The Tragedy of Macbeth as an Allegory of the Bible

The Bible is one of the most influential texts of all time and its presence can be seen through countless pieces of literature. One of the best examples of a literary work that has been modeled after biblical elements is The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare. The similarities of Adam who was originally endowed with perfection and freedom but who set his will against God and so brought sin and limited freedom upon mankind, and Macbeth the great warrior who´s prophecy was said to make him the most powerful king of all Scotland are recognizable enough that it is as if Shakespeare was making an allegory of the story of Adam and Eve. In, William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Shakespeare uses the rise and ultimate demise of Macbeth to describe the Biblical concepts known as the “Fall of Man' and “Victory on Christ”.

The “Fall of Man” or more known as “The Garden of Eden” is the story of the first humans created by God, Adam and Eve. They were given a paradise to live in with God, it was a beautiful garden were they could harvest whatever they would like and live eternally happy. The only rule they had was that they could not eat from the tree that was at the center of the garden, the tree of knowledge, of good and evil. God told them that they would surely die if they ate the tree`s fruit. One day Satan disguised as a snake entered the sacred garden and started talking to Eve. He tempted Eve into eating the forbidden fruit and Eve after eating it tempted Adam and distributed the fruit to him. God was so upset that he decided to ban them from the garden and force them to live in a world where they had to harvest the land, the punishment for Eve and for all future woman was that giving birth would be incredibly painful. This story from the bible genesis 3, is very similar to Macbeth this is due to the fact that Macbeth is an allegory of the Bible. According to Literary Devices (2019), “An allegory is a figure of speech in which abstract ideas and principles are described in terms of characters, figures, and events. It can be employed in prose and poetry to tell a story, with a purpose of teaching or explaining an idea or a principle. The objective of its use is to teach some kind of a moral lesson”.

The symbolism in allegories may be clear but sometimes uncertain. If it is read without paying attention to the details you might even not realize that there is more than just the story. It will always fall upon de reader to recognize the details in the text and connect them with another text or concept in order to understand the real meaning.

While reading trough this masterpiece of a play the reader might stumble upon the fact that some of the main characters have an undisputed resemblance with biblical characters that are specially referred on the first chapter of the bible, Genesis. The specific chapter would be “Fall of Man”. If we dissect The Tragedy of Macbeth and compare it to the “Fall of Man” we must first give a meaning to the “Fall of Man”, for a fall to occur, one must be held at a higher place and then descend to a lower one. Adam was given a task to do and was given a certain amount of authority. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2. 16). Like Adam, Macbeth was put in a high position by his higher authority, Duncan. “No more that thane of Cawdor shall deceive Our bosom interest: go pronounce his present death, And with his former title greet Macbeth” (Macbeth 2003). Duncan gives Macbeth the title of “Thane of Cawdor” because he favors him because of his valor on the battlefield. This is very important to note because in Genesis, Adam was very close to God and that closeness is what made the betrayal so significant.

Like many stories that take elements from the “Garden of Eden” story, The Tragedy of Macbeth uses the concept of a female temptress. Evil or sin, entered the world by a woman according to this concept. “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” Lady Macbeth is the female temptress. Upon hearing about the witches’ prophecy Lady Macbeth starts to contemplate ways to get Macbeth to the throne faster. Her mind is taken over with evil and she comes up with a plan, kill Duncan. Not only does she want Duncan to die she wants Macbeth to carry out her sin for her. Like Eve, Lady Macbeth tempts her husband, Macbeth, into doing her dirty work for her. In the process of convincing Macbeth that he should “consume the forbidden fruit”, Macbeth double thinks this proposition and Lady Macbeth responds by saying this, “look like th' innocent flower, But be the serpent under't”.

The Old Testament Starts with Creation and then the fall of man and the New Testament starts with the Gospels the accounts of Jesus' life. Jesus is the savior or the “redeemer' for the original sin of Adam. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned —” Shakespeare uses the character of Macduff to represent Jesus Christ, there are two main clues that indicate that Macduff is in fact representative of Christ. While visiting the three witches again Macbeth receives prophecies or apparitions from three ghosts. One of the ghosts says to Macbeth that he would not be harmed by any one not born of a woman. Macbeth naively thinks that he will never be harmed because all people are born of a woman. However in his final battle with Macduff, Macduff reveals some interest insight into his past. “Despair thy charm, And let the angel whom thou still hast served Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb Untimely ripp'd”. In other terms Macduff was not born via the birth canal, he was born unnaturally and not through vagina, a part of the body that makes a woman a woman. Therefore one could say that he was not born of a woman. This unnaturally birth mirrors the birth of Jesus; Jesus was also birthed unnaturally, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son”. Jesus was born from a virgin. This is interesting because common belief is that when a woman has sex for the first time, she has become a woman. When you see these clear similarities you can argue that in fact both Macduff and Jesus Christ were not born from woman. This is our first sign that Macduff is a representation of Jesus.

The second and last evidence that Macduff is portrayed as Jesus, is when Macbeth is defeated. When Jesus passed away he freed the world from their sin .Through this death he redeemed men and disregarded the old era of laws with different rules that were no longer governed by the effects of Adam’s sin. By killing Macbeth, Macduff puts an end to everything Macbeth has done.


09 March 2021
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