2nd November 2017

Practice Essay, MACBETH

Question: Describe at least ONE important character and explain how this character revealed aspects of our real world.

In Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth”, Shakespeare uses “Macbeth” and his behavior to communicate aspects of our real world. Shakespeare makes it clear how certain events can change people and displays how greed and power corrupt people, resulting in the destruction of themselves and the people around them. The decisions Macbeth makes in the play and the psychological transition which Macbeth experiences, portrays aspects of the real world and shows how significant events have a large influence on our mentality. (one) The initial event that contributed to the psychological change in Macbeth, was the witches prophecies. (two) Macbeth’s selfish behavior has effects on his country, throughout the play, Scotland can be seen “sinking beneath the yoke” and the feeling of failure is adapted within civilization. (three) Shakespear uses Macbeth to show how even the best people have the capacity to do great evil. Shakespeare clearly communicates these ideas through “Macbeth” and successfully portrays aspects of our real world.

In Act 1 scene 3 Macbeth had been in discussion with the witches, who had spoken the influential words, “All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!” the witches describe Macbeth’s fate, this puts the idea of becoming king into Macbeth’s head which brings out the greed and dire ambition from within. Through this event, Shakspeare communicates and explores the power of a single thought. After Macbeth’s encounter with the witches, we start to notice his psychological change and the influence it has on Macbeth’s decisions. In Act 1 scene 4 Macbeth already shows signs of change, as the audience, we see this when he states “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.” Through this quote, Macbeth communicates that his dire ambition is stronger than his will to be loyal. By saying “the eye wink at the hand” communicates his eyes will be closed when he will do this horrible thing, “which the eye fears” conveys the idea that he is afraid to see what his hand will do but that he will still do it. Much like the real world when a thought about ourselves or our future is put in our heads it is often hard to let it go. An example of this in the real world is when athletes use performance-enhancing drugs to win a race or claim victory. Lance Armstrong claimed victory 7 times in the Tour de France cycling race and was caught for doping in 2015. Lance was stripped of his medals and banned from the sport for life, along with these losses he also experienced a huge loss of respect from everyone who had once admired him and stated soon after he was caught for doping that “I have given up riding, I have got a feeling of rejection for cycling at the moment”. This shows how what once was a strong passion can be ruined by one thought and the greed for winning. Lance Armstrong and Macbeth displayed similar traits in their acts of dire ambition, both characters let the power of one thought control them, the idea of winning, or in Macbeth’s case being king, was planted in their head by corrupt influences. The witches, an evil figure, gave Macbeth the initial thought that he could become king, whilst Lance Armstrongs coaches encouraged and provided Lance with the assets to cheat. In both cases, the influences made victory seem so close, resulting in the murder of Duncan and the use of performance-enhancing drugs, these shortcuts were taken instead of rightful hard work and caused a sense of false achievement to be endured. The sense of achievement was then overrun by having to live with what they had done and by the anxiety of being caught, this in-turn destroyed themselves and their reputation. After Lance was Shakespeare displays how one thought planted in Macbeth’s head grew and grew until it consumed him, and destroyed everything around him, including himself. Lance Armstrong is a common, real-world example of Shakespeare ideas on corruption and greed.

Macbeth’s greed and self-indulgence, in turn, brings his country to the ground and destroys the civilization of Scotland. We see evidence of this in Act 4, Scene 3 when Malcolm speaks of Scotland’s failure, he states, “Our country sinks beneath the yoke; It weeps, it bleeds; and each new day a gash is added to her wounds” – Malcolm illustrates Scotland’s failure with Macbeth as king. Personification is used in this quote to help readers connect and understand the message being communicated. We can’t see, touch or hear Scotlands failure and when personification is used it stands in for the idea of failure with relatable feelings and experiences to us as the readers, by stating “it weeps, it bleeds” we get the idea that Scotland is hurting, “each new day a gash is added to her wounds” indicates Scotland is continuously being damaged, communicating to us Scotland’s failure. Macbeth drove his country to the ground and is to be held accountable, showing us how one leader and the power they have access to can cause the destruction of everything. We see this happen many times in the real world when bad, corrupt leaders take control and ruin civilization. An extreme example of this is Adolf Hitler and his actions that lead to world war 2, Hilter believed that “The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence” indicating that the needs of his people were not important to him and he would use his power to take control of nations through violence. The state of Germany after the war took decades to recover and the treacherous history still affects the country to this day. In both “Macbeth” and the real world, one man and one dire ambition lead to the destruction of a nation. Displaying to us the power and influence of a leader has a large effect on the army.

