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Relevance of Macbeth Today

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Criteria – You are to compose a feature article on the given headline: ‘Shakespeare: Still Relevant”. Your article must explore how the themes in the play Macbeth are universal and timeless and, therefore, are still relevant. Your article should make reference to language and dramatic techniques and their purpose/effect. In-class Assessment.

The tragic play Macbeth, written by Shakespeare in the early 17th century is an effective example of similar events that are happening today. Macbeth clearly demonstrates the vitiating and corrupting effect of ruthless ambition, and chronic remorse. Shakespeare’s use of his language and dramatic techniques is distinctly evident in the play Macbeth as it profoundly pursues the reader into a meliorate atmosphere.

The prophecy that the witches tell Macbeth that he will become the thane of Cawdor and eventually the King of Scotland initiates Macbeth’s ambitions into pursuing that path.

Later in the prophecy the witches foretell, Banquo’s descendants must be king so the supernaturally predicted fate cannot be avoided.


“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” – Cassius in Julius Caesar (Remorse)

This states Shakespeare’s belief in human responsibility to our action. So the witches in fact perceived a latent evil in the form of ambition. Externalism of that time and also now is still an excessive concern with outer circumstances or appearances.

The play demonstrates the destructive power of ruthless ambition. It drives Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to commit unspeakable acts. It causes turmoil and revolution in Scotland. The play suggests that while ambition itself is not bad, when it overrides other considerations it is dangerous. In Macbeth’s case, he put his wish to become king before the needs and wishes of other people. Macbeth’s quest to acquire more power ultimately ends as ambition leads to his tragic demise. History is full of examples of people who have sacrificed the greater need of society for their own personal aggrandisement. In Macbeth, evil comes out of ambition which is not restrained by moral considerations and which does not come about sacrificing others.

Willingness to commit acts that Macbeth knows are wrong and evil, in order to fulfil ambition –following temptation to which he is being exposed.

His wife at a crucial time convinces him to go ahead with the plot. Macbeth was tempted to evil because of ambition and his wife played a pivotal role in supporting him, quoted below. Yet she felt remorse, compunction, and ruthlessness.

“But screw your courage to the sticking place,

And we’ll not fail.” – Lady Macbeth

Now ambition is similarly a key motivating force:

“I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself,

And fails on th’other…” – Macbeth

Macbeth uses vaulting ambition; a wish to achieve an important and powerful position and a belief that this is more important than anything else.

“Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee!”

So we are seeing the dramatic power of Shakespeare as he portrays Macbeth suffering the horrors of his own mind as he uses evil means to achieve his ambition.

Macbeth’s use of imagery is a very important element, giving the texture of the plays density and richness. Some images are individually striking, but it’s more rewarding to see the imagery functioning as strands which help to connect, reinforce and enliven the shifts in the play as a whole. The richness of Shakespeare’s imagery must inevitably suffer in translation and some is certainly lost in modern English.

In the contemporary world, there are cases where people have been harmed in the deliberate pursuit of power – financial power, political power or power in the media. The role of financiers in the 2008 crisis may be an example where innocent people lost money.

The dramatic and language techniques, especially the ‘blood’ all have the same desired outcome, the outcome to set us into an atmosphere where we are virtually connected to the events.

The play beings and ends with bloodshed in battle, and horrific murders dominate much of the action in between. Images of blood carry great emotional force and intensifying meaning. Duncan’s blood not with its literal red colour but metaphorically, to assert the significance of the loss: “His silver skin laced with his golden blood”. After the banquet he realises that he can never escape the bloody consequences of his actions: “It will have blood they say:blood will have blood.”

His obsession leads him into the hyperbole of wading through a river of blood, so that going on or turning back are equally ‘tedious’. Lady Macbeth smells blood and rubs obsessively at an imagined spot on her hands. The blood of the invading army will act like ‘dew” on a flower and ‘drown the weeds’.

These techniques would have been far more graphic to the globe audience than they would be to us now, even to a play audience because of the direct impact of the Elizabethan English. The way Shakespeare uses this is part of Postmodernism.

Written 400 years ago, Shakespeare’s tragic play of Macbeth, still corroborates that its themes are still timeless through the uses of themes, language and dramatic techniques in the world today. Prophecy, Ambition, Remorse, Imagery and Blood in Macbeth general pieces together why Shakespeare is still relevant in the world we live in today, this is consumed with technology.


This is about Shakespeare’s world and then its relevance to our present world.

Conclusion must relate to Shakespeare’s relevance to our present world and Macbeth shows this.


1) Prophecies

2) Still Macbeth made his choices

3) Ambition

4) When Shakespeare said himself “Our action depends on our choice”

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