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Word Count: 872
The main theme of Macbeththe destruction wrought when ambition goes unchecked by moral constraintsfinds its most powerful expression in the plays two main characters Macbeth is a courageous Scottish general who is not naturally inclined to commit evil deeds yet he deeply desires power and advancement He kills Duncan against his better judgment and afterward stews in guilt and paranoia Toward the end of the play he descends into a kind of frantic boastful madness Lady Macbeth on the other hand pursues her goals with greater determination yet she is less capable of withstanding the repercussions of her immoral acts One of Shakespeares most forcefully drawn female characters she spurs her husband mercilessly to kill Duncan and urges him to be strong in the murders aftermath but she is eventually driven to distraction by the effect of Macbeths repeated bloodshed on her conscience In each case ambitionhelped of course by the malign prophecies of the witchesis what drives the couple to ever more terrible atrocities The problem the play suggests is that once one decides to use violence to further ones quest for power it is difficult to stop There are always potential threats to the throneBanquo Fleance Macduffand it is always tempting to use violent means to dispose of them Characters in Macbeth frequently dwell on issues of gender Lady Macbeth manipulates her husband by questioning his manhood wishes that she herself could be unsexed and does not contradict Macbeth when he says that a woman like her should give birth only to boys In the same manner that Lady Macbeth goads her husband on to murder Macbeth provokes the murderers he hires to kill Banquo by questioning their manhood Such acts show that both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth equate masculinity with naked aggression and whenever they converse about manhood violence soon follows Their understanding of manhood allows the political order depicted in the play to descend into chaos At the same time however
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