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graphic essay macbeth

By Maria Russo

  • Feb. 18, 2015

“Macbeth” — unlike, say, “Hamlet” or “Romeo and Juliet” — doesn’t feature classically adolescent themes, and its main characters are grown-ups. Yet with its simple, linear plot, its witches and its ghosts, its clear-cut moral questions about the lure of evil and whether and how we control our own fates, it is well suited for teenagers. Gareth Hinds’s stellar new graphic-novel adaptation, aimed at a young adult audience, makes that abundantly clear. The play also, of course, features some epic fight scenes and lots and lots of blood, and Hinds makes the most of these opportunities to show how naturally Shakespeare takes to the comics form.

Hinds, who previously gave the graphic novel treatment to “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Merchant of Venice” and “King Lear” as well as the “Odyssey” and “Beowulf,” has condensed the action of “Macbeth” a bit and in many places maneuvered Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter into prose that fits seamlessly into speech bubbles. Little seems to have been lost in that transition. The major soliloquies are intact and include the original line breaks (“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace from day to day / To the last syllable of recorded time”), while the lines that serve more expositional functions are sometimes reworked so that they still have an iambic feel, but flow naturally to the modern ear (“Thy letters have transported me beyond this ignorant present, and I feel now the future in an instant”).

The art is more realistic illustration than the familiar bursting-off-the-page comics style, but that is fitting. The book feels like a remarkably faithful rendering of the world of the play. You can almost feel the damp chill of the Scottish Highlands in the silvery-green palette, and as the murdered corpses pile up, the warm oranges of the candlelit castle interiors inevitably tinge toward the blood-red at the center of the story. And if one inevitably wonders whether the young noblemen of medieval Scotland walked around their dank castles shirtless quite so often, there is no doubt that their chiseled torsos and flaring biceps brighten up the pages. Hinds has gone for a broad but not stickler-ish historical verisimilitude, as he explains in a note at the end. He’s skipped the stereotypical Scottish paraphernalia — kilts, bagpipes and the like — that arrived after the period of the historical Macbeth, but included the castles Shakespeare used in the play, even though that particular architecture didn’t arrive in Britain until a decade after Macbeth’s death.

Hinds finds visual variety where he can, beginning with the characters themselves. Macbeth is a lithe, swarthy Celtic type, with dark eyes and long dark hair that often swings down his back in a virile braid, while Lady Macbeth is a pretty redhead with voracious green eyes. Both Macduff and Banquo are yellow-blond and stolid; Banquo has woolier hair and a large tattoo across his left side, a spiraling symbol in dark blue-gray.

The clothes and accessories look great, too. In the final battle scene, Macbeth wears a suit of dark brown leather armor with a fish-scale pattern that is so glorious it almost made me root for him.

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Macbeth Comparative Essay: Graphic Novel vs. Film Adaptation

The play ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare delves into the life events of the Scottish general Macbeth and his ambitions for power after receiving a prophecy from a trio of witches. Driven by greed, Macbeth commits several murders and atrocities to maintain his kingship and safeguard it from aspirators, including King Duncan and close ally Banquo (Hinds 44). The tragedy is presented in various forms in contemporary literature, notably via graphic compilations, theatre, and film arts. The essay will compare Gareth Hinds’ graphic novel adaptation of Macbeth with the film adaptation directed by Dan Hodge. Although conveying similar settings, themes, and characters in Shakespeare’s classical play, the graphic novel and film versions have contrasts in the medium, language use, and visual style, which present unique perspectives to the audience.

One major difference between the two adaptions is the medium via which the authors narrate the events over time. In the graphic novel, the writer uses a combination of illustrations and dialogue to convey the tale to the readers. Macbeth is presented as a middle-aged muscular man with immense ambitions for political power (Hinds 25). On the other hand, the director uses various sets, props, special effects, and actors to deliver the story to the viewing audience. The stage is set in the olden times but incorporated with modernized elements such as the actor’s suits and attires (Hedgerow 2:36). The differences in the medium via which the story is told work to influence how the audience interprets and perceives the various events. The use of graphical illustration in the graphic novel allows the reader to effectively generate mental images of the different features of the characters and plot. However, the film presents a more concrete visual representation of the story; it offers a set of unique features on the characters and environment.

Another significant difference between the graphic and film adaptations is the creator’s language use. The original version of the play by Shakespeare was written in old English, often cumbersome for modern audiences to comprehend. The film adaptation by Hodge stays faithful to the original text, presenting the language in its olden syntax and phoneme. For instance, Lady Macbeth utters, “I am not without ambition but without the illness” (Hedgerow 13:01). Conversely, the graphic novel incorporates modernized language and simplified dialogues when demonstrating interactions between the various characters. Macbeth utters, “But still there is judgment here- do we but teach bloody instructions .”(Hind 29) Using simplified language allows the reader to effectively grasp the themes intended by the authors in each play segment. On the contrary olden language makes it difficult to grasp the verbal conversations between different actors in the play.

Another critical difference between the two adaptions is the visual style used by the creators. The film adaptation predominantly employs a dark and brooding style, with poorly lit backgrounds and shadows to suggest danger (Hedgerow 6:48). On the other hand, the graphic novel employs a more traditional approach with visible illustrations of the characters and settings, providing an accurate representation of elements in the olden times. The author illustrates castles in ancient Scotland when having the vision of the bloody dagger (Hind 33). The costumes used in the film are relatively modern, with actors assuming each character’s role. However, the graphic novel effectively presents the olden attire used by various characters in the play. The visual style is fundamental in delivering the themes the creator intends to the audience. The graphic illustrations are more comprehensive as they provide realistic settings and costumes that aim to transport the audience back to the play’s period.

