Revise All the Themes of Macbeth to Improve Your Grade

hello and welcome to another video trying to get you that swap grades at GCSE so I'm going to delve into the themes of Macbeth there are 8 of them as you can see that I'm going to cover here and if you understand the wall eight of these the chances of getting a grade 8 or higher are really really good it's going to be a long video because I want to take you through all eight but I'm going to keep it under 30 minutes and this could be the only revision that you do for the exam that's not the best way to revise but if you're thinking I haven't got much time this is the video for you right let's kick off with ambition which you might have seen was Macbeth hamartia now Hammar Tia for those of you don't know means the fatal floor it comes from Greek tragedy so Beth's tragic fatal flaw is seen by many to be his ambition and he references it himself so he says I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent meaning that he's he's got this ambition this intent but the only thing that's going to make him do it is missing he doesn't have the spur only vaulting ambition well many people think the spur is in fact Lady Macbeth and he knows he needs her help to reach that ambition and this is her reaction when she finds out about the witch's promises these this is what he tells her what greatness is promised thee so he offers these promises from the witches to try and entice his wife into spurring him on so we can see this as an equal partnership between the two he calls her my dearest partner greatness and he needs her to help him realize that ambition and you could argue that that's why Shakespeare kills them both at the end because they are equally responsible for the killing of Duncan and the tragedy that unfolds right now we have a bit more unusual point about ambition and it's about Banquo many people see Bank row is a wholly good character but if we look at when the witches first appear he just doesn't leave them to tell whatever they want to tell to Macbeth he says speak speak to me say which grain will grow and which will not speak them to me he is also ambitious for himself and wants to find out what the future might hold now if we go a little further intimate into bank rows character that ambition is also his hamartia because he says to Macbeth that night I dreamt last night of the three Weird Sisters in other words he's so ambitious he's dreamt of The Weird Sisters even before they meet with Macbeth and Banquo on the blasted Heath now many people don't notice this but it it's an indication to us that Shakespeare was saying look all good men can be destroyed by their ambition and Banquo has it he has dreamt about them before even the betters met them well they meet together before Macbeth plans to kill Duncan and Macbeth basically offers banker grant a bribe he says if you shall cleave to my consent so if you'll do what I want you to do when it is it shall make honour for you so you'll get titles you'll become Thane of whatever just like I am you'll be close to me and Banquo doesn't say no I'm not interested in that interested in that he says but still keep my bosom franchised and allegiance clear I shall be counseled so he's hedging his bets here because he doesn't know what's going to happen but he's clearly signaling to Macbeth that he would be interested in such an arrangement well in the end Beth proceeds until Duncan without including Banquo which leaves Bank Row the only choice of sacrificing himself so that his own sons will become King but that's no less ambitious and it leads to his destruction so just as Macbeth is destroyed by his ambition so is Banquo yes it looks like a noble sacrifice cuz he dies for his son but it's not necessarily done purely out of love it's also done out of ambition of having his family name carry on forever now another point that most people don't really realize is the ambition of the witches what's in it for them and why do they pick on the Beth well according to Hetty who gives them a real dressing-down a real telling off she says and which is worse all you have done have been for a wayward sons and Macbeth is described as a wayward son spiteful and wrathful who as others too loves for his own ends not for you so now the Hammar tear is presented in a new light the hamachi appears to be loved The Witches cannot achieve any form of love because they are so ugly they're outcasts from society they're presumably poor no one will want to marry them no one will love them and so they turn to witchcraft in order to replace that missing hole they simply want to be loved and we could argue that they achieve that aim Macbeth does seek them out again he does love what they offer him and if you like he keeps turning to them as objects of his desire however Hetty is right he only loves them for his own ends not for themselves and Shakespeare here could be talking about how marginalized women are in society and what they really want is love and understanding but what they get is an array marriage and security through political alliance not through love and this leads us to Shakespeare's great criticism of his society that it is a patriarchy one in which women are exploited and not given proper identities or power so when Lady Macbeth wants to become more powerful she has to become more masculine in this society and that this society associates masculinity with cruelty so she calls upon the spirits to unsex her literally take away her womanhood and she associates this becoming masculine with becoming cruel and in fact she asks for the milk of her mother's her mother's milk from her breasts to be taken and turned into poison and this is a metaphor for what society does to women if they want to achieve any kind of power Shakespeare is arguing they're forced to behave in ways that appear unnatural and are therefore rejected by society a next Shakespeare says this is damaging to men in society as well so Macbeth responds to the idea of killing Duncan by saying I dare do all that may become a man who dares do more is none I can't go as far as regicide he's saying but Shakespeare is positing the idea that if a society celebrates a cruel form of masculinity and after all that's what Macbeth has shown in battle and that's what everybody is praised about him the savagery of his winning the battle its then just a very small step to continuing that savagery in the rest of life it creates the kind of mad ambition that Macbeth has which is after the ornament of life the ultimate symbol of power kingship so the tragedy now becomes the kind of patriarchal society they live in living in the patriarchy forces to behave in a much more ruthless way well the main audience for Shakespeare's play is not what you'd expect it's not paying members of the public his main audience for this play is actually the king and then Nobles at court so Shakespeare was very careful to