20 Essays About Macbeth – Exploring A Tragic Play Through Written Words

Is Macbeth a tragic hero? Here are 20 essays about Macbeth that can help you explore this and other questions.

Macbeth, a play by William Shakespeare initially performed in the early 1600s, explores the decline of the character Macbeth as his ambition drives him mad. As Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, literary critics and school students often discuss this play.

In the story, Macbeth is given a prophecy from three witches that he is destined to become King of Scotland. His wife overhears, and she joins him on a quest to make this happen that ends in several murders.

Like all of Shakespeare’s works, this play lends itself well to interesting essay topics. If you need to write one, these ideas for essays about Macbeth will get you started.

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Essays About Macbeth

1. Explore Macbeth’s Mental Deterioration

The character of Macbeth goes through a significant mental health crisis throughout the play. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth seems like a mentally healthy and stable individual. As the story unfolds and his greed for power increases, his mental health declines.

This essay could discuss what caused the mental health decline in the play’s main character, or it could simply explore the progression. There are many ways to take this essay idea and expand it into an intricate piece. A closer look at Macbeth’s mind reveals several fascinating scenarios.

2. Discuss What Mental Health Problems Macbeth Had

Mental health is a theme of the play Macbeth. Today, more knowledge about mental health conditions and their effects makes it possible to explore these themes more deeply. An engaging Macbeth essay idea would be to examine what mental health concerns he possibly had.

This essay idea requires a little bit of research outside of the play itself. You will need to research potential mental health conditions that line up with Macbeth’s character development. However, it can be an exciting way to explore the character more in-depth.

3. Explore Gender Roles in Macbeth

Gender roles in the Shakesperean world are interesting to explore when contrasting them to modern ideas about gender and the role of women in society. Lady Macbeth begins to take on masculine characteristics in this play as she pushes Macbeth towards Duncan’s murder and takes the dominant role in the marriage.

Lady Macbeth actually asks the spirits to take away her gender at one point in the play. The weird sisters also disrupt the traditional gender roles of Shakespeare’s time. They even boast beards, which further indicates this disparity.

4. Determine Macbeth’s Tragic Flaw

The realities of human nature mean that people have inborn character traits that make life more challenging for them. A tragic flaw is a character’s defect that eventually leads to their downfall. Since Macbeth is a Shakespearean tragedy, the main character has a tragic flaw that is the eventual cause of his demise.

What is Macbeth’s tragic flaw? Answering this question can lead to a detailed essay. Your conclusion may be different from someone else’s conclusion. Within the article, you can explore the proof that your idea about Macbeth’s tragic flaw is the right one.

5. Decide if the Witches in Macbeth Are Real

The weird sisters in Macbeth are some of the unique characters in the play. Yet because many of the themes are about ghosts and dreams, the reader is left to wonder whether or not these witches are real.

This topic could create an exciting essay. The writer would look at different aspects of the play to determine whether Shakespeare is alluding to the witches’ reality or leaving them as a figment of Macbeth’s imagination, using the essay to discuss the potential proofs.

6. Compare and Contrast Macduff, Banquo, and Macbeth

This essay topic gives the writer the chance to show the similarities and differences between these three characters. Throughout doing so, the writer can argue whether one of the characters is the story’s true villain. The differences and similarities would provide a significant amount of writing material.

With this topic, the writer could compare and contrast all three or pick just two, depending on the length of the essay. The writer should look at character qualities and the players’ actions within the story.

7. Discuss the Role of Blood in Macbeth

Essays About Macbeth: Discuss the role of blood in Macbeth
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Throughout the play, blood serves as a symbol of guilt. For example, Macbeth says: “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?” He feels the blood will never be off his hands, indicating his guilt’s depth.

Lady Macbeth says, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!. Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.” As she tries to remove a bloodstain no one else can see, it is clear she also feels tremendous guilt for her crimes.

Explore the role of blood in the play and discuss how it symbolizes guilt in your essay. 

8. Determine How Macbeth’s Ambition Led to His Downfall

Many literary critics believe that Macbeth’s ambition was his tragic flaw. His ambition makes him repeatedly kill because he must continue killing to cover up his past murders. All of this drive to be the king of Scotland makes him lose control.

The downfall of his unbridled ambition is shown when he murders Macduff’s wife and children. This part of the play shows that Macbeth has lost all control over his dream, and this action is what causes many to call it his tragic flaw.

9. Decide Whether Macbeth is a Moral Play

A moral play is one where justice is served in the end. Macbeth loses his life, which could indicate justice served for the murder of Duncan. However, others may argue that there is very little morality throughout the play.

Can a play about murder and unbridled ambition indeed be a moral play? This is the question you must try to answer through this essay. It has no right or wrong answer, so spend some time considering it.

