“To be or not to be?” How relevant is Shakespeare in the 21st century? Shakespeare has been dead for over four hundred years now. Four hundred two years now to be exact. Many people recognize the name William Shakespeare but when was the last time you have read one of his poems or stories or even watched one of his plays? We know Shakespeare has many well-known stories, one being Macbeth. Macbeth is about a Scottish general, Macbeth, who receives a prophecy from a group of witches that one day he will be titled the King of Scotland. Although, his ambition and fight or flight mentality gets in the way and he is then is faced with guilt and paranoia from murdering King Duncan and taking the Scottish throne. Macbeth was written in the 1700’s, however we still see many of these themes and relevancy in society today and many are attracted to this story because of so.
Murder is relevant in Macbeth when he is told that he will soon be the King of Scotland. He was never told by the trio of witches how he was supposed to become the King, just that he will be. Macbeth thought because Banquo was going to father kings that Banquo and his son Fleance were in the way of what he wanted. He thought that to ultimately become king, he needed to get rid of Banquo and Fleance. Macbeth says, “To be thus is nothing but to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo stick deep (Macbeth 3.1.54-55).” When one of the witches told Macbeth his prophesies, he decided that the next person who is in the way is King Duncan. He agrees that the only way to become the King is to kill the present King and take his place. “I have done the deed (Macbeth 2.2.17).” Once Macbeth realized all the power from killing, he did not want to stop. He believed that he could have anything all if he murdered someone and took it. “…and though I could with barefaced power sweep him from my sight… (Macbeth 3.1.135-136) In society today, we know that when power and money is at stake, murder can happen. Some people believe that violence is the answer to problems. Aggression and violence are some people’s normal responses when a problematic situation occurs.
Ambition is what drives people to do things that they want to become or to get something that they desire. If someone desires to have money, usually they will find a job and work for it. In other cases, someone who wants money may go rob a bank or even commit murder to have what they want. Ambition requires a person to be willing to step into fear and anxiety. “Some people are better able to tolerate this fear, perhaps because there are more courageous, committed, or driven and can minimize the fear. Ambitious people act with purpose, but allow themselves room to explore, experiment, and discover,” says Neel Burton a psychiatrist and author of Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions. Lady Macbeth knew what he was doing and called him a coward for not doing things the traditional way and being too ambitious. Macbeth responds with “Prithee, peace! I dare do all that may become a man. Who dares do more is none (Macbeth 1.7.49-51).” Macbeth had a great amount of ambition to become the King, considering the actions he pursued on.
A guilty conscience is a hard one to knock. Most people have felt guilty at some point in their lives. Guilt can stop you from enjoying something if you haven’t earned it in the right way. In the story, Macbeth’s guilt prevents him from appreciating what he has gained after the murder of King Duncan. Macbeth’s guilty conscience is known when he sees Banquo’s ghost sitting at the banquet table. Lady Macbeth convinced her husband that he should kill King Duncan. Through the beginning of the story, she acts like doesn’t feel any different after the murder but later we know that this is not true. One night, Lady Macbeth was sleepwalking and started to confess about the murder of King Duncan. Unlike Macbeths conscience guilt, Lady Macbeth’s guilt was expressed through her dreams. “The Thane of File had a wife. Where is she now? What, will these hands ever be clean? No more of that, my lord, no more of that. You mar all with this starting (Macbeth 5.1.36-38).” Ultimately, guilt was the cause of her death. Today, some people who commit murder start to lose their sanity and the guilt eats them away. Some even feel so guilty that they will harm themselves or commit suicide. Guilt plays a role in many people’s lives because they regret doing something they did and can’t take it back.
To conclude, Macbeth is still prevalent today with many people still reading the story of Macbeth and watching the play. Many of Shakespeare’s works have inspired people today to make their own movies or books while using the message Shakespeare introduced. Some movies that were inspired from Macbeth include Scotland, PA and The Real Thing at Last. The themes of Macbeth continue to intrigue and fascinate people and possibly forever will. “Shakespeare reveals a different face to different cultures and different people at different times,” as said by Bruce Smith, Dean’s Professor of English.