Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for Macbeth by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in Macbeth and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of William Shakespeare's Macbeth in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Macbeth at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Power of Power
One of the most profound and disturbing themes in Shakespeare’s Macbeth involves the power that power exerts over an individual who has ascended to a post of authority. Under the influence of unchecked power, Macbeth takes actions that have serious and devastating consequences for himself and for other characters in the play. Once Macbeth has committed an act in which he uses power for negative ends, he finds it increasingly difficult to restrain himself from resorting to the perverted use of power. Ultimately, it his inability to distinguish the adaptive and maladaptive functions of power from one another that prevents him from realizing his potential greatness.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Role of Witches in Macbeth
Macbeth introduces an element of fantasy into the normal tragedy narrative through the characters of the witches. The witches are important figures in the play, as their function is both to predict Macbeth’s fate and to signal to the reader what is to come. Far from serving as a distracting element, the witches help focus the reader on some of the darker and more sinister aspects of the play. Shakespeare’s use of this fantasy element is effective as a narrative technique.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Role of Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth is a character who makes an easy reading and interpretation of the play impossible. Like many female characters, Lady Macbeth was cast into a role not entirely of her own choosing; however, like her husband, she finds that once she is on the path of darkness, it is impossible for her to turn back. In fact, Lady Macbeth becomes even more bloodthirsty than her husband, and she encourages him to use his power to perpetrate violence against others. A character analysis of Lady Macbeth reveals that she is a complex character who adds depth to an otherwise straightforward play about power dynamics.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Blood Imagery in Macbeth
Violence and the bloodshed that results are important symbols in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. While the blood that is shed is a tangible reminder of the outcomes of misused power, it also serves as an image that provokes Macbeth to reflect upon his deeds, even if he does not change his behavior. Macbeth becomes obsessed with the blood on his hands. Unfortunately, this reminder of his guilt does not prevent him from continuing violent acts.
This list of important quotations from Macbeth by William Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Macbeth listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of Macbeth by William Shakespeare they are referring to.
“Let not light see my black and deep desires…." (I.iv.51)
“Yet I do fear thy nature. It is too full o the milk of human kindness….Thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it." (I.v.16-20).
“Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe
topful of direst cruelty!" (I.v.41-43).
“…We but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague th’ inventor" (I.vii.8-10)
“O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart Cannot conceive nor name thee!" (II.iii.63-64)
“[B]lood will have blood." (III.v.121)
“I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing To those that know me." (III.v.85-86)
“Something wicked this way comes." (IV.1.45)
“The spirits that know All mortal consequences have pronounc’d me thus: ‘Fear not, Macbeth, no man that’s born of woman Shall e’er have power upon thee.’" (V.iii.6-7)
“The time approaches That will with due decision make us know What we shall say we have, and what we owe." (V.iv.17-19).
Reference: Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. In Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In The Riverside Shakespeare. Eds. G. Blakemore Evans and J.J.M. Tobin. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 1360-1390.
As you look through the text (you may want to reread as then you will comprehend more and surely spot the passages you want), you will want to cite passages in the beginning that demonstrate Macbeth's growing ambition. Do not forget that the supernatural world certainly tempts him and Lady Macbeth encourages him, but, by his own admition, it is his "vaulting ambition," his tragic flaw, that leads him down his path to tragedy. Perhaps, you may wish to explain how his ambition is Macbeth's tragic flaw.*
For instance, in Act I, Scene 3, after Macbeth has heard the predictions of the three sisters, he thinks in an aside,
If chance will have me King, why, chance may crown me,
Without my stir. (1.3.155-156)
However, in another aside, Macbeth's predilection for taking the directing hand in matters is indicated in his reflections after he learns that King Duncan has made his son Malcolm the Prince of Cumberland:
The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step
On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap;
For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires:
The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. (1.4.55-60) [your text may differ in lines, so check what lines these are in your book, if a textbook]
In Scene 5 of the first act, after she reads Macbeth's letter, Lady Macbeth "tells" her husband that he has ambition, but does not possess the "illness" [wickedness] that should accompany it. So, when he arrives, Lady Macbeth encourages her husband to be "the serpent" under his tongue. Still, Macbeth wrestles with his decision to murder Duncan and advance the predictions of the witches. In his soliloquy of Act I, Scene 7, he feels some conflict about killing Duncan; however, he recognizes that his reason for acting, his
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on th'other--- (1.8.25-28).
Rereading closely and noting passages as you read will assist you greatly in writing your paper; it is probably faster, too, then trying to hunt for passages.
*Peruse some criticisms made by professionals by going to JSTOR or ERIC on the virtual library which will assist you in finding critical analyses by competent writers. Often reading these types of articles/essays helps you find points that you can develop, then, on your own. Be sure to acknowledge any information that is not yours, of course. See the enotes site of criticism below for several interesting articles.