There are a number of thematic differences between the two versions of the play. The graphic novel by Hind emphasizes the play’s supernatural elements, highlighting the witches’ role and their influence on Macbeth’s fate. Moreover, the illustrations emphasize the role of violence and the consequences of unchecked ambition. On the contrary, the film emphasizes the psychological aspects of the play, exploring the characters’ motivations, emotions, and relationships. On the theme of gender, the graphic novel portrays Lady Macbeth as a powerful and manipulative figure who compels her husband’s actions (Hind 37). In contrast, the film focuses on the sympathetic behavior of Lady Macbeth, a remorseful character who is haunted by guilt and regret. The audience can develop their conclusion about her character and role in the play.

Notable similarities between the graphic novel and the film adaptation include the use of visual storytelling to convey the story. The graphic novel uses sequential art, combining images and text to tell the story, while the film adaptation uses cinematography, lighting, and staging to convey the events and emotions of the characters visually. The mediums combine visual elements to create a powerful and immersive experience for the audience. Moreover, the author and the director pay close attention to the original plot, characterization, and themes as intended by Shakespeare. The graphic and the film remain loyal to the core storyline of the play, effectively demonstrating the key events. They employ different techniques to incorporate original dialogues into their work, effectively conveying the story to the audience.

Although expressing comparable locales, topics, and characters in Shakespeare’s great play, the graphic novel and cinematic versions have differences in format, language use, and visual style that provide the audience with fresh perspectives. The medium through which the authors tell the events through time is a significant distinction between the two adaptations. Another notable distinction between the graphic and cinematic versions is the creator’s choice of language. Shakespeare’s original version of the play was written in ancient English, which might be difficult for modern audiences to understand. Another significant distinction between the two adaptations is the visual style employed by the authors. The visual style is critical in conveying the creator’s desired messages to the audience. The use of visual storytelling to convey the plot is a notable similarity between the graphic novel and the cinematic version. These media employ a variety of visual components to provide the viewer with a compelling and immersive experience.

Works Cited

Hedgerow, Theatre. “William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.” , 13 Apr. 2020, Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

Hinds, Gareth. Macbeth . 2023. Google Books , Gareth Hinds, 10 Feb. 2015, Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

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Macbeth: The Graphic Novel (American English, Original Text Edition) (Classical Comics)

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William Shakespeare

Macbeth: The Graphic Novel (American English, Original Text Edition) (Classical Comics) Paperback – Unabridged, November 5, 2008

  • Reading age 12 years and up
  • Print length 144 pages
  • Language English
  • Grade level 7 - 9
  • Lexile measure GN700L
  • Dimensions 6.63 x 0.38 x 9.63 inches
  • Publisher Classical Comics
  • Publication date November 5, 2008
  • ISBN-10 9781906332440
  • ISBN-13 978-1906332440
  • See all details

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Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 1906332444
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Classical Comics; Unabridged edition (November 5, 2008)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 144 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9781906332440
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1906332440
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 12 years and up
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ GN700L
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 7 - 9
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 0.026 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.63 x 0.38 x 9.63 inches
  • #696 in Shakespeare Dramas & Plays
  • #1,185 in Teen & Young Adult Classic Literature
  • #17,379 in Classic Literature & Fiction

About the author

William shakespeare.

William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's preeminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and was baptised on 26 April 1564. Thought to have been educated at the local grammar school, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he went on to have three children, at the age of eighteen, before moving to London to work in the theatre. Two erotic poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were published in 1593 and 1594 and records of his plays begin to appear in 1594 for Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI. Shakespeare's tragic period lasted from around 1600 to 1608, during which period he wrote plays including Hamlet and Othello. The first editions of the sonnets were published in 1609 but evidence suggests that Shakespeare had been writing them for years for a private readership.

Shakespeare spent the last five years of his life in Stratford, by now a wealthy man. He died on 23 April 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. The first collected edition of his works was published in 1623.

(The portrait details: The Chandos portrait, artist and authenticity unconfirmed. NPG1, © National Portrait Gallery, London)

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Macbeth : the graphic novel : original text version

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Macbeth Versions Comparison Film Analysis Essay

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Greed for power.

Macbeth is one of the exciting plays of Shakespeare that deal with tragedies such as murder, violence, and witchcraft. Several artists such as Roman Polanski and Geoffrey Wright have produced different versions of Macbeth, but they have tried to retain its originality. In their versions, the artists have tried to present the originality of the play by using various perspectives to explain the play to the audience.

Owing to the similarities between these two versions of Macbeth, the essay compares the Roman Polanski’s version of Macbeth (1971) with the Geoffrey Wright’s version of the adaptation (2007) by examining how they deal with the theme of violence using murderous activities, witchcrafts, greed for power, and cast.

Murder is a common theme in the two films. Roman Polanski’s version of the Macbeth retells a play that involves a lord, who ascends to power after the actions of treachery, murder, and involvement with supernatural forces. The players that Polanski employs include Annis Francesca, who takes the part of a lady-Macbeth, and Jon Finch, who acts as Macbeth.

The film brings to the fore the story of a highland lord who murders the King out of greed and love for power. In the film, Polanski presents the issue of murder as used in various parts of the film. From the start, the film is full of murderous activities, which involve Macbeth and his soldiers. Polanski commences the film with a conspiracy of the lord’s wife, who kills the King. Leggatt (2006) argues that the acts of murder include the killing of the King, soldiers, and bodyguards, as well as the family of the King.

The film done by Wright illustrates the theme of violence by portraying various acts of murder that dominate the play. Wright portrays murderous acts because the soldiers kill and terminate everyone, who opposes the leadership of Macbeth. Wright strives to retain the original version of the play. The use of classic settings in the design of the play helps in portraying the role that gangsters play in the original play of Macbeth and helps present it in the modern world (Shakespeare 2009).

