The Theme of Death in Macbeth

By Jonathan Larson

The violence in this play is driven by Macbeth’s ambition for power and the reoccurring presence of death all around him. Macbeth is given a taste of power, and can’t stop murdering to gain more to secure his position and power. Murdering for power builds up his ambition and greed for more power and he becomes unstable and careless in his quest for acquiring and retaining it. Death plays a major role in showing him how power can be taken through murder and death.

This new ambition for power leads him to kill others against his better judgment for the sake of earning and securing this power. First Macbeth is viewed as an honorable general for killing in battle, however soon he starts murdering for power. Macbeth gains power through the death of the Thane of Cawdor and the title of Thane of Glamis for his valiance ( Vocab word! BOOM Bonus points perhaps? eh eh?) in battle.

Next, he decides to murder his king out of greed for more power. After he is in a position of ultimate power, he doesn’t stop murdering. He continues to murder Banquo and Macduff’s family as well as attempting to murder Fleance. As Macbeth continues to murder, the deaths start to affect his conscience.

Death is not only linked with a transition of power but emotions as well. Macbeth’s character changes throughout the play as death occurs naturally and unnaturally. Macbeth goes through a variety of emotions until finally his senses are dulled as he becomes accustomed to very intense emotions. Towards the end of the book, when Lady Macbeth dies, Macbeth shows almost no emotion. Death stirs up mixed emotion such as guilt, instability, fear and paranoia, and finally detachedness in Macbeth as the play progresses.  In the end it almost seems as if Macbeth has become a psychopath.  Not fearing anything due to the witches prophecy.  He also shows little or no regret after each murder, all traits of a psychopath.

Death occurs multiple times during the play and highlights the changes in Macbeth’s character. Macbeth regresses from valiantly fighting in battles to killing out of greed for power.

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