put in some messages about what good kingship should be like so Malcolm is first not a very good king in Waiting he criticizes Macduff from not being manly enough when he hears about the slaughtering of his whole family then he says sir Macduff disputes it like a man as in pull yourself together but Macduff teaches him a lesson about what masculinity should be I shall do so but I must also feel it as a man so when we get to the end of the play we get to a part that's often not studied at all where Seward one of Malcolm's allies just lost his son fighting and Seward doesn't show any regret that his son has died he's just delighted that his son had died with wounds on his front which meant he didn't die a coward he died nobly in battle and Malcolm turns to him and says he's worth more sorrow and that I'll spend for him so Malcolm has learnt what masculine as he should be like it should be compassionate it should be full of fellow-feeling and Shakespeare gives these words to the man who's just about to become king why because he's got a coded message here to King James this is what a king should be like and the reason that's important of course is the great trouble in the country at the time with oppression of Catholics and Shakespeare doesn't want James to turn into a kind of tyrant like Macbeth he wants him to be much more forgiving and understanding like Malcolm and now this brings us to them greater theme of kingship the Divine Right of Kings because sitting in court will be no doubt many nobles or several nobles who don't want King James as their king who don't think that he has any entitlement to be there because Queen Elizabeth died without an heir and also you'll have others who come from Catholic families who are now pretending to be Protestant because it's illegal to be a Catholic but actually still practice Catholicism at home and so they would be King James's natural enemies even though there they are at court so Shakespeare wants to promote the idea of the Divine Right of Kings which pretty much meant God the divine appointed the king and whatever mortals thought about it was irrelevant there you couldn't really go against the Word of God and once we look at that he then creates this character Duncan to be someone who is completely virtuous again a reminder to King James about what sort of King he should be to make it easier for people to accept him as the divine choice he's also however Shakespeare that is warning the potential rebels at court not to proceed further so Macbeth has a chance not to proceed he says we but teach bloody instructions which being taught return to plague the inventor in other words when he starts killing people especially the nobles it teaches all the surviving Nobles that this is actually something you can get away with and therefore they could get away with killing Macbeth and they the message there is look remember the Gunpowder Plot if it had succeeded in killing King James it wouldn't have led to a better world it would just have led to a world in which the next conspirators could come along and think well let's get rid of the next king and get the one that we want it would only teach bloody instructions as Shakespeare presents himself as a lover of peace and he wants to keep the status quo he then has Malcolm fake this idea of what a terrible king he would be he's testing Macduff here and that scene really has no relevance to a modern audience at all as usually cut but to Shakespeare the crucial thing about that is he's now exploring again the consequences of being the wrong kind of King so he's telling King James look you could cut off the nobles from their lands you could invent quarrels that were unjust against the good and loyal destroy them and then take their wealth from their lands yes we all know you could do that but actually that will backfire on you in the end don't be that kind of King and it's also a warning to any plotters that the new king who would replace James could be like that now next Shakespeare has to make sure that Banquo appears quite Noble despite the ambition he has that I alluded to earlier so he does that by describing Banquo as having a royalty of nature now this is important because Banquo was thought at the time to be the ancient ancestor of King James so James believed he was descended from Banquo and so it was important to have bank row as the the origin of James if you like being presented in a really good light hence the royalty of nature and he have a wisdom that doth guide his valour to act in safety so on the one hand he's describing Banquo's cunning here having wisdom but then the bravery of acting safely rather than rashly but this is also another coded message to King James and doing nothing not going out for vengeance against the Catholics isn't stupidity that's actually wisdom it's the bravery that's what valor means acting in safety taking your time is actually a sign of good kingship so this is again another way that he's trying to influence King James not to take any rash actions in revenge and what does Shakespeare often in return well he appeals to King James's ambition and so when he when them that Beth goes back to the witches what they show him is a vision of Banquo's descendants that will stretch out to the crack of doom doom here is doomsday that's when the world is destroyed and we got Judgment Day and so what Shakespeare is suggesting here is that King James could become such a good king that his descendants will stay on the throne forever now this is obviously a blatant form of flattery certainly in Shakespeare's time if you look back over the history of the kings and queens of England you would have seen one royal dynasty destroyed by another going back hundreds of years you know dynasties simply didn't last beyond a few generations but that's the potential prize that Shakespeare is offering to King James you could be different to every other dynasty he's saying yours could survive forever if only you're the kind of King I think you should be watch my plays find out what kind of man you should be and what are the consequence for being like Macbeth so when we see the play this way we can understand that Shakespeare's two main motives are to stop any rebellion against King James and also to stop King James becoming a vicious ruler who will therefore encourage rebellion so this is why we have this great description of Macbeth tyranny in Scotland because it invites the audience to imagine what tyranny would look like in England and then the message about the Gunpowder Plot King James not to act viciously is to get King James to think about his few and this is why Macbeth thinks about his future before he's going to die he says and that's which should accompany old age as honour love obedience troops of friends I must not look to have and so he's telling King James what King James himself risks losing this and many other contextual factors