Therefore, Wright applies modern locations such as Melbourne to exhibit murder, as used by Macbeth in the contemporary world, and tries to ensure that it is in tandem with the original version. From the versions of films done by Wright and Polanski, it is evident that both films exhibit the theme of violence using acts of murder that dominate the play. The aim of the warring groups in the play is to create violence, which results in tragedy and murder.

Witchcraft is another form of violence that the two films present throughout the play. According to the film done by Polanski, witchcraft is one of the powers that the Lord of Scotland uses as a tool for protection and ascension to the throne. Leggatt (2006) explains that the main characters in the play include the lord of Scotland and his wife. The two use witchcraft to ascend to power after the murder of the King. Polanski tries to retain the original version of Macbeth as Shakespeare performed.

However, Polanski depicts the original witchcraft and adds some of his personal innovations used to make the film more appealing and exciting to the audience. The additions made by Polanski are instrumental in expressing the acts of witchcraft in a practical way to enhance understanding among modern viewers.

Thus, Polanski shares the concept of witchcraft using a modern set up and contemporary era to appeal to the modern audience. In addition, the innovations used by Polanski in expressing the role of witchcraft as a tool for fulfilling violent desires make the play more appealing and interesting.

Wright exhibits the concept of witchcraft as a tool used to manipulate and protect Macbeth and her husband from the avengers and loyalists of the King they murdered. Wright uses three students, who pose as witches, and adds some of the modern performances to make the film more exciting for the modern viewers. Notably, Wright retains the original role of the witches as designed by Shakespeare that includes protection and manipulation of individuals.

In addition, the use of witchcraft as a tool of overseeing future events brings the originality of Macbeth in Wright’s film (Shakespeare 2009). Thus, Wright presents the role of witchcraft in the achievement of violent desires of Macbeth from a different perspective but retains the original concept of Shakespeare.

The greed for power is a source of violence that both films exhibit. Both Polanski and Wright demonstrate the concept of greed for power in their films while attempting to keep the original concept of Macbeth by Shakespeare. Like Wright, Polanski explains that greed for power and kingship led to atrocities like murder and witchcraft. Polanski presents the fact that individuals can only achieve leadership and power through hard work and from the Almighty, but not from wars and murder.

After a foul prophecy from the witches, Macbeth’s greed resulted in the murder of the King and his loyalists (Shakespeare 2009). Although Polanski exhibits this concept of greed for power in a new and different perspective, the message relayed is still the original message intended by the author of the play, Shakespeare. Polanski argues that some of the present individuals, who have greed for power, engage in violent acts as demonstrated by Wright.

Wright presents the need for power and greed in Macbeth in his film using elements of the modern world. Some of the elements that Wright uses to make the play interesting and practical in the modern world include the use of modern characters and present scenes. According to Rowe (2011), the lord of Scotland, just like any other person, is greedy for power and wants to take over the throne.

Wright explains in the play that the egocentric nature of Macbeth and greed for power causes the atrocities that result in the deaths of many people. Due to his excessive desire for power, especially after the prophecy of the witches, Macbeth and his wife start to engage in several violent acts that cause the death of the King. Wright retains the originality of Macbeth and works hard to convey the message of Shakespeare that too much ambition and greed destroys a person and initiates violence.

Polanski expresses the themes of violence in the film of Macbeth through a set of realistic, gritty, and captivating features. From the play of Macbeth, it is evident that Polanski designs the play and permits some of the emotions from the death of his wife to prevail in the film. As a result, many events in the film are full of horrific and thrilling activities from Macbeth and his wife (Holland 2008).

Polanski depicts lady-Macbeth as a beautiful and cunning woman, who uses her prowess to deceive her husband into committing several violent activities. Polanski uses the past craggy coast of Scotland to create some kind of originality on the concept of Shakespeare. Moreover, to maintain the real nature of Macbeth, Polanski employs believable scenes of fights, which present the violent activities that transpired in the original play of Shakespeare.

Wright just like Polanski preserves the original English language in his film, although he includes a few alterations to make the play interesting and instrumental to the contemporary audience. The choice of stage acts makes the play more understandable to the present viewers, and as a result, it becomes more interesting and exciting than the former play by Shakespeare (Leggatt 2006). The captivating and original nature of the film is evident through the application of elements like voice controls, location, and characters.

A combination of these elements makes up a setting that depicts the original concept of Macbeth as pioneered by Shakespeare. The presentation of violent acts on the stage makes the film horrific and terrifying, just like that of Polanski. Hence, Wright uses this combination creatively to exhibit the violent activities that Macbeth performed due to the unending greed for power and leadership.

Macbeth is a play pioneered by Shakespeare, which exhibits tragic murder and the use of supernatural forces. In the play, Macbeth and his wife engage in several violent activities like killing the King of Scotland due to their greed for power. Polanski and Wright are some of the individuals that have produced the play of Macbeth in an attempt to retell the events, which transpired during the play.

Although their films happen in different periods, Roman Polanski and Geoffrey Wright present a theme of violence using various acts of murder, witchcraft, greed, and cast in the play. Although there is a difference in the presentation of these themes, Polanski and Wright try to retain the original concepts that are in the original excerpt of Shakespeare’s play.

Holland, P. 2008, Shakespeare Survey: Macbeth and Its Afterlife , Cancage Learning, New York.

Leggatt, A. 2006, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth: A Sourcebook , Taylor & Francis, New York.

Rowe, K. 2011, Macbeth: Evans Shakespeare Editions , Cengage Learning, London.

