Evil and its Motivating Forces In Shakespeare's Macbeth

Essay by sarahreadHigh School, 11th gradeA+, January 2005

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Albert Einstein once said "The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is not a problem of physics but of ethics. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil from the spirit of man." Without doubt, the evil that waits in the spirit of man permeates Shakespeare's "Macbeth." Along with the morals and principles of the characters, nature itself collapses into disorder. It is not, however, enough to say that some wickedness came over the characters like a disease... there are a number of underlying themes driving the spite and malice throughout the play. The evil that becomes evident in the story is not created but tempted out of its owners and driven out of control.

Shakespeare's carefully crafted atmosphere contributes to the feel of the play from the very beginning. Before the first line of dialogue is ever spoken, he introduces the prevailing motif of thunder and lightning storms.

It seems as if the environment is foreshadowing the hurricane of dissension and violence to come. This is only one of the themes that support the evil saturating the play. There are a number of references to animals - cats, toads, dogs, and birds of prey - ominous creatures that often compliment the mood of the scene they appear in. Most of the action and important events take place during the night in the cover of the darkness, casting a sinister and threatening shadow over the entire play.

In the short first scene, three clairvoyant witches are introduced. In Shakespeare's time, witchcraft was perceived as evil and feared throughout Europe. Witches and their deeds were seen as disruptive to the natural order of society and religious faith. The three witches in the story do not waver from the stereotypical archetypes of Shakespeare's time.