ask many readers and many scholars to think well will Shakespeare himself a Catholic did he have an alternative motive for stopping King James and becoming a tyrannical leader who would seek to expose torture and kill Catholics and was he acting in self-interest protecting himself and his family well next we have some themes which are not collect connected to the politics of the time but are actually Shakespeare's artistic exploration of how he actually sees the world so the Kings players who came before Shakespeare and did perform some plays about historical kings and queens of England but they won't basically political intrigues that just showed the facts of the battle them who won and who lost Shakespeare's writing takes playwriting to a completely new level and he kind of invents psychology I mean nobody had that word at the time but the meaning of it explaining why people think the way they do and the workings of the inner mind is something that Shakespeare dramatizes for the first time so he's virtually the first playwright to invent the soliloquy where characters speak their innermost thoughts to the audience so we can literally see the mind at work well there are all kinds of other ways in which Shakespeare is really interested in exploit they're exploring the work of the mind so there's Banquo's dream how does he dream about the riches before they even appear is that a sign of their supernatural power as many would you or is it a sign of how Banquo's ambition is taking over his mind so that he's starting to believe the impossible he couldn't reflect about them before they appeared this is his mind fracturing just as Lady Macbeth might mind fractures and just as Macbeth's mind fractures the first sign of Macbeth's fracture in mind is the vision of the dagger that he sees before him it's not really there but this is the fracture that's going on in his psyche in his brain because he's going to go against his better nature so yes there's a morality here Shakespeare is suggesting that if you go against what you know is good it will ultimately destroy your mind but he's also interested in how we become disconnected from ourselves and also how we invent alternative realities to justify ourselves so the next line about the dagger is it's pointing me the way that I intended to go on paraphrasing here but Macbeth sees the dagger as an excuse our while the daggers here and it's pointing me to what I've got to do therefore I've got to do it similarly when he says he will sleep no more he imagines a voice has said this but this is actually his own mind telling him look there are consequences mental consequences to what you're about to do and you won't be able to rest again if you do it Banquo's ghost is a similar warning many people at the time would have seen that as another supernatural apparition a real ghost the powers of evil at work again in the world in a world that could believe in witches why not but Shakespeare is actually much more interested in the human context here the ghost is only there because Macbeth can imagine the ghost and therefore it's a product of his own mind and Shakespeare is interested in how the mind gets damaged and in this play it's against it's when you go against your own better nature Lady Macbeth sleepwalking is again a sign of her fractured mind but what's happened to fracture it here isn't just that she's had to go against her better nature it's that society has forced her to do that the only way she can become powerful and have meaning in the world is through the acts of men so she has to then learn to manipulate men in order to be successful in life and those very qualities are the ones that therefore lead to her own tragedy then that image of her imagining the smell of blood is fascinating because she is actually becoming Macbeth here he is the one who couldn't wash the blood off his hands after he killed Duncan Lady Macbeth had no issue with it she said a little water clears us of this deed and so her mind is so fractured that she starts to take on that Beth's guilt and Beth psychology and then finally we have Macduff whose mind is haunted by the fact that he left his wife and children again this links us to the theme of masculinity he acted as a warrior acting impulsively went off to join up with Malcolm to fight this noble fight but in so doing left his wife and family utterly defenseless and if he just thought about this he'd surely have taken them with him from Scotland fat his wife says as much before she slaughtered and therefore they come back to haunt him his own fractured mind will not forgive him so the psychology of guilt is really really powerful here and Shakespeare's suggesting Locke will all be destroyed by the things that we know we shouldn't do that is his artistic vision but it also matches with his political vision where again he's trying to warn King James at every opportunity not to acting ways that would go against his own better nature not to suffer that guilt next Shakespeare explores the whole idea whether our lives are controlled by fate or controlled by fate free will so in classical literature from Greece and then later from Rome the fates are portrayed as three women a virgin a mature woman and an old crone and they are the three fates who control our lives so Shakespeare explores this in some detail in the play you're familiar with the prophecies but the key line here is Macbeth if chance will have me King why chance may crown me in other words I don't have to do anything to accelerate my fate I can just allow things to happen I don't have to exercise my free will in any kind of violent way just to prove that I have it all the later prophecies Mock the idea of fate and actually suggest that free will is the most important element of being a human here so for example when Macbeth is told that he will never be beaten until great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him seems like a supernatural prophecy but actually if you're laying siege to a castle with an army you don't want the defenders in the castle to know which war you're going to put your main attackers on and so you canif large yourselves well it must have been very common at the time to use branches from trees in order to camouflage the numbers of the army it wouldn't have been bizarre military tactic it would have been something that we could foresee so not much of a prophecy at all similarly the prophecy to beware Macduff well it's pretty obvious that Macduff was going to be an enemy of Macbeth because he didn't turn up to the banquet celebrating his coronation and he fled to England it's obvious what he was doing so again no prophecy there and then when Macbeth is told that no man born a woman can kill him that seems impossible and therefore supernatural and then Macduff's confession that well I was I was from my mother's womb untimely ripped is ridiculous all women would have died as a