Shakespeare, W. 2009, The Tragedy of Macbeth , Aquitaine Media Corp, Chicago.

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IvyPanda. (2020, March 27). Macbeth Versions Comparison Film Analysis.

"Macbeth Versions Comparison Film Analysis." IvyPanda , 27 Mar. 2020,

IvyPanda . (2020) 'Macbeth Versions Comparison Film Analysis'. 27 March.

IvyPanda . 2020. "Macbeth Versions Comparison Film Analysis." March 27, 2020.

1. IvyPanda . "Macbeth Versions Comparison Film Analysis." March 27, 2020.


IvyPanda . "Macbeth Versions Comparison Film Analysis." March 27, 2020.

graphic essay macbeth

William Shakespeare

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Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on William Shakespeare's Macbeth . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Macbeth: Introduction

Macbeth: plot summary, macbeth: detailed summary & analysis, macbeth: themes, macbeth: quotes, macbeth: characters, macbeth: symbols, macbeth: literary devices, macbeth: quizzes, macbeth: theme wheel, brief biography of william shakespeare.

Macbeth PDF

Historical Context of Macbeth

Other books related to macbeth.

  • Full Title: The Tragedy of Macbeth
  • When Written: 1606
  • Where Written: England
  • When Published: 1623
  • Literary Period: The Renaissance (1500 - 1660)
  • Genre: Tragic drama
  • Setting: Scotland and, briefly, England during the eleventh century
  • Climax: Some argue that the murder of Banquo is the play's climax, based on the logic that it is at this point that Macbeth reaches the height of his power and things begin to fall apart from there. However, it is probably more accurate to say that the climax of the play is Macbeth's fight with Macduff, as it is at this moment that the threads of the play come together, the secret behind the prophecy becomes evident, and Macbeth's doom is sealed.

Extra Credit for Macbeth

Shakespeare or Not? There are some who believe Shakespeare wasn't educated enough to write the plays attributed to him. The most common anti-Shakespeare theory is that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays and used Shakespeare as a front man because aristocrats were not supposed to write plays. Yet the evidence supporting Shakespeare's authorship far outweighs any evidence against. So until further notice, Shakespeare is still the most influential writer in the English language.

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Character Analysis

In “Macbeth,” Shakespeare presents a cast of complex characters, each contributing to the depth and moral lessons of the tragedy . Here’s a closer look at the main characters and their development throughout the story:

  • Macbeth — Initially a valiant and loyal Scottish general, Macbeth’s character undergoes a dramatic transformation. Seduced by the prophecy of becoming king and spurred by his wife’s ambitions, he descends into paranoia, tyranny, and madness. His journey from hero to villain is marked by his increasingly reckless attempts to secure his power and his descent into guilt and despair.
  • Lady Macbeth — A pivotal figure, Lady Macbeth is the ambitious wife who challenges Macbeth’s hesitation and steels him to murder Duncan. Her initial strength and cold calculation eventually give way to guilt, leading to sleepwalking episodes and her eventual suicide. Her tragic arc highlights the destructive power of ambition unchecked by moral considerations.
  • Banquo — Macbeth’s friend and a fellow general, Banquo’s character serves as a moral foil to Macbeth. He is also prophesied great things by the witches, yet he does not act dishonorably to achieve future greatness. His murder by Macbeth’s order marks a turning point , showing Macbeth’s willingness to kill friends to secure his power.
  • King Duncan — The benevolent and virtuous king of Scotland, whose murder by Macbeth sets off the tragic events of the play. Duncan’s trusting nature and untimely death underscore the betrayal and the unnatural upheaval of order within the kingdom.
  • Macduff — Thane of Fife, Macduff emerges as the hero who challenges Macbeth’s tyranny. His loyalty to Scotland and his quest for vengeance after Macbeth has his family murdered highlight themes of justice and retribution. His confrontation with Macbeth leads to the tyrant’s death, restoring order.
  • The Three Witches — Mysterious and supernatural, the witches instigate the central conflict by prophesying Macbeth’s rise to power. Their ambiguous and manipulative predictions play a crucial role in Macbeth’s decisions, symbolizing the forces of fate and the dark side of ambition.

Character Analysis Summary

CharacterPersonality TraitsMotivationsDevelopment
Ambitious, conflicted, paranoidDesire for power, influence of fateFrom heroic to tyrannical
Ambitious, manipulative, guilt-riddenPower, support for MacbethFrom strong-willed to broken
Honorable, reflective, cautiousLoyalty, curiosity about prophecyMoral foil to Macbeth
Benevolent, trusting, virtuousGovernance, kindnessVictim of Macbeth’s ambition
Loyal, vengeful, courageousJustice, vengeance, patriotismAvenger and restorer of order
Mysterious, manipulative, forebodingTo sow chaos, unknownCatalysts for Macbeth’s

This array of characters, each with their distinct traits and arcs, weaves a complex narrative about ambition, morality, and the human condition.

