BLOG: Reflecting on the ambition, corruption and supernatural themes in Macbeth

19 Mar 2024


Playhouse Theatre Intern Akin Famakin reflects on the themes of ambition, corruption and the influence of the supernatural in Macbeth.

Despite the fact William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth over four centuries ago, it is still a masterpiece that continues to captivate audiences, and resonates with the complexities of the insatiable human nature that continues to shape our world today.

We have identified some iconic quotes showing how Shakespeare’s language helps us delve into the power dynamics of the piece and explore how the characters reflect unchecked ambition, absolute corruption, and the influence of the supernatural.

“All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!”

Macbeth is a noble and respected General who compromises his integrity and is consumed by his ambition to become King. Inspired by the prophetic words of three witches, he embarks on a bloody and corrupt journey to seize the throne. Little wonder he says, “I dare do all that may become a man”, as he drives his ambition through the path of moral decay to stoop to deceit, manipulation and murder.

Likewise, Lady Macbeth, inspired by her communication with the Spirits, says, “Come, you Spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and feel me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty”, as she prepares to help her husband murder Duncan, King of Scotland, and to commit other atrocities that ultimately lead to her husband’s downfall.

A “treacherous Macbeth” kills Duncan to become King and resorts to murdering his friend, Banquo, whose descendants are fated to be kings, to retain his position, while “the good Macduff” remains loyal to the king, and stands by his words, “I am not treacherous”. Macduff lives up to his appellation as a “child of integrity” as his unwavering loyalty to Duncan motivates him to assist Malcolm, eldest son of the late King, to regain and ascend the throne.

Another character that cannot be ignored is Ross. His role as an announcer of good, bad and alarming news, such as the thane of Cawdor’s treachery, Macbeth’s elevation to Thane of Cawdor, and the slaughter of Macduff’s family, give credence to the claim that Ross is a self-appointed messenger of “all news”. However, Ross’s words of wisdom, “Cruel are the times, when we are traitors. And do not know ourselves”, also affirm him as a man of integrity who remains loyal to his family and nation in times of trouble.

As Duncan’s life is truncated by Macbeth, a trusted Thane in his service, there’s no doubt that a thousand lessons are embedded in the King’s words, “There’s no art to find mind’s construction in the face”.

These key quotes clearly show why Shakespeare’s language is still iconic today and how his pivotal themes of ambition, corruption and the influence of the supernatural are as strong in this retelling as they were when the bard first wrote them.

Gallery - Macbeth production images



    Arts Council
  • Leeds City Council
  • LTB Foundation
  • Principal Partner

    Caddick Group
  • Principal Access Partner

    Irwin Mitchell