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.
In order to establish a basis upon which this argument can be made, it’s important to first understand the social climate of the people of Scotland. At the time of Macbeth’s reign the people of Scotland, as with most of Europe, believed that the traits of their people would be passed via the inherited genes of their mother. These so called “humors” were generally believed to not only be imbued upon the child at birth, but through the mother’s milk.
For this reason the people of Scotland disavowed the practice of nursing by anyone, except for the mother herself. It was this belief that prevented the Scottish people from intermingling with the surrounding nations and ultimately birthed a form of ethnic pride
“Like many depictions of nationality in the period, it invokes climate theory, or, as Floyd-Wilson so aptly names it, ‘geo-humoralism’, the belief that regional differences helped determine an individual’s character. She argues that geo-humoralism is in fact ‘the authoritative ethnological discourse of the period…” (Edwards 181).
The people believed that in order to create the strongest most capable offspring, ones that would ultim...
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...rrative, we see these themes evolve and vie for control, ultimately forming a unified duality at the end of the play; one that resolves itself with both a murder and a birth.
It is in through these examinations and ideas that we can begin to truly dissect the drama and subsequent tragedy of Macbeth; life and death, purpose and meaning, chaos and uncertainty, these are all commonly utilized methods by which Shakespeare spins his classical tales. “Being in time is not the whole of the tragic vision: it is, in itself, the ironic vision. Because it is the basis of the tragic vision, the ironic and the tragic are often confused or identified.” (Bloom 109). Macbeth finally comes to be seen not only as a man beset on all sides by violence and madness, but a man caught up in the forces of nature, an ongoing narrative that remains long after his short and tyrannical reign.
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