Themes and Symbols

“Macbeth” is rich with themes and symbols that resonate through its dark narrative , offering insights into human nature and the consequences of ambition. Here’s an exploration of the major themes and symbols in the play:

  • Ambition and Power — The driving force of the play, ambition, is portrayed as a potent and dangerous desire. Macbeth’s ambition to become king leads him down a dark path of murder and tyranny, illustrating the corrupting influence of unchecked power.
  • Fate vs. Free Will — The witches’ prophecies spark the central conflict of the play, blurring the line between destiny and choice. Macbeth’s actions raise questions about whether characters are fated to follow their paths or if they have the agency to change their destinies.
  • Guilt and Conscience — The psychological torment of guilt haunts both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, serving as a constant reminder of their heinous acts. Their descent into madness reflects the heavy toll of a guilty conscience and the inescapable nature of their crimes.
  • The Supernatural — Witches, visions, and ghostly apparitions infuse “Macbeth” with an eerie supernatural element that drives the plot and symbolizes the disruption of the natural order. The supernatural acts as both a catalyst for action and a reflection of the characters’ inner turmoil.
  • Order and Chaos — The murder of King Duncan disrupts the natural and social order, plunging Scotland into chaos and tyranny. The restoration of order with Malcolm’s ascension to the throne underscores the play’s concern with the importance of rightful rule and stability.
  • Blood — Symbolizing guilt and murder, blood is a recurring motif that visually represents the violence and guilt that stain Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. “Blood will have blood,” Macbeth remarks, indicating the inevitable consequences of their actions.
  • The Dagger — The vision of a bloody dagger that Macbeth sees before killing Duncan symbolizes the act of murder that sets off the tragic events of the play. It serves as a tangible manifestation of Macbeth’s guilt and ambition.
  • Darkness — Predominant scenes of darkness in “Macbeth” symbolize evil, fear, and the unknown. Darkness envelops the characters’ deeds and the moral decay of Scotland under Macbeth’s rule.
  • The Weather — Stormy and unsettling weather mirrors the tumultuous events of the play and the chaos that engulfs Scotland. It also reflects the witches’ malevolent influence over nature and the fate of the characters.

Through these themes and symbols, Shakespeare crafts a timeless narrative that explores the depths of human ambition, the complexities of morality, and the eternal struggle between order and chaos.

Writing Style and Tone

William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is a brilliant showcase of his literary genius, characterized by its distinctive writing style and tone that contribute significantly to the mood and atmosphere of the play. Here’s a breakdown of key aspects of Shakespeare’s style and tone in “Macbeth”:

  • Dramatic and Poetic Language — Shakespeare employs a mix of prose and verse, with the noble characters generally speaking in iambic pentameter, which adds a rhythmic and elevated quality to their speech. This poetic form enhances the dramatic intensity and emotional depth of the dialogue .
  • Imagery and Symbolism — Vivid imagery and symbolic elements run throughout “Macbeth,” creating a rich tapestry that evokes strong visual and emotional responses. From the bloody hands representing guilt to the dark and stormy landscapes mirroring the turmoil within Scotland and its characters, Shakespeare’s use of imagery and symbolism deepens the play’s themes and mood.
  • Contrasts and Paradoxes — The play frequently employs contrasts and paradoxes, such as “fair is foul, and foul is fair,” to highlight the blurring of moral boundaries and the inversion of the natural order. These elements add complexity and nuance to the narrative , challenging the audience to question appearances and truths.
  • Atmospheric Tone — The tone of “Macbeth” is overwhelmingly dark and foreboding, reflecting the moral decay and chaos that ensue from Macbeth’s actions. Shakespeare masterfully creates a sense of unease and impending doom through his choice of language, setting , and the supernatural elements, drawing the audience into the tragic world he constructs.
  • Psychological Depth — Shakespeare delves deep into the psyches of his characters, particularly Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, providing insights into their motivations, fears, and internal conflicts. The soliloquies, in particular, offer a glimpse into the characters’ minds, revealing their vulnerabilities and the torment of their guilt-ridden consciences.
  • Use of Irony — Dramatic irony is a significant stylistic device in “Macbeth,” with the audience privy to information that the characters are not. This technique heightens the tension and tragedy , as viewers witness characters unknowingly seal their fates.

Through these stylistic choices and the tone he employs, Shakespeare crafts a work that is not only a compelling drama but also a profound exploration of the dark facets of human nature and the consequences of unchecked ambition. “Macbeth” remains a masterpiece of English literature, captivating audiences with its intricate narrative , psychological depth, and poetic brilliance.

Literary Devices used in Macbeth

Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is a masterclass in the use of literary devices, each serving to enhance the drama , themes, and emotional impact of the play. Here are the top 10 literary devices used in “Macbeth,” showcasing Shakespeare’s skillful craftsmanship:

  • Foreshadowing — This device is used to hint at future events, creating anticipation and building suspense. The witches’ prophecies are prime examples, setting the stage for Macbeth’s ascent to the throne and subsequent downfall .
  • Symbolism — Objects, characters, and actions in “Macbeth” are imbued with deeper meanings. Blood symbolizes guilt and violence, while darkness represents evil and chaos, contributing to the play’s thematic complexity.
  • Irony — Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows something the characters do not, heightening the tragic tension. For example, Duncan speaks of the treacherous former Thane of Cawdor not knowing Macbeth, his successor, will betray him too.
  • Imagery — Vivid, descriptive language is used to create mental images that appeal to the senses. The “dagger of the mind” soliloquy evokes a powerful visual of Macbeth’s turmoil and the lure of power.
  • Metaphor — Shakespeare uses metaphors to draw comparisons between unrelated things without using “like” or “as,” such as referring to life as a “brief candle” or a “walking shadow” to convey the transient nature of existence.
  • Allusion — References to well-known cultural or historical events, figures, or other works of literature are used to add deeper significance. The play contains allusions to Greek mythology and Biblical imagery, enriching its narrative layers.
  • Personification — Giving human traits to non-human entities or abstract concepts, such as when Lady Macbeth calls on spirits to “unsex” her, imbuing the night and the act of murder with malevolent human characteristics.
  • Paradox — A statement that contradicts itself but holds a truth, like the witches’ chant, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” reflects the moral inversion and the theme of appearance versus reality in the play.
  • Soliloquy — These are speeches delivered by a character alone on stage, revealing their inner thoughts and feelings. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s soliloquies are crucial for understanding their motivations and psychological states.
  • Alliteration — The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words close to each other, used for emphasis or to create a rhythmic effect. The witches’ speeches, such as “Double, double toil and trouble,” employ alliteration to enhance their eerie, chant-like quality.

