolute power, will absolutely corrupt. Shakespeare shows the deterioration of Macbeth’s mind through many theta and language techniques until his final breath.

Throughout the play Macbeth Shakespeare shows the destruction and deterioration of Macbeth’s mind by using many theta techniques throughout the play. One technique used is hallucination. When he does this he creates tension and would really make the audience think ,is Macbeth even fit for this place . A prime example of this is in Act 3 scene 4 when Macbeth is hosting a banquet to celebrate him coming to the position of king but in the middle of it he sees the ghost of Banquo and you see Macbeth freak out. “Avaunt, and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee.Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold.Thou hast no speculation in those eyes“.  This use of hallucination gives many effects. Shakespeare illustrates that Macbeth can see the ghost of Banquo by allowing Macbeth to use very direct actions such as pointing towards the ghost, but the rest of the characters on stage can not and this is done by the characters not seeming to notice the ghost in the chair. This makes Macbeth’s look like he is seeing something which simply isn’t there and betrays Macbeth mental state as unstable as he can see things which aren’t really there and in the process also gives hints away that he killed Banquo. This obviously further proves his mind is deteriorating as anybody in their sane mind wouldn’t tell or give away information that could to lead to their death, and in Macbeth’s case it would only take one person to fit the pieces together and he would be caught. He continues to use language to show his thoughts.

As Macbeth continues to do whatever it takes to obtain or endure his position of king, the more he begins to fear over smaller and smaller things. Shakespeare shows this through soliloquies .“Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleepIn the affliction of these  dreams That shake us nightly.”.  This tells us that no matter what Macbeth does ,whether its eating or sleeping, he is in constant fear that Fleance is still alive and is aware that the Witches prophecies say he is next in line to the throne. Macbeth expresses his fears”Than on the torture of the mind to lie In restless ecstasy” that knowing Fleance is going to become king leads Macbeth questioning what he should do next and that his fear is torturing him. “Better be with the dead,Whom we, to gain our peace,”. Macbeth is saying here that it would be better dead because at least you have peace.

But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer,”. Macbeth here is referring to that the something has disturbed universe and is causing both the earth and heaven to suffer. What Macbeth is implying here is that his universe , or his own world and thoughts, has been disturbed by some entity. This disturbance is Fleance because Macbeth knows ,because of the Witches, that Fleance will become king sometime after him. This can only happen if Macbeth loses his position of king, meaning he will have to be killed. This is putting Macbeth under a tremendous amount of fear .This proven when Macbeth personifying that both earth and heaven is suffering. Back when the play was written ,the christian beliefs that there are two main worlds, the earth and heaven. So when Macbeth personifies  hat both earth and heaven is suffering he is saying that every part of him is suffering. This is further proving Macbeth’s Mind is deteriorating as he is worrying about future, which the Witches keep saying is out of his control.

Macbeth throughout the play always seems to think he is the one in charge in what the future will be for him.  However Macbeth is actually no more than a puppet being pulled by strings. The unearthly witches use foreshadowing to manipulate Macbeth. “Hail to thee, thane of Glamis! -All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane Cawdor!-All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king hereafter“.   Macbeth is being told that he is thane of Glamis,which is true, but also that he is thane of cawdor and will be king, which he thinks is unimaginable  at the time. Soon after he is named Thane of Cawdor and at first he surrenders himself to fate and let it decide whether he will become king or not”If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me Without my stir.” This is a nice reference to fate and almost like the play where a character allows a higher power take control of their life. One like in ”Romeo and Juliet”  when Romeo surrenders himself to a greater power .”…He that hath steerage of my course,direct my sail”.However as time passes the thought of being king grows on him and eventually consumes him. This foreshadowing that the witches gave him, leads him to do unspeakable things to get on the throne, even killing his best friend. If the witches never came to him and gave this foreshadowing, Macbeth never would have seriously thought being king was achievable or what he even wanted. If he never wanted to be king then he never would have pursued it and the events that unfolded in the play may of never happened. This never would have led to the deterioration of Macbeth’s mind. So the Macbeth was nothing but a puppet and the witches are performing the show.

 As the play Macbeth draws to a close Macbeth’s state of mind continues to decline and as time passes it is shown in many ways, even the way which he speaks. Macbeth is a very high status character and every high status character in Shakespeare’s play speaks in perfect iambic pentameter to show this status. However in the speech after he hears the news that Lady Macbeth has died, Macbeth expresses his thoughts and many of his lines do not use iambic pentameter. His first line,”Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” has 11 syllables and his third line “To the last syllable of recorded time,” also has 11 syllables. This inconsistency of Iambic pentameter continues throughout Macbeth’s speech. Lady Macbeth’s death has pushed Macbeth mind over the edge and is now to far gone. This is shown vividly for the fact that he can not even use iambic pentameter properly, which as king he has used so often.

All of these features, and there are many more, show us the true destruction of Macbeth’s mind. We also see that the more Macbeth grasped for power the more his mind fell. Although this play was written hundreds of years ago it still has the underlying message that power corrupts. During the play Macbeth did many terrible things. But at the end of the day,Macbeth was the to pay.




  1. Am i missing a element? Or do i have unnecessary pieces of information here? Do i need to provide further quotes or explain The theta technique in greater detail?


  2. Your observations and selection of events that reveal Macbeth’s deterioration show a strong understanding of the play.

    The essay itself needs to be a little more focussed on the question. What is missing is reference (preferably naming the specific technique) to the language and dramatic effects Shakespeare is using. This will help make your anaylsis clearer as we’ll know that you’ve chosen each of your examples in order to demonstrate Shakespeare’s use of these techniques. This answers the question.

    You can definitely organise your essay chronologically, showing each moment in Macbeth’s decline in the order that they happen – but remember that the question does not call for a plot summary – so work hard to avoid simply re-telling the story.

    Your main focus, once you’ve completed the over-all structure, is to build into the piece some more nuanced language effects of your own. It’s not a persuasive piece, however you do still want to use your skill as a writer to convey your ideas with as much fluency as possible. I encourage you to look at the exemplar in the task outline to see how that writer used metaphor to underline and illuminate (both metaphors) the points they wanted to make.


  3. Achievement Achievement with Merit Achievement with Excellence
    Develop and structure ideas in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas convincingly in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas effectively in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control to command attention in formal writing.

    It’s “Theatre”, by the way.

    Nice work.



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