These analytical papers are designed to review your knowledge of the drama and apply that knowledge to a critical paper. The topics may request that you examine the conflicts, themes, or question a standard theory about the play.
The term tragic hero refers to a central character who has a authoritative status in the drama, but through a flaw in his or her character brings about his or her demise. The flaw may consist of a poor decision that is made and creates a situation the character cannot change or control. The tragic hero recognizes his or her flaw, however there is nothing that can be done to avert tragedy. Macbeth is seen as a tragic hero. Write a paper tracing the sequence of events that contribute to Macbeth’s demise and tragic end.
I. Thesis Statement: Macbeth is seen as a tragic hero. He compromises his honor and negates moral responsibility to attain power and position which result in his tragic end.
II. Definition and characteristics of a tragic hero
3. Poor decision making resulting in a catastrophe
4. Realization of flaw but unable to prevent tragedy
III. The Witches
A. Plan to meet Macbeth
B. Statement that fair is foul, and foul is fair
IV. Allegiance to Scotland and Duncan
A. Battle with Macdonwald
B. Battle with the King of Norway
C. Duncan’s Response
1. Honor bestowed on Macbeth
2. Duncan’s opinion of Macbeth
V. Witches on the battlefield
A. The prophecy
B. Macbeth’s Response
C. Banquo’s Response
VI. Macbeth’s meeting with Duncan
A. Duncan greets Macbeth with respect
B. Macbeth’s reaction to Duncan naming Malcolm as his successor
VII. Decisions made before Macbeth is king
A. Lady Macbeth’s plan
1. Macbeth’s response
2. Lady Macbeth’s Influence on Macbeth
3. Macbeth’s decision
B. Eve of the Murder
1. Floating Dagger
2. Macbeth’s reaction
C. Duncan’s Murder
1. Murder of the guards
D. Discovery of Duncan’s body
1. Macbeth’s reaction
2. Duncan’s sons
3. Macbeth named as king
VIII. Decisions made as King
1. Fear of prophecy
2. Hires Murderers
1. Reaction to Murderers
C. Meeting with the Witches
1. Response to Prophecy
2. Macduff and family
3. Leaving for Dunsinane in England
D. Battle with Malcolm’s forces
1. Dunsinane prophecy
2. Young Siward
3. False sense of security
E. Reactions to Lady Macbeth’s illness and death
F. Meeting Macduff
2. Revealing prophecy to Macduff
3. Macbeth’s realization that the Witches told him half-truths
IX. Macbeth’s tragic end
A. Macduff’s victory
B. Malcolm’s speech
Lady Macbeth is seen as a controlling factor in Macbeth’s life. She is able to control his actions and events. However, she loses control of Macbeth. Write a paper describing what control she has in Macbeth’s life and how the loss of that power contributes to her demise.
I. Thesis Statement: Lady Macbeth’s desire for power prompts her interest in controlling Macbeth’s actions. However, she loses control which contributes to her tragedy.
II. Introduction of Lady Macbeth
A. Reading Macbeth’s letter
B. Witches prophecy fulfilled
C. Opinion of Macbeth
D. Desire for Power
1. Strength needed
2. Her plan
III. Meeting with Macbeth
A. Affection towards each other
B. Lady Macbeth’s plan
IV. Power over Macbeth
A. Macbeth’s Decision about Lady Macbeth’s plan
1. Lady Macbeth’s response to Macbeth
(The entire section is 1614 words.)
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.