Each of these literary devices weaves together to form the rich tapestry of “Macbeth,” showcasing Shakespeare’s unparalleled ability to engage, provoke, and move his audience through the power of language.

Literary Devices Examples

Each of the top 10 literary devices used in “Macbeth” plays a crucial role in building the play’s atmosphere , developing its themes, and deepening the characters. Here are examples and explanations for each device:


  • Example : The witches’ prophecy that Macbeth will become king. Explanation : Sets the stage for Macbeth’s ambition and subsequent actions to seize the throne.
  • Example : Banquo’s warning to Macbeth, “The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s In deepest consequence.” Explanation : Hints at the future betrayals and consequences of the witches’ prophecies.
  • Example : Macbeth’s vision of the dagger leading him to Duncan’s chamber. Explanation : Foreshadows the imminent murder of King Duncan by Macbeth.
  • Example : Blood as a symbol of guilt. Explanation : After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth says, “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?” indicating his overwhelming guilt.
  • Example : The weather (thunder and lightning) symbolizing ominous events. Explanation : The play opens with a storm, setting a foreboding tone that mirrors the chaotic events that follow.
  • Example : Darkness as a symbol of evil and concealment. Explanation : Darkness covers the evil deeds committed throughout the play, such as the murder of Duncan.
  • Example : Duncan’s trust in Macbeth, calling his castle “pleasant.” Explanation : Dramatic irony, as the audience knows Macbeth plans to murder Duncan in that very castle.
  • Example : Macbeth’s title of Thane of Cawdor, a traitor’s title, before becoming a traitor himself. Explanation : Highlights the irony of Macbeth’s transformation from hero to traitor.
  • Example : Lady Macbeth’s eventual madness, despite her initial strength. Explanation : Ironically, she who instigated the murder succumbs to guilt, while initially, she chastised Macbeth for his weakness.
  • Example : The “bloody hands” imagery. Explanation : Represents Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s guilt and the direct consequence of their murderous actions.
  • Example : “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” by Lady Macbeth. Explanation : Visual imagery of bloodstains she cannot remove, symbolizing her guilt.
  • Example : The “dagger of the mind” scene. Explanation : Creates a powerful image of Macbeth’s internal conflict and the allure of power driving him to murder.
  • Example : Life referred to as a “walking shadow” and a “poor player.” Explanation : Conveys the fleeting, insignificant nature of human life and achievements.
  • Example : Macbeth describes sleep as “the death of each day’s life.” Explanation : Highlights the restorative power of sleep and the consequences of its absence, reflecting his and Lady Macbeth’s insomnia and guilt.
  • Example : “The crown” representing power and the burden of guilt. Explanation : The crown symbolizes Macbeth’s kingship but also the heavy guilt and fear that accompany his ill-gotten power.

(Continued in the next messages due to space constraints)


  • Example : “The night is long that never finds the day.” Explanation : Personifies night and day to illustrate the idea of hope and redemption after prolonged suffering and darkness.
  • Example : “Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care.” Explanation : Sleep is personified as a healer of mental anguish, highlighting its absence in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s lives due to guilt.
  • Example : Lady Macbeth’s invocation to the spirits to “unsex” her. Explanation : Personifies murderous intent and the stripping away of feminine qualities for cruelty, illustrating her ambition and desire to aid Macbeth’s rise to power.
  • Example : “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” Explanation : This paradox sets the tone for the play, highlighting the theme of appearance versus reality and the moral confusion faced by Macbeth and others.
  • Example : “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.” Explanation : Refers to Banquo, suggesting his lower status than Macbeth but greater in moral standing and the legacy of his descendants.
  • Example : “Not of woman born.” Explanation : Refers to Macduff, born via caesarean section, a paradox that plays a crucial role in Macbeth’s downfall , as he misinterprets the witches’ prophecy.
  • Example : Macbeth’s “Is this a dagger which I see before me” soliloquy. Explanation : Reveals his inner turmoil and moral conflict prior to Duncan’s murder, illustrating his descent into madness.
  • Example : Lady Macbeth’s “Out, damned spot!” soliloquy. Explanation : Showcases her guilt and descent into madness, revealing her inner conflict and remorse.
  • Example : Macbeth’s “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” soliloquy. Explanation : Reflects on the futility and transient nature of life, showcasing his existential despair following Lady Macbeth’s death.


  • Example : “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.” Explanation : The witches’ chant uses alliteration to create a rhythmic, incantatory effect, enhancing the supernatural atmosphere .
  • Example : “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” Explanation : The alliteration emphasizes the play’s theme of the inversion of moral values and the blurring of lines between good and evil.
  • Example : “Full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife.” Explanation : Macbeth uses alliteration to convey his mental torment and paranoia, highlighting his descent into madness.

These examples showcase how Shakespeare’s use of literary devices in “Macbeth” not only enriches the text’s thematic depth and emotional resonance but also underscores his mastery of language and storytelling.

Macbeth – FAQs

What is the main theme of Macbeth? The main theme of “Macbeth” is the destructive nature of unchecked ambition and power. Shakespeare explores how ambition can corrupt individuals, leading to moral decay and the downfall of both the individual and those around them.

Who are the three witches in Macbeth? The three witches, also known as the Weird Sisters, are supernatural beings who prophesy Macbeth’s rise to power and his downfall . Their ambiguous and manipulative predictions play a crucial role in the play, symbolizing fate and the dark forces that influence human behavior.

