Role of Motifs in Shakespeare's Macbeth

Role of Motifs in Shakespeare's Macbeth

Length: 1253 words (3.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Role of Motifs in Shakespeare's Macbeth
The best way to draw a reader into a story is to focus on knowledge drawn from other sources and add to them in a way so that the reader can relate. William Shakespeare achieves just this with his ability to enhance Macbeth with reoccurring motifs throughout the play. Possibly the most prominent ones and those that represent the greatest are the sleep and serpent motifs. J When one possesses a conscience, the function to tell the difference between right and wrong; it impedes the ability to either make positive or negative decisions. If one has a clear conscience, they usually possess the ability to sleep. But when our consciences are full of guilt, they experience a state of sleeplessness. In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses the sleep and sleeplessness motif to represent Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's consciences and the effect Macbeth's conscience has on the country of Scotland.
Lady Macbeth begins with an unrecognizable conscience. She explains to Macbeth that if she said she would kill her own child, she would rather do the deed than break her word to do so. Soon she begins to develop a conscience. After placing the daggers for Duncan's murder, she makes an excuse for not killing Duncan herself: "Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done't" (2.2.12-13). These words introduce her conscience. Towards the end of the play, Lady Macbeth falls into a sleepless state, and this sleeplessness represents her guilt for her role in Duncan's death, as well as all the murders Macbeth has committed.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Role of Motifs in Shakespeare's Macbeth." 21 Sep 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Macbeth: Shakespeare’s Two Key Motifs Essay example

- The play “Macbeth”, by Shakespeare, contains many motifs. Two very powerful motifs that Shakespeare illustrates in this play are blood, and weather. Blood is important because it shows that this play is violent, and the blood physically shows that these characters in the play are warriors. Weather plays an important role because it usually foreshadows events that are about to take place. For example, a storm usually foreshadows terrible things, like death and destruction. A major motif in “Macbeth” is blood....   [tags: weather, blood, William Shakespeare, guilt]

Research Papers
1016 words (2.9 pages)

William Shakespeare 's ' Macbeth ' Essay

- Scottish Pride in Relation to Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” As one of the most well known of William Shakespeare 's tragedies, Macbeth exhibits a wide range of motifs and subtle criticisms that are still relevant today. Pride, lineage, and ethnic identity are simply a few of the major themes that continue to stand the test of time. In Macbeth we can easily see that these ideas are present. The following pages will discuss the ways in which these motifs, specifically related to motherhood and children in the northern reaches of the Scottish peninsula, played an integral role in the foundation of the play....   [tags: Macbeth, William Shakespeare, Scotland]

Research Papers
1169 words (3.3 pages)

Essay about Macbeth, By William Shakespeare

- Vikrant Parsai, an Indian poet, wrote a proverb saying, “He who wants everything every time will lose everything anytime.” In the tragic play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Macbeth is presented as a honorable warrior when he defeats Macdonald 's army in battle but becomes a man full of greed. He encounters three witches, who grant him a prophecy, stating he would become the future thane of Cawdor and the future king. He shares his experience with his wife, Lady Macbeth, and she plots and encourages him to kill King Duncan of Scotland....   [tags: Macbeth, Three Witches, Macbeth]

Research Papers
1056 words (3 pages)

William Shakespeare 's ' Macbeth ' Essay

- Throughout Shakespeare’s play, “Macbeth”, Shakespeare uses various items to enhance his plot. He used many symbols, motifs, themes, and excellent character development. His development of certain characters had a major impact in “Macbeth”, by changing roles of characters he essentially changed the plot all together. The symbols that he used were there to enhance the play, and show what the protagonists were thinking or seeing. The themes he used were diverse yet they were used to show what certain scenes were all about....   [tags: Macbeth, Tragedy, Character, Protagonist]

Research Papers
923 words (2.6 pages)

Macbeth, By William Shakespeare Essay examples

- Throughout Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, numerous motifs transpire that have a great impact on the story. One motif stood out the most, and that was time. As the play proceeds, time becomes more powerful and intensifies the story. Although time is not a concrete element, this motif has a strong influence on the characters and their actions. From beginning to end, Macbeth’s motifs affect every part of the tale. There are three main motifs that capture the essence of time in Macbeth, one to foreshadow destruction, one during the fall, and another at the height of the pain....   [tags: Macbeth, Banquo, Sun, Three Witches]

Research Papers
797 words (2.3 pages)

The Tragedy Of William Shakespeare 's Macbeth Essay example

- A tragedy, as described by the Webster’s dictionary is, “A play, movie, etc., that is serious and has a sad ending, such as the death of the main character”. Similarly, tragic heroes are the main characters who make a judgment error that leads to their own destruction. “Macbeth” which is written by the legendary writer, William Shakespeare, is a true example of a “tragedy”. From the beginning of the play, Macbeth is shown as the great general who has gained much respect from his king and people....   [tags: Macbeth, Three Witches, Duncan I of Scotland]

Research Papers
987 words (2.8 pages)

Macbeth By William Shakespeare, A Noble General Under King Duncan Of Scotland

- William Shakespeare once wrote, “Signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine on all deservers” (1.4, 47-48). Like stars, certain people deserve to be rewarded and others are not. In the tragedy Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Macbeth is a noble general under King Duncan of Scotland. He and his friend Banquo are heroes when they defeat two armies led by the rebel Macdonald. However, when Macbeth encounters three witches during a journey through a moor, he believes the prophecy they tell him and kills his closest friends in order to become king....   [tags: Macbeth, Duncan I of Scotland, Banquo, KILL]

