“Two truths are told, As happy prologues to the swelling act, Of th’imperial theme (1.3)” – Macbeth speaks these lines as he realizes that the witches’ prophecy (that he will be Thane of Cawdor) has come true. 

“Thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without, The illness should attend it (1.5)” – Lady Macbeth speaks these lines as she reflects on her husband’s character

“I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but onlyVaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself And falls on th’other (1.7)” – Macbeth speaks these lines as he starts to doubt his plan to murder Duncan

‘To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus (3.1)’ – Macbeth speaks this line after he has become king, but continues to feel restless and insecure. He is afraid that he might lose his position and is also frustrated by the fact that he has no heir. 


“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood, Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather, The multitudinous seas incarnadine (2.2)” – Macbeth speaks this line when he encounters his wife right after murdering Duncan. 

“Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold, Thou hast no speculation in those eyes (3.4)”-  Macbeth speaks this line when Banquo’s ghost appears to him at the banquet. Macbeth’s vision of the ghost reveals his guilt over ordering the murder of Banquo and his young son. “To bed, to bed. There’s knocking at the gate. Come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s done cannot be undone. To bed, to bed, to bed. (5.1)”- Lady Macbeth speaks these lines after she has gone mad. They are the final words she utters in the play.


“Every one did bear Thy praises in his kingdom’s great defense (1.3)” – This line is spoken by Ross to Macbeth, explaining how pleased Duncan was with the bravery Macbeth showed during the rebellion. The line, however, will later turn out to be ironic in that Macbeth will be revealed to be someone whom Scotland needs to be defended against.

“Our duties are to your throne and state children and servants (1.5)” – Macbeth speaks this line to Duncan, expressing the high level of loyalty and devotion a good subject should feel toward his king. 

“Bleed, bleed, poor country! (4.3)” –Macduff speaks this line when he thinks he will not be able to persuade Malcolm to fight against Macbeth and take back the throne. 

“O nation miserable With an untitled tyrant, bloody-sceptered (4.3)” –Macduff speaks this line in his conversation with Malcolm when he becomes very distressed. 

Blood comes to symbolize the Macbeths guilt, and they begin to feel that their crimes have stained them in a way that cannot be washed clean. Later, though, she comes to share his horrified sense of being stained: “Out, damned spot; out, I say . . . who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?” Blood symbolizes the guilt that sits like a permanent stain on the consciences of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, one that hounds them to their graves.

Look like th’ innocent flower, But be the serpent under ’t.(1.5.56–57) 

In this simile, Lady Macbeth exhorts her husband to conceal his murderous intentions with innocent behavior, similar to a snake lurking beneath a harmless flower.  

“The spring, the head, the fountain of your blood Is stopped; the very source of it is stopped. (2.3.74–75)”

Macbeth uses this metaphor to inform Donalbain and Malcolm of Duncan’s murder, characterizing their father as the fountain from which their lifeblood sprang and perhaps darkly hinting that their own lives are soon to be “stopped” as well.  

The Corrupting Power Of Unchecked Ambition

The main theme of Macbeth—the destruction wrought when ambition goes unchecked by moral constraints—finds its most powerful expression in the play’s two main characters. 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. O In each case, ambition—helped, of course, by the malign prophecies of the witches—is what drives the couple to ever more terrible atrocities. The problem, the play suggests, is that once one decides to use violence to further one’s quest for power, it is difficult to stop. There are always potential threats to the throne—Banquo, Fleance, Macduff—and it is always tempting to use violent means to dispose of them.


Although he is encouraged by the Witches, Macbeth’s true downfall is his own ambition. Lady Macbeth is as ambitious as her husband, encouraging him to commit murder to achieve their goals. Both Macbeths fail to see how their ambition makes them cross moral lines and will lead to their downfall. Once Macbeth kills Duncan, his ambition to hold on to his title as king becomes intertwined with his paranoia. Rather than being able to enjoy the fruits of his ambition, he becomes obsessed with maintaining the power he’s won. Macbeth’s blind pursuit of power can be contrasted with other ambitious characters in the play like Banquo. Banquo also hears the Witches’ prophecies, and similarly has ambition for his sons. But unlike Macbeth, Banquo’s morality prevents him from pursuing his goal at any cost. At the end of the play, Macbeth has achieved all he wanted but has nothing. With his wife gone and no hope of producing a prince, Macbeth sees what his unchecked ambition has cost him: the loss of all he holds dear.


Macbeth’s guilt about murdering his king, Duncan, and ordering the murder of his friend, Banquo, causes him to have guilty hallucinations. Lady Macbeth also hallucinates and eventually goes insane from guilt over her role in Duncan’s death. The fact that both characters suffer torment as a result of their actions suggests neither Macbeth nor his wife is entirely cold-blooded. Although they commit terrible crimes, they know, on some level, that what they’ve done is wrong. Their guilt prevents them from fully enjoying the power they craved. Lady Macbeth says “What’s done/ cannot be undone” in Act Five scene one, but her guilt continues to torment her. While Macbeth’s guilt causes him to commit further murders in an attempt to cover up his initial crimes, Lady Macbeth’s guilt drives her to insanity, and, finally, suicide.