Murder in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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About this sample


Words: 799 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 799|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Macbeth's First Murder: Duncan
  2. Macbeth's Second Murder: Banquo
  3. Macbeth's Final Act of Murder: Macduff's Family
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

William Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth, explores the theme of murder as a central element of the plot. Throughout the play, the character of Macbeth commits various acts of murder, which ultimately lead to his downfall. This essay will analyze the instances of murder in Macbeth and their significance in the development of the story. By examining the motivations behind each murder and the consequences they bring, it becomes clear that Macbeth's murderous actions are driven by his ambition and the manipulation of supernatural forces. Through an exploration of these themes, this essay aims to shed light on the moral and psychological implications of murder in Macbeth.

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Macbeth's First Murder: Duncan

The first murder committed by Macbeth occurs when he kills King Duncan in his sleep. This act sets the stage for the rest of the play and establishes Macbeth's willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve his ambitions. The murder of Duncan is a turning point for Macbeth, as it marks the beginning of his descent into darkness and moral corruption. Macbeth's motivation for killing Duncan is rooted in his desire for power and the prophecy of the witches that he will become king. The murder of Duncan not only serves as a means to fulfill this prophecy but also symbolizes Macbeth's betrayal of his own moral principles.

Shakespeare's use of language and imagery in the scene of Duncan's murder reinforces its significance. Macbeth's soliloquy before the murder reveals his inner turmoil and the conflict between his ambition and his conscience. The phrase "vaulting ambition" suggests that Macbeth's desire for power has become uncontrollable, leading him to commit this heinous act. Furthermore, the image of the "bloody dagger" that Macbeth sees before him represents his guilt and foreshadows the consequences he will face.

Macbeth's Second Murder: Banquo

After becoming king, Macbeth grows increasingly paranoid and is haunted by the prophecy that Banquo's descendants will inherit the throne. Fearing that his position is threatened, Macbeth orders the murder of his trusted friend, Banquo. While Macbeth does not commit the act himself, his role in orchestrating Banquo's murder demonstrates his willingness to eliminate anyone who poses a threat to his power.

The murder of Banquo highlights Macbeth's descent into madness and the erosion of his moral compass. The scene in which Banquo is killed is filled with dark and supernatural imagery, emphasizing the evil nature of the act. The presence of Banquo's ghost at the banquet further reveals Macbeth's guilt and the psychological toll that his actions have taken on him.

Moreover, Macbeth's involvement in Banquo's murder illustrates the corrupting influence of power. As Macbeth becomes more consumed by his ambition, he becomes willing to do whatever it takes to maintain his position, even if it means betraying those closest to him. This demonstrates the destructive nature of unchecked ambition and the consequences it can have on one's moral integrity.

Macbeth's Final Act of Murder: Macduff's Family

In the final act of the play, Macbeth orders the murder of Macduff's family in an attempt to eliminate any potential threat to his reign. This act of brutality showcases the extent of Macbeth's moral corruption and his complete disregard for human life.

The murder of Macduff's family serves as a catalyst for Macduff's desire for revenge and his determination to overthrow Macbeth. It also highlights the destructive cycle of violence that Macbeth's actions have set in motion. Macbeth's willingness to kill innocent people demonstrates his desperation to hold onto power, regardless of the cost.

Furthermore, the murder of Macduff's family reveals the consequences of Macbeth's actions on those around him. It brings into question the extent to which one person's ambition can impact the lives of others. Macbeth's actions not only result in his own downfall but also cause immense suffering for those who were once loyal to him.


In conclusion, murder plays a central role in Shakespeare's Macbeth, driving the plot and showcasing the moral and psychological implications of unchecked ambition. Macbeth's murders are motivated by his desire for power and the manipulation of supernatural forces. Each murder serves as a turning point in Macbeth's descent into darkness and moral corruption.

Through an analysis of the murders of Duncan, Banquo, and Macduff's family, it becomes clear that Macbeth's actions have far-reaching consequences. The play explores themes of guilt, betrayal, and the corrupting influence of power. It serves as a cautionary tale, warning against the dangers of unchecked ambition and the destructive nature of violence.

Ultimately, Macbeth's murders lead to his own downfall and the restoration of order in Scotland. The play serves as a reminder that actions have consequences and that the pursuit of power at any cost can have devastating effects. Through the character of Macbeth, Shakespeare invites us to reflect on the moral implications of murder and the choices we make in our own lives.

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Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Kenneth Muir, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Murder in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from
“Murder in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Murder in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jul. 2024].
Murder in Shakespeare’s Macbeth [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 22]. Available from:
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