Literary Elements in Macbeth Essay Example

Shakespeare’s plays are considered to be canonic examples of English and world drama, to which his tragedy Hamlet also belongs. For centuries thinkers and literary critics have tried to decipher Shakespeare’s phenomenon, and to interpret their formal and content complexity. When analyzing literary elements of Macbeth, one may discover that its outstanding success is based on the blend of a well-written plot, universal themes and powerful symbolism.

When discussing the play’s plot, it should be noted that it is influenced by the tradition of ancient Greek tragedy, yet is supported by innovative poetic language and dialogues. It focuses on the weakness of a human who has thirst for power and this temptation kills him in the end. As it is typical for plots of Shakespeare’s tragedies, murders and revenge are present, as well as appearance of ghosts who remind the hero of the crime. On the one hand, the plot is typical for Shakespeare, on the other hand it is also unique because it does not paint the world black and white despite the tragic events. On the contrary, he manages to reveal the complexity of the main character as an example of human vulnerability to the evil. It is the task of a classic tragedy to horrify and to lead the audience to catharsis, which is an intense emotional insight into the fate of the characters which plays with them like with toys.

In this respect, the themes covered in Macbeth also belong to those literary elements that contribute to the entirety of the work. Among them are such themes as fate and freedom, temptation with power and gender roles. It would be true to say that the above mentioned reference to ancient Greek drama is especially visible in the context of fatality, which is demonstrated through how events unfold. Even though the main character tries to fight them, it appears that the message is beyond this possibility and the ending is predetermined. The theme of power is always relevant for Shakespeare and is combined with the theme of violence, which is not surprising taken the plot is based on wars, treasons, poisonings and life of monarchs in general. The theme of gender is especially remarkable, as it is easy to trace that despite picturing a typically patriarchal society women’s passivity is elusive and even ominous. It would be even not totally unfair to accuse Shakespeare of prejudice, as he portrays women cunning and ambitious. In fact, Lady Macbeth is shown as the one to blame for urging her husband to kill the king and take his place.
Finally, symbolism and allegory are literary elements, which are impressive as well. The powers of the good are symbolized by light, while darkness traditionally stands for the evil or foreshadows tragic events. The supernatural, like ghosts, does not fully relate either to the good or the evil, as it is rather a medium between the two worlds, which is able to show the hidden truth to the characters and the audience. In its, blood is an ominous sign, as well as the feeling of remorse, which tortures Macbeth by constantly reminding about his crime. The play reveals the idea that moral or mental pain can be more excruciating compared to physical suffering.

In conclusion, it should be noted that Macbeth is a unique combination of a number of literary elements and techniques, which are skillfully used to convey the message. The plot, the themes and symbolism belong to those literary elements, which are crucial for the work’s outstanding place in the history of literature and theater


Andersen, R.(2009)  Macbeth. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark. Print.
Shakespeare, W. Macbeth. Retrieved July 23, 2013