Shakespeare uses Macbeth to convey how we all have the capacity for great evil, no matter how good we may seem there is still evil inside of us and it can always be brought out by certain events. Macbeth started off as a loyal, well-respected man and fighter as stated by Duncan in Act 1, scene 2 “What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won.” Macbeth was almost like a hero to his country and received a great deal of praise. As Macbeth experienced events and made decisions under the influence of the witches prophecies and Lady Macbeth, the evil within him overcame the good consumed him. In the real world we are born innocent, (like Macbeth at the start of the play) and the events we experience and decisions we have to make in life, alter and shape us into who we are today and in some cases bring out the worst in us. The novel “Lord Of The Flies” explores this idea further, “They were savages it was true, but they were human.” this quote reflects how the kids in lord of the flies were savages and there were elements of evil within each child, but at the end of the day they were still human, communicating that this is what humans do. We all have savagery and evil within us and it can be brought out in different scenarios, for Macbeth, his evil began to show when he got greedy for power and in lord of the flies evil came from the conflict between two dominant boys overpower both believing, “I ought to be chief”.

The character Macbeth in Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth” revealed aspects of the real world through portraying how corrupt influences can place an idea in your head that you want to believe causing greed and dire ambition to consume you, and in turn, causes shortcuts to victory to be made. Macbeth reveals how one leader can cause the destructuration of a nation, this is seen in many scenarios in the real world. The capacity for evil within us is portrayed through Macbeth’s actions and decisions, the fact that he started off as a respected man and ended up a hated king shows us how even the best of the best can show evil traits. Macbeth displays many traits that we see every day in the real world, greed and the need for power being the more common elements. Shakespeare’s play reveals some aspects of our fundamental human nature and predicts the effect on ourselves and the world if we let our ambition and desire overwhelm our more positive qualities.  This is how we develop morality in our society, by watching plays like this and talking about them with each other, Macbeth helps us to understand peoples actions and common ideas we experience frequently in the real world.


  • introduction
  • power of one thought
  • Influence of Scotland
  • capacity for evil
  • Make connections
  • Form Conclusion.

Possible paragraph :Shakespear uses the character, Macbeth, to show how a dire ambition can lead a person to become stripped of respect and lead to the destruction of themselves, Macbeth got what he wanted but wore a “fruitless crown” and had a “barren scepter in my gripe” he could

Shakespear uses the character, Macbeth, to show how a dire ambition can lead a person to become stripped of respect and lead to the destruction of themselves, Macbeth got what he wanted but wore a “fruitless crown” and had a “barren scepter in my gripe” he could


Study notes



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Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Fiona,

    This is going very well. Your paragraphs are very well structured and they address everything in good detail. You identify the aspect of the character you want to examine, you give an example, you explain how this conveys a specific idea about ambition/corruption and then you give a detailed and relevant link to the wider world. I think it’s particularly effective that you’ve sometimes chosen real world events, and in other cases chosen other texts that communicate similar ideas.

    Your connections are built into every paragraph, so as long as you’re clear, and use words from the question like “An aspect of the world that this reveals is…” then you won’t need to write a separate connections paragraph.

    Instead I’d encourage you to write a conclusion that explains in ‘big terms’ how Shakespeare’s play reveals some aspects of our fundamental human nature and predicts the effect on ourselves and the world if we let our ambition and desire overwhelm our more positive qualities. You could then talk about how this is how we develop morality in our society, by watching plays like this and talking about them with each other!

    Do let me know if you’d like me to look at that conclusion once it’s done.



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About Fiona

Born in Christchurch, One of New Zealand's children, dweller of the south island, I enjoy being called Fi, thanks. Spelling needs work. Yep. Nice.