Research Papers
1668 words (4.8 pages)

Light, Darkness, and the Great Chain of Being Depicted in Shakespeare's Macbeth

- Macbeth Essay William Shakespeare's Macbeth is an ominous tale that illustrates the danger in violating the Great Chain of Being, the hierarchy of things in God's ordered universe. The Chain ranked all of creation and human society as well. It ranked kings above nobles and nobles above the poor. When Macbeth murdered King Duncan and assumed the throne, the Chain was violated and chaos resulted. The atmosphere of the play symbolized this resulting turmoil. Specifically, light and darkness were used to exemplify the unnatural chaos and ominous tone of the work....   [tags: analytical essay, literary analysis]

Research Papers
707 words (2 pages)

Extent to which the child is the central image in Macbeth Essay

- William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is filled with many vivid and recurring images. Such imagery permeates the text and provides strong striking images which, when performed on stage, stay firmly in the audiences’ minds. Many critics have proposed arguments expressing their opinion on what constitutes the central image in Macbeth. On reading the text, or perhaps watching the play, some of the images are more prominent than others. Images such as blood and darkness seem to hold most significance to the plot and to the themes....   [tags: William Shakespeare]

Research Papers
2350 words (6.7 pages)

The Role of the Witches in the Downfall of Shakespeare's MacBeth Essay

- The Role of the Witches in the Downfall of Shakespeare's MacBeth MacBeth by William Shakespeare is a play which shows the uprise of MacBeth, the treachery and his eventual downfall. Witchcraft plays a major part in MacBeth's actions and his weak character is easily manipulated. Although being an honest and brave man earlier, his ambition clouds his judgement. His life is tragic and through some terrible deeds ends in catastrophe. MacBeth is Thane of Glamis and a highly honorable and respected man....   [tags: Shakespeare MacBeth]

Research Papers
699 words (2 pages)

Her conscience is trying to rid itself of the guilt by her "washing her hands" (5.1.25) of the imagined blood. Lady Macbeth's newfound conscience becomes unbearable. Thus she resolves her problems by committing suicide, or "sleeping" permanently.
Macbeth also seems to follow the same path as his wife. He begins as a valiant soldier with a good, clear conscience. His ability to sleep symbolizes his clear conscience. Further into the play, his conscience becomes disturbed and he experiences insomnia. Macbeth's sleeplessness is a result of his fear and guilt. After killing Duncan, Macbeth hears a voice cry, "'Glamis hath murdered sleep,' and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more: Macbeth shall sleep no more" (2.2.45-46). Macbeth feels that the only way to make his guilt and fear disappear is to kill anyone who threatens his kingship, so his conscience will begin to believe that killing people is right and he will be able to enjoy guiltless sleep. .
Sleep also makes Macbeth have a negative impact on Scotland. A king usually represents the peace and goodness of his country. When he begins to experience peace and comfort the country does as well. As soon as Macbeth becomes king, however, the kingdom is flipped upside down. Since Macbeth feels internal turmoil, the people of Scotland also experience turmoil. Macbeth causes all the peace and sleep to change to distress and sleeplessness. Malcolm's goal is to see "that chambers will be safe" (5.4.2). When Malcolm's army defeats Macbeth's army, peace and sleep are restored to Scotland. T The snake, another recurring motif has long been used as a symbol of sly subtlety. A serpent's presence has been characterized by cunning cynicism dating as far back as biblical times, when the snake persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit of Eden's garden Shakespeare uses this treacherous reptile in Macbeth to convey the same evil. In his poetic phrase, Shakespeare may not speak of a character's malevolence directly; rather, he alludes to it through serpentine imagery. When lady Macbeth receives Macbeth's letter informing her of his promotion to Thayne of Cawdor she tries to instill invisible evil into herself and her husband in preparation for Duncan's murder. She fears her husband is too weak to murder Duncan, which she believes is Macbeth's only path to the crown. After tauntingly questioning her husband's manhood, she convinces him to follow her gory plan and gave him instructions to “beguile the time, look like the time. Bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue. Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it." She says that to succeed, they must feign mediocrity amongst their guests, concealing their sinister desires. Appearing normal will not invoke suspicions. The serpent Lady Macbeth speaks of is the evil ambition Macbeth has, craftily slithering out of the shade of the virtuous flower when the deed is to be done. It represents Macbeth's hidden ambitions and his wife's plans. It also follows the theme of appearance versus reality what Duncan thinks to have "a pleasant seat" is actually the poisonous serpent underneath, waiting till nighttime to prey on its victim. The snake is also a metaphor for the obstacles impeding his rise to power. When Banquo is murdered and Macbeth is told about the escape of Fleance he describes "There the grown serpent lies. The worm that's fled hath nature that in time will venom breed, no teeth for th' present." What Macbeth was worried about earlier is eliminated but his fears are not. He is now troubled by its spawn, the presently innocent "worm" that he knows will become a danger in time. Even after more bloodshed, Macbeth is not free of the sneaky snake. Fleance will mature into a threat, fathering a son that will begin the seven generations of Scottish kings Macbeth wanted to kill off.
Return to