result of a cesarean birth at this stage but that didn't make them any less of a woman so Macduff is still born of a woman and what leads Macbeth to be killed by Macduff is his own free will ironically he freely chooses to believe in his fate and so he lets Mack tough defeat him yes Macbeth would have been defeated anyway but was that really fate no it was the action of his free will when he taught bloody instruction by killing Duncan and so when I read the play my overwhelming feeling is that the Shakespeare himself didn't believe in fate at all he totally believed that one's actions could lead to success or failure and if you look at the extraordinary success of shakespeare's life rising from a little backwater town called stratford with a you know not much of a family behind him to becoming the main dramatist of his day with the ear of the king you can see why psychologically it would be really attractive to Shakespeare to believe that his own success was based on his cunning his wisdom his genius as a writer and not that he was somehow fated to do well and it was outside his control another theme that links with the Divine Right of Kings is the idea of violence breeding violence again this is a plea to King James not to become a violent King and I've pretty much covered that I won't go through these quotations you can see my video on that if you want that in more depth but we've covered it very well in this view this theme about reality and appearance is one of the most popular ones to be examined on in this play and there are two kinds of ways into this one is Shakespeare as the artist and dramatist so his whole life is based on creating an illusion plays if you like our illusions and we all enter into them willingly and what Shakespeare is interested in here isn't about fooling the audience he's interested in how this illusion actually leads to a greater truth so when you see something that is made-up it actually offers you a more real picture than real life itself because it introduces the idea of layers layers and different ways of interpreting life that's why he has these lines fair is foul and foul is fair that all depends on your perspective when the battles lost and won so the victory for one person might in the long run turn out to be a defeat there's then we've got the psychological reasons why we fool ourselves so we've got this castle hath a pleasant seat says Duncan just as he's about to be murdered in it we we fool ourselves when we should know better and the real the most powerful way of expressing this is Shakespeare actually questioning his god here he says angels are bright still though the brightest fell in other words even God was able to fool himself that Satan was still a good angel in fact the best the brightest angel up until the very moment when Satan chose and to behave evilly and rebel against God so Shakespeare is suggesting that God should have been able to see that Satan was going to turn out to be a traitor but he didn't because like Duncan we all fool ourselves we all think that we're wise enough to see the world as it is and then that takes us to the next reason that Shakespeare is fascinated by reality and appearance and that's because of the political situation at the time this is a time that served full of spies there full of intrigue and the most hot topic is whether or not you're a Catholic because if you are a Catholic by association you will be seen as potentially part of a future dung pounder plot and so the idea of traitors being everywhere is uppermost in everyone's mind which is why Duncan says there's no art to find the man's construction in the face and it's one that Beth says false face must hide what the false heart doth know so the audience would be completely engaged by this because it's at the heart of politics at the time and Shakespeare is writing for this political audience he's not writing this play just for the commoner who's going to pay a penny to come and watch it this is being performed at court amongst the nobility and then the final part of this ambiguity is whether Shakespeare is interested in this theme because he desperately wants to convince the king that he has nothing to do with those who might plot against him but rather is wholly in favor of King James so to curry King James's favor he has this this famous simile or metaphor look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under't which is a direct reference to the medal that King James had produced to celebrate his survival of the Gunpowder Plot so you can see it here and here the plotters are represented by the snake and the inn sense of the stuarts and the monarchy represented by the flowers so Shakespeare is doing this is an obvious form of flattery of King James but also as a way to say look I'm completely loyal to you and therefore do not treat me with any kind of suspicion why would Shakespeare worry about being treated with suspicion well he grew up with Christopher Marlowe who was murdered what's this twenty three years away twelve years before in 1593 he was arrested for being an atheist and then was murdered and many people think politically assassinated by the Kings agents or the Queen's agents as it would have been then on the 30th of May so Shakespeare would always have felt vulnerable to political intrigue and even to losing his life did Shakespeare know the 1605 gunpowder plotters well there's a lot of documentation which suggests that he would have met them he certainly went to exactly the same pubs that they went to London was a small place then and he's God the godparents to his children were also known to be Catholics and it's pretty certain that Shakespeare's father was a Catholic and many people ask themselves well is it likely that Shakespeare himself wasn't so this play is a way of Shakespeare distancing himself from any appearance of being Catholic and certainly distancing himself from any possibility that he might be seen as unsympathetic to King James so what we've got here now is a business plan this play is a way for Shakespeare to say look I'm going to celebrate you King James I'm going to show what brilliant ancestry you've come from I'm going to also advise you subtly about what kind of King you should be so that your descendants will forever and I'm going to celebrate you to show you how loyal I am to you so perspectives that I imagine you haven't been taught as you've read this play I didn't make it under 30 minutes typical English teacher talks too much never mind congratulations for sticking with me to get your grades 8 & 9 if you're new to my channel thank you ever so much please consider subscribing because all my videos are aimed at getting the top grades and you will definitely achieve brilliantly if you follow my advice and just think about this how much more have you learnt in 36 minutes than you would in a one-hour lesson anyway thanks for watching and good bye