10. Which Macbeth Betrayal is Worse?

In the play, Macbeth betrays two people. First, he crosses King Duncan by plotting and executing his murder. Second, he betrays his friend Manquo by killing his family.

This essay will discuss which of these two betrayals is considered worse. Is it worse to betray a monarch, or is it worse to betray someone close to you? The answer will be based on your opinion, and you can use the essay to explain and defend your choice.

11. What Motivated Macbeth’s Actions?

Macbeth’s actions in the play stem from a deeper motivation, but you need to figure out how to express just what that is. Is he motivated by his ambition primarily, or does the fear of the supernatural spur him to action?

Take a look at the clues in the play to determine your answer to this crucial question, then craft an essay that proves your choice. You may discover a motivator that few have written on. Use it well, and you can compose an engaging article on this topic.

12. Compare and Contrast Macbeth and Banquo’s Behaviors After Hearing the Prophecy

Both Macbeth and Banquo’s behaviors change after hearing the witches’ prophecy. You can create an essay that compares these responses and contrasts them. Take some time to study them before you begin writing.

This type of character analysis and contrast works well for an essay. It shows your critical thinking abilities. With this essay topic, you can also explore the negative and positive changes the characters experience throughout Shakespeare’s play.

13. Sleep as a Theme in Macbeth

In Macbeth, the main character spends a lot of time asleep and having dreams. This fact means that sleep is a central theme of the play, and that idea can create an exciting essay topic option.

Why do you think Shakespeare relies on sleep so much in his story? Is there a parallel between the decline in mental health and the increase in the sleep of the main character? This essay idea can go quite far as you delve into the topic.

14. Who Is Responsible for Macbeth Becoming King of Scotland?

As the play nears its climax, Macbeth moves from being the thane of Cawdor to the King of Scotland due to his betrayal and murder, but who is responsible? Is Lady Macbeth the responsible party, or do the witches have a role to play? Is the responsibility all on Macbeth himself?

The story of the tragic hero can have quite a few responsible parties. You may come to a different conclusion than another writer. If you can clearly defend your choice, you have a solid essay idea on your hands.

15. How Macbeth’s Ambition and Paranoia Intertwine

Towards the end of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth’s ambition and paranoia become so entwined that it is hard to tell one from the other. This progression could make for an interesting essay topic. You could explore the progression, then show how his obsession made it impossible to enjoy his role as king.

To make this essay topic work, you will want to look at the fact that the sad end of the play shows Macbeth without the potential to produce an heir and thus no hope for a future legacy. His ambition and paranoia mixing in this way eventually led to his downfall.

16. Does Macbeth Have Free Will, Or Is He Serving Fate?

Because of the witches’ prophecy, one could argue that Macbeth lacks free will in the play and instead is simply following the fate prophesied to him. On the other hand, you could also argue that everyone has free will, regardless of what some weird sisters say.

Once you decide your stand on this question, take a close look at the play to determine the proofs that show whether or not Macbeth has free will. Then expound on your findings in your essay.

17. What Is the Main Root of Evil in Shakespeare’s Play, Macbeth?

Is the desire for power what causes the evil in the play, or is it Macbeth’s ambition? Is it the underlying forces of evil from the weird sisters or something else? Study the play and determine what you think the root of evil is.

Once you choose, make a case for your choice. Show proof from the play that backs your choice. While there are many causes for the tragedy, you should be able to build a case for one central underlying cause.

18. Who Really Pushed Macbeth to Murder?

There are two characters in the play that push Macbeth to embrace his ambition and pursue it to the point of murder. First, the three witches make the prophecy that gets him thinking about murder.

However, a closer study of the play shows that his wife, more so than the weird sisters, causes him to cross that ethical line and become a murderer. So in your essay, you could easily argue that Lady Macbeth, not the three witches, led to his demise.

19. Are Malcolm, Macduff, or Banquo Necessary Characters in the Play?

As you consider the play’s plot, consider whether any of these three characters could be left out without changing the meaning or direction of the story. You may find that one or more is an unnecessary character.

After discovering who the unnecessary character is in the play, you can discuss it in your essay. Expound on why the character does not bring anything of value to the storyline and how you feel the play could move along better without them.

20. How Do You Feel About Macbeth at the End of the Play?

A final essay topic about Macbeth is a more personal one. Discuss how you feel towards the main character when the play is over. Do you have compassion for his mental illness and overall plight, or are you disgusted by his actions?

Because this is an opinion piece, be careful to explain why you feel the way you do. Expound on your attitude using examples from the play to make this an effective essay.

When studying a piece of literature, understanding what makes up a story can help you discuss and analyze it more effectively. Read our article on literary elements.

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