What Is Macbeth About?

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In Shakespeare’s time, the obedience of the natural order was absolute, and where it was disrupted, disastrous outcomes followed. This idea is clearly reflected in his play, Macbeth, through the themes of betrayal of the rightful king by Macbeth; the reversal of gender roles, particularly by Lady Macbeth who manipulates and controls her husband; and finally the supernatural powers that conflict with accepted beliefs and which dictate the actions and destiny of Macbeth. A disruption of natural order leads to catastrophic consequences, and ultimately bring about Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s downfall.

Shakespeare examines the dire consequences brought about by the betrayal and murder of King Duncan paralleling a disorder in nature. The widely accepted theory of the Great Chain of Being highlighted royalty as a divine right from God and any aspiration to attain the throne was a sin. Macbeth exhibits the epitome of disloyalty through his crime: ‘as his host who should against his murderer…not bear the knife as well.’ This juxtaposition of ‘host’ and ‘murderer’ demonstrates the extent of his betrayal by taking a position he is not the rightful heir to. Macbeth’s evil deed is perceived as throwing nature out of order. The Old Man in Act 2 observes ‘A falcon, tow’ring in her pride of place/Was by a mousing owl hacked at and killed.’ The animal imagery conveys unnatural occurrence for a mice eating owl to kill a falcon, symbolising Duncan being murdered by Macbeth as upsetting the natural order of political hierarchy. The betrayal also makes Macbeth a victim of his own act. He speaks of sleep as ‘nature’s second course/Chief nourisher in life’s feast.’ The imagery describes the second course of a meal as the main course, and so the ‘chief nourisher’. The severity of his action has caused him to feel that he will never again be nourished by kindly nature. In his

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