Essay on Retribution in Shakespeare's Macbeth

Essay on Retribution in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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In the most literal sense, retribution is defined as “the dispensing or receiving of reward or punishment especially in the hereafter,” according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary. In the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the ideas of “give and take” are based on one’s actions. It is a theme that’s located in every aspect of the text, wherein the characters gain or lose power and/or life due to actions taken against them as well as by them. Nothing is inconsequential or coincidence. Things were all planned, though not in the sense of destiny and preordained fate but rather in the combination of man and greed and the fight for power.
In Act 1, what caught my eye was the word “hereafter” in both the text and the definition. Of this word, the dictionary offers three ways for it to be expressed: as an adverb (after this in sequence or in time), a noun (an existence beyond earthly life), and as an adjective (future). The witches in Act 1 Scene 3 line 50 refer to Macbeth as “king hereafter.” They are using this as a lure, just as when they granted him the title Thane of Cawdor. This title is given in recompense of the previous Thane’s betrayal to the king. His actions led to the opening of his lands and titles, conveniently enough for Macbeth.
Act 2 is filled with the art of conspiracy. In Scene 2, the Macbeth and his Lady scheme against the crown and plot to murder Duncan in his sleep. The role reversal of husband and wife is represented in the belittling of Macbeth, his own “retribution” for being incompetent to carry out the plans exactly. Macbeth, after murdering Duncan and implying that his sons had their hands in the act, becomes king. This is his reward for betraying the trust that the late king had put in him so faithfully...


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...s life. I found it very interesting that Macbeth died so young, because of the fact that he wanted so much to have power forever. My theory of this play is such that, when Macbeth takes fate into his own hands as early on as Act 2 (the killing of Duncan), he consigns himself to an early death. If he had waited for the prophecy to ride itself out and things to fall into place by themselves, things may have ended differently. However, by rushing into his fate, he is wishing away time. He takes off years of his own life by taking the lives of others because he is too impatient and too greedy. The play ends with the rightful king taking his place: Malcolm. Because of the fact that Malcolm knew how to strategize and wait and rule efficiently, he is able to regain his title and now, the throne. So you see, good things come to those who wait, and karma is a powerful tool.

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