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Motifs In Macbeth Essays

Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.


Visions and hallucinations recur throughout the play and serve as reminders of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s joint culpability for the growing body count. When he is about to kill Duncan, Macbeth sees a dagger floating in the air. Covered with blood and pointed toward the king’s chamber, the dagger represents the bloody course on which Macbeth is about to embark. Later, he sees Banquo’s ghost sitting in a chair at a feast, pricking his conscience by mutely reminding him that he murdered his former friend. The seemingly hardheaded Lady Macbeth also eventually gives way to visions, as she sleepwalks and believes that her hands are stained with blood that cannot be washed away by any amount of water. In each case, it is ambiguous whether the vision is real or purely hallucinatory; but, in both cases, the Macbeths read them uniformly as supernatural signs of their guilt.


Macbeth is a famously violent play. Interestingly, most of the killings take place offstage, but throughout the play the characters provide the audience with gory descriptions of the carnage, from the opening scene where the captain describes Macbeth and Banquo wading in blood on the battlefield, to the endless references to the bloodstained hands of Macbeth and his wife. The action is bookended by a pair of bloody battles: in the first, Macbeth defeats the invaders; in the second, he is slain and beheaded by Macduff. In between is a series of murders: Duncan, Duncan’s chamberlains, Banquo, Lady Macduff, and Macduff’s son all come to bloody ends. By the end of the action, blood seems to be everywhere.


Prophecy sets Macbeth’s plot in motion—namely, the witches’ prophecy that Macbeth will become first thane of Cawdor and then king. The weird sisters make a number of other prophecies: they tell us that Banquo’s heirs will be kings, that Macbeth should beware Macduff, that Macbeth is safe till Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane, and that no man born of woman can harm Macbeth. Save for the prophecy about Banquo’s heirs, all of these predictions are fulfilled within the course of the play. Still, it is left deliberately ambiguous whether some of them are self-fulfilling—for example, whether Macbeth wills himself to be king or is fated to be king. Additionally, as the Birnam Wood and “born of woman” prophecies make clear, the prophecies must be interpreted as riddles, since they do not always mean what they seem to mean.

More main ideas from Macbeth

Please offer suggestions on how I can make my essay more readable and easier to understand.
The essay is on how Shakespeare uses motif to develop Lady Macbeth in Act 5, Scene i of The Tragedy of Macbeth:

In the play The Tragedy of Macbeth by Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth kill the king for personal gains. Later, Lady Macbeth feels guilty and continuously rubs her hand in order to get rid of the guilt that is on her hands. Lady Macbeth's character development is nourished with motifs and the theme of fair is foul and foul is fair is further supported by motifs. Blood, sleep, and darkness motifs are utilized by Shakespeare to support theme and character maturation.

Before the king's death and all the chaos, blood represented loyalty and honor as Macbeth killed Macdonwald in defense of King Duncan. After Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plotted to murder the king, blood becomes a symbol of guilt and evil. The metamorphosis of the meaning of blood from loyalty to guilt demonstrates the fair is foul, and foul is fair theme. Lady Macbeth tries to incessantly chafe the imaginary blood off her arm. As she sleep walks, Lady Macbeth complains, "Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him"(V.i.43-44). She further reveals her guilt by grumbling "Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand"(V.i.55-57). Her action exhibits that Lady Macbeth feels guilty for what she has done, and her humane side is further elicited.

In literature, sleep is usually represents peace and resting. When a character loses sleep, it indicates that that God is no longer with that character. In the case of Lady Macbeth, she lost divine support when she helped to murder God's representative, King Duncan. God is punishing her by condemning her with insomnia. The doctor that sees Lady Macbeth sleepwalking comments that "The disease is beyond my practice" (V.i.65). The loss of sleep shows that Lady Macbeth is not taking the death of Banquo very well because of her conscience. Furthermore, Lady Macbeth's transformation from a well-rested lady to a person haunted by the death of Banquo and sleepwalks every night. Even though Lady Macbeth is now the queen, she sleepwalks every night. This shows the fair is foul and foul is fair theme

As Lady Macbeth sleepwalks, she sees imaginary ghosts. She moans, "Out, damned spot! Out, I say!" (39-40) as she walks around unconscious. Shakespeare uses the dark motif here. The darkness and light represent the battle between good and evil in nature and inside Lady Macbeth. When Lady Macbeth commits the horrendous act of murder, she sees creatures of the dark and she becomes a dark creature too. Before the murder, Lady Macbeth is one of the creatures that live in daylight. After the murder, Lady Macbeth becomes a creature that crawls at night. The transformation from a living noble lady to a dark creature demonstrates the theme fair is foul and foul is fair.

In the play Macbeth, the murder of King Duncan has significant impact on Lady Macbeth's life. Lady Macbeth displays guiltiness, and her character development is supported by the motifs of blood, sleep, and darkness. The motifs also demonstrate the fair is foul and foul is fair theme.

In Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth kill...

Actually, The Tragedy of Macbeth is a film based on the play. You are not writing about the film, are you?

Instead of saying that he used motif to convey the theme, tell what motif was used. By definition, a motif is something used to convey a theme.

In that first paragraph, it would be great to succinctly state your main points. Then, talk about each of them in the body paragraphs. You have some good evidence to show how themes were conveyed, but you should present it a little better: Simply name the motifs in the intro paragraph, and then add topic sentences to each of your body paragraphs.

That will improve the essay a lot!

You might also consider tying back some of the motifs to those in earlier acts. For instance, Lady Macbeth's inability to wash out the imaginary blood is ironic, given her earlier insistence that "a little water cleans us of this blood." It also shows that Lady Macbeth and Macbeth have switched roles. She, who did not understand the full import of her actions at the start of the play, is overwhelmed by guilt afterward. He, who could hardly bear the guilt at the beginning, becomes more callous as the play progresses.