in English Literature, Essay Technique, Shakespeare, Writing Skills

This is an A* / L9 full mark example essay on Macbeth completed by a 15-year-old student in timed conditions (50 mins writing, 10 mins planning).

It contained a few minor spelling and grammatical errors – but the quality of analysis overall was very high so this didn’t affect the grade. It is extremely good on form and structure, and perhaps could do with more language analysis of poetic and grammatical devices; as the quality of thought and interpretation is so high this again did not impede the overall mark. 


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Summary of Acts and Scenes

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MACBETH EXAMPLE ESSAY:

Macbeth’s ambition for status and power grows throughout the play. Shakespeare uses Macbeth as an embodiment of greed and asks the audience to question their own actions through the use of his wrongful deeds.

In the extract, Macbeth is demonstrated to possess some ambition but with overriding morals, when writing to his wife about the prophecies, Lady Macbeth uses metaphors to describe his kind hearted nature: “yet I do fear thy nature, / It is too full o’th’milk of human kindness”. Here, Shakespeare presents Macbeth as a more gentle natured being who is loyal to his king and country. However, the very act of writing the letter demonstrates his inklings of desire, and ambition to take the throne. Perhaps, Shakespeare is aiming to ask the audience about their own thoughts, and whether they would be willing to commit heinous deeds for power and control. 

Furthermore, the extract presents Macbeth’s indecisive tone when thinking of the murder – he doesn’t want to kill Duncan but knows it’s the only way to the throne. Lady Macbeth says she might need to interfere in order to persuade him; his ambition isn’t strong enough yet: “That I may pour my spirits in  thine ear / And chastise with the valour of my tongue”. Here, Shakespeare portrays Lady Macbeth as a manipulative character, conveying she will seduce him in order to “sway “ his mind into killing Duncan. The very need for her persuasion insinuates Macbeth is still weighing up the consequences in his head, his ambition equal with his morality. It would be shocking for the audience to see a female character act in this authoritative way. Lady Macbeth not only holds control of her husband in a patriarchal society but the stage too, speaking in iambic pentameter to portray her status: “To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great”. It is interesting that Shakespeare uses Lady Macbeth in this way; she has more ambition for power than her husband at this part of play. 

As the play progresses, in Act 3, Macbeth’s ambition has grown and now kills with ease. He sends three murders to kill Banquo and his son, Fleance, as the witches predicted that he may have heirs to the throne which could end his reign. Macbeth is suspicious in this act, hiding his true intentions from his dearest companion and his wife: “I wish your horses swift and sure on foot” and “and make our faces vizards to our hearts”. There, we see, as an audience, Macbeth’s longing to remain King much stronger than his initial attitudes towards the throne He was toying with the idea of killing for the throne and now he is killing those that could interfere with his rule without a second thought. It is interesting that Shakespeare presents him this way, as though he is ignoring his morals or that they have been “numbed” by his ambition. Similarly to his wife in the first act, Macbeth also speaks in pentameter to illustrate his increase in power and dominance. 

In Act 4, his ambition and dependence on power has grown even more. When speaking with the witches about the three apparitions, he uses imperatives to portray his newly adopted controlling nature: “I conjure you” and “answer me”. Here, the use of his aggressive demanding demonstrates his reliance on the throne and his need for security. By the Witches showing him the apparitions and predicting his future, he gains a sense of superiority, believing he is safe and protected from everything. Shakespeare also lengthens Macbeth’s speech in front of the Witches in comparison to Act 1 to show his power and ambition has given him confidence, confidence to speak up to the “filthy nags” and expresses his desires. Although it would be easy to infer Macbeth’s greed and ambition has grown from his power-hungry nature, a more compassionate reading of Macbeth demonstrates the pressure he feels as a Jacobean man and soldier. Perhaps he feels he has to constantly strive for more to impress those around him or instead he may want to be king to feel more worthy and possibly less insecure. 

It would be unusual to see a Jacobean citizen approaching an “embodiment” of the supernatural as forming alliance with them was forbidden and frowned upon. Perhaps Shakespeare uses Macbeth to defy these stereotypical views to show that there is a supernatural, a more dark side in us all and it is up to our own decisions whereas we act on these impulses to do what is morally incorrect. 


Thanks for reading! If you find this useful, check out our full course on Macbeth by clicking here.

In case you don’t need a whole course, you can get individual Macbeth documents by clicking here.