40 thoughts on “Revise All the Themes of Macbeth to Improve Your Grade

  1. Honestly wish I hadn't wasted my money on revision guides and just watched this video to start with, so, so, so helpful! Way more detailed than my York Notes revision guide 🙂

  2. If I watch at 1.25X speed, I might finish it before I have to leave for the exam 😂

  3. Got an exam at 1 so watching this at 1.5 speed lmao, quick revision boys

  4. Watching literally an hour and a half before the exam
    Edit: one hour to go…..

  5. Dynasties didn’t last past a few generations.
    Habsburgs: Am I a joke to you?

  6. exam is literally in 3hrs 30 mins lmao
    If I do well on the paper 1 for once I might get an 8 if im lucky fingers crossed

  7. Banquo says he dreamt last night of the sisters a couple scenes after the witches give their prophecies, we don't know how much time has passed, but I don't think it's suggesting at all that Banquo dreamt about the sisters before they met them, more so that he's been really preoccupied by them, and has been dreaming about them because they're on his mind, which still shows his ambition just in a different context.

  8. Here a few hours before my exam, trying to cram in as much information into my brain as I can – good luck year 11s

  9. wooo 4 hours till my exam time to start Macbeth ladies and gents

  10. The revision video is great however Banquo says that he dreamt about the witches after Macbeth is given the Thane of Cawdor title which is why he says that the witches have shown Macbeth some truth so I don't agree with the Banquo being anbitious explanation for that quote.
    I think that that quote shows how Banquo's comment linking Macbeth' new title and the witches saying he'd be Thane if Cawdor, influences Macbeth to follow the witches' plan for his future which leads to his downfall – tragedy and harmartia.

    Thank you,

  11. Literally Done 0 revision for Macbeth so I’m so happy I found this video, good luck everyone today! Last minute revision sesh lool✌️

  12. completely s******g myself for lit tomorrow – good luck to everyone doing any and all of their gcses/ exams I hope yall do amazing xxxxx also its not the end of the world if you fail

  13. 23:17 night before literature exam 🙃 regret not revising until now

  14. Dammit, how did you know this would be my only revision before the gcse tomorrow

  15. Can we talk more about context of shakespeare, like his wants and his view of a good society, than talking about the character's as if they were real. If anyone sees this please answer as the exam is tomorrow :))

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