What role does Lady Macbeth play in Macbeth’s downfall ? Lady Macbeth is a pivotal figure in Macbeth’s downfall . Her ambition and determination to see Macbeth become king drive her to manipulate and encourage him to commit regicide. Her initial strength and resolve gradually give way to guilt and madness, highlighting the psychological consequences of their actions.

How does Macbeth change throughout the play? Macbeth transforms from a valiant and loyal soldier to a tyrannical ruler consumed by guilt and paranoia. His ambition, spurred by the witches’ prophecy and Lady Macbeth’s urging, leads him to commit heinous acts. This change reflects the corrupting influence of power and ambition.

What is the significance of the prophecies in Macbeth? The prophecies in “Macbeth” are significant as they set the play’s events into motion and influence Macbeth’s actions. They also raise questions about fate vs. free will, as Macbeth chooses to act on these predictions, leading to his eventual downfall .

How does Shakespeare use supernatural elements in Macbeth? Shakespeare uses supernatural elements, such as the witches and their prophecies, visions, and ghostly apparitions, to create an atmosphere of mystery and foreboding. These elements underscore the themes of fate, ambition, and the moral inversion within the play.

What does blood symbolize in Macbeth? Blood is a powerful symbol in “Macbeth,” representing guilt, violence, and the consequences of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s actions. It visually manifests the psychological burden of their crimes and the pervasive stain of their guilt.

What is the tragic flaw of Macbeth? Macbeth’s tragic flaw is his overwhelming ambition and desire for power. This flaw, combined with the influence of the witches’ prophecies and Lady Macbeth, drives him to commit regicide and other atrocities, leading to his downfall .

Can Macbeth be considered a tragic hero ? Yes, Macbeth can be considered a tragic hero . He possesses noble qualities and initially earns the audience’s sympathy. However, his tragic flaw—ambition—leads him to make choices that result in his moral decline and ultimate demise, fitting the classical definition of a tragic hero .

Ambition and the witches’ prophecy.Fear of being caught for treason.Peer pressure from other nobles.Duncan’s decision to name Malcolm as his heir.A
BanquoMacduff’s familyKing DuncanMalcolmD
The crownBloodDarknessThe daggerB
?His ambitionThe witches’ manipulationLady Macbeth’s suicideMacduff’s revengeD
Murdered by MacduffKills herselfDies in battlePoisoned by MacbethB
Macbeth’s deathNo man born of a woman can harm MacbethMalcolm’s rise to powerBanquo’s descendants will be kingsB
is NOT explored in “Macbeth”?The corrupting power of unchecked ambitionThe importance of loyalty to the kingThe battle between fate and free willThe impact of climate changeD
They offer comic relief.They predict the future and influence Macbeth.They are loyal servants of King Duncan.They fight against Macbeth in the final battle.B

This quiz covers a range of topics from plot details and character roles to themes and symbols in “Macbeth,” offering a comprehensive test of comprehension for the play.

Spot the Literary Device

Read the following paragraph from “Macbeth” and identify the literary devices used. Then, check your answers below.

“Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible To feeling as to sight? or art thou but A dagger of the mind, a false creation, Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?”

  • Metaphor – The “dagger of the mind” suggests the dagger is not real but a product of Macbeth’s tormented thoughts, symbolizing his guilt and ambition.
  • Imagery – Vivid imagery is used to describe the dagger, making the audience visualize the hallucination that Macbeth experiences.
  • Personification – The dagger is given qualities of being “sensible to feeling as to sight,” even though it is a figment of Macbeth’s imagination.
  • Alliteration – “fatal vision,” “false creation” – These phrases use the repetition of initial consonant sounds to emphasize Macbeth’s turmoil.
  • Questioning the self – Macbeth’s questioning of his own senses and sanity reflects his inner conflict and foreshadows his descent into madness.

This exercise demonstrates the depth of Shakespeare’s use of literary devices to convey complex themes and character emotions in “Macbeth.”


Monday, October 17, 2011

graphic essay macbeth

I just wanted to say that your review of this book was exactly--EXACTLY what I was hoping to see. You really get it, and it shows. The time and effort we put into this series was gargantuan, so I'm beyond thrilled that you think these would work well for introducing the younger sect to Shakespeare. That was the plan with these all along: don't water them down, be faithful to the original plays, and present them in a way that primes kids for tackling the plays later on in life. I read this review a few weeks ago and it made my month--really, I mean it. Great blog you have here! It's really been a fantastic resource for me. - Sean Tulien (editor, Stone Arch Books)

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How to Write a Grade 9 Macbeth Essay ( WJEC Eduqas GCSE English Literature )

Revision note.

Nick Redgrove

English Senior Content Creator

How to Write a Grade 9 Macbeth Essay

In the WJEC Eduqas English Literature GCSE Shakespeare exam, you will complete two types of essay questions on Macbeth:

One extract-based question worth 15 marks

One longer essay question worth 25 marks

You will need to answer both of these questions and you have 60 minutes in which to do so. The exam board recommends that you spend 20 minutes on the extract question, and 40 minutes on the longer essay. 

The requirements for these two questions are quite specific, so read on for guidance and advice on how to get full marks for both types of literature essay.

How do you start a Macbeth essay?

Extract or essay question first.

Start with the extract-based question, as the exam paper has been designed to ease you into the longer essay by giving you a shorter question first (and you have all the evidence you’ll need to include in the extract). 

Know your exam timings

Once you’ve decided which question to begin with, plan your timings. Twenty minutes should be enough time to answer the first question, so check the exam hall clock and write down what time you will start wrapping up your answer. 

Many students spend too long on the extract question and don’t leave enough time to properly answer the essay question, which is worth 10 more marks. Don’t leave any marks behind in the examination room!

Plan, don’t write

Before you begin writing, make a plan. 

Students often want to begin writing immediately as they believe the more they write in an essay, the more marks they will receive. However, this is not the case. Instead, follow the maxim: “plan more, write less”. The more you know in advance what your argument will be, and what evidence you can use to support that argument, the more marks you will likely be awarded.

What should I include in my plan?

Essay writing is all about planning. A good plan includes the following:

Thesis statement

Topic sentences


A really good plan contains each of these three elements and it means your argument will be what examiners call “coherent”, which means joined-up. Furthermore, once you’ve got all the pieces of your essay together, it makes it much quicker to write!

Example plan

Below is a model plan for this past paper 25-mark essay question:

Guilt is a key theme in Macbeth. Write about how Shakespeare presents guilt at different points in the play. Refer to characters and events from the play in your answer.

You’ll see that you can write your plan in note form to save time:

Outline of an essay on guilt in Macbeth, detailing paragraphs on regicide, mental consequences for Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth’s ultimate guilt, with supporting quotes.

How do you write a good introduction for GCSE English Literature?

The key to writing a good introduction to a Macbeth essay is simple: make sure you plan it first. You should know what your argument is before you put pen to exam paper. What is your personal “take” on the question and what evidence proves this? 

Here are some tips to help you to write an effective introduction:

Is short: one or two sentences is plenty

Is long and rambling

Just contains your thesis statement: a short summary of your argument and personal opinion

Contains many points and so doesn’t present a single, clear argument

Doesn’t include evidence

Includes quotations, or a lengthy introduction to the plot, characters or context

Takes a whole-text, or whole-extract, approach

Focuses on only one scene, or just one aspect of the extract

How many paragraphs should a top marks Macbeth essay be?

For the 15-mark extract question, which you should spend only 20 minutes on, try to plan and write two or three paragraphs (at most) aside from your introduction and conclusion. 

For the 25-mark question, you should try to write a longer essay — comprising three or four paragraphs — but it doesn’t need to be any longer than that. The more focused your response, and the more time you spend planning your answer, the better you will do.

Here is a model essay structure for GCSE:

Diagram explaining essay structure. It highlights the thesis statement in the introduction, topic sentences for paragraphs, and a brief conclusion summarizing the argument.

We have created a top grade model answer for the extract question , as well as a Macbeth Grade 9 example answer for the essay question ; both are answers to past WJEC Eduqas English literature papers.

Do I need to include a conclusion in my Macbeth essay?

It is always a good idea to include a conclusion to any GCSE Macbeth essay because it signals to the examiner that you have created a coherent response, and that you have sustained your argument all the way through your writing. However, given that the questions are only worth 15 or 25 marks, you don’t want to spend too long crafting a perfect conclusion. 

Aim instead to create a simple, one- or two-line conclusion that sums up the argument you put forward in your thesis statement.

How many quotes do I need to include in my Macbeth essay?

Students are often taught paragraph frames, or scaffolds, like PEE, by their schools or teachers. Although these can be useful when learning how to write essays, it’s really important to note that examiners at GCSE think these scaffolds limit students’ answers and can result in lower-mark responses.

One of the reasons for this is that a PEE structure suggests you should only include one piece of evidence for each point you make. In fact, the more evidence you have – in the form of textual references or direct quotations – the better your argument will be. 

So try to include multiple quotations or references for each topic sentence point you make. Don’t forget that a textual reference doesn’t have to be a direct quotation: you can paraphrase a quotation, or include stage directions, plot points, or comments about characterisation or (for the 25-mark essay question) changes and contrasts across the text. These all count as “evidence” and will make your argument stronger.

You must not include quotations from elsewhere in the play when answering the 15-mark extract question, as you will be given no credit for this. Instead, examiners want to see candidates using quotations from the beginning, middle and end of the extract.

For the longer 25-mark essay, examiners suggest students learn a range of shorter quotations (rather than fewer really long ones). They also want to see students take a “whole-text” approach, so try to learn quotations from all points of the play.

See our Macbeth Quotations and Analysis page for some of the best quotes to learn, arranged by character (Macbeth; Lady Macbeth; the three witches).

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Author: Nick Redgrove

Nick is a graduate of the University of Cambridge and King’s College London. He started his career in journalism and publishing, working as an editor on a political magazine and a number of books, before training as an English teacher. After nearly 10 years working in London schools, where he held leadership positions in English departments and within a Sixth Form, he moved on to become an examiner and education consultant. With more than a decade of experience as a tutor, Nick specialises in English, but has also taught Politics, Classical Civilisation and Religious Studies.

graphic essay macbeth

Macbeth Essays

There are loads of ways you can approach writing an essay, but the two i favour are detailed below., the key thing to remember is that an essay should focus on the three aos:, ao1: plot and character development; ao2: language and technique; ao3: context, strategy 1 : extract / rest of play, the first strategy basically splits the essay into 3 paragraphs., the first paragraph focuses on the extract, the second focuses on the rest of the play, the third focuses on context. essentially, it's one ao per paragraph, for a really neatly organised essay., strategy 2 : a structured essay with an argument, this strategy allows you to get a much higher marks as it's structured to form an argument about the whole text. although you might think that's harder - and it's probably going to score more highly - i'd argue that it's actually easier to master. mainly because you do most of the work before the day of the exam., to see some examples of these, click on the links below:, lady macbeth as a powerful woman, macbeth as a heroic character, the key to this style is remembering this: you're going to get a question about a theme, and the extract will definitely relate to the theme., the strategy here is planning out your essays before the exam, knowing that the extract will fit into them somehow., below are some structured essays i've put together., macbeth and gender.


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