Sarah Tenenbaum Walker (8-9)




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Sarah Tenenbaum
Walker (8-9)
English III
12 Oct 2010
“Ooh This Could be Messy”
Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, follows the life of the main characters Macbeth, and his wife Lady Macbeth as they forget the consequences and act on a whim. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth will do things they wouldn’t normally do in order to obtain and retain a new found power. Readers often find the main themes, main characters, and main moods from the play in different songs that one hears on the radio. By examining the lyrics of the songs “Afraid” by Nelly Furtado and “Hands Clean” by Alanis Morissette one will find the same main themes of the play, Macbeth, in these songs.

A reoccurring main theme in Macbeth is ambition. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have an extreme desire to be king and queen. However, Duncan is the current holder of the crown, and there are others in the way of him obtaining the crown. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth show their strong ambition for the crown when they are willing to go to any extent to get the crown. Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth, “When you durst do it, then you were a man; And, to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man,” (Shakespeare 1.7). This clearly shows Lady Macbeth’s ambition to be the woman behind the king. Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth to kill Duncan and frame the guards, and blame the murder on Duncan’s sons, Donalbain and Malcom. Macbeth does just that. As he realizes what he did, Macbeth starts having a hard time sleeping, and living with a murder hanging on his shoulder. Lady Macbeth takes the murder much lighter, she tells him he isn’t a man, and takes matters into her own hands when she has to put the daggers on the guards and make it seem like they killed Duncan. When Macbeth is crowned, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth act as if this is just good luck. Because of their severe ambition, achieving the crown may have looked easy to a reader.

Another main theme portrayed throughout Macbeth is greed. This theme goes hand in hand with ambition. Greed is very apparent when Macbeth commits the murder, and hires murderers to rid of Banquo and Fleance. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth can’t have the crown in their hands fast enough. They are greedy because they take someone else’s power when the person in power is not ready to give up the crown yet. Macbeth says, “Two truths are told, As happy prologues to the swelling act of the imperial theme ,” (1.3.128). When Macbeth says this he is expressing greed because he means that the witches have made two correct predictions. He thinks this means that the other prediction will come true. Now that these two have come true, he only wants more. He is showing that he has a strong desire to be king. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth devised a plan, which has forced Duncan out of his power and into death. They are also ruining the lives of Duncan’s two sons, and the lives of the guards. They use their greed and ambition to only help themselves. At this point in time they are not thinking of the consequences of the murders, but only the beneficial things that happen to them.

The theme ambition relates directly to the song “Hands Clean” by Alanis Morissette. In the first verse Alanis sings, “If you weren’t so wise beyond your years I would’ve been able to control myself.” (Alanis Morissette. “Hands Clean.”) This line explains Macbeth’s feelings toward Lady Macbeth. At the point where he has committed the murder of Duncan he is frustrated with himself and Lady Macbeth for persuading him to go forth with the plan. This line is saying that if Lady Macbeth didn’t devise this plan, and think so far ahead of herself, Macbeth wouldn’t be scared about the consequences of the murder and nervous about Banquo’s suspicions. Morissette sings, “Ooh this could be messy, But you don’t seem to mind, Ooh don’t go telling everybody, And overlook this supposed crime.” This also explains the way that Macbeth feels. He is nervous about the people finding out about the murder. This could explain what Macbeth wants to say to Lady Macbeth. In the line “Ooh this could be messy” (Alanis Morissette. “Hands Clean.”) is referring to the potential consequences that Macbeth could suffer for the murder. “But you don’t seem to mind” (Alanis Morissette. “Hands Clean.”) would refer to Lady Macbeth not caring about what she and Macbeth might have to face if the people find out that they have killed Banquo and Duncan. “Ooh don’t go telling everybody, And overlook this supposed crime” (Alanis Morissette. “Hands Clean.”) could be what Macbeth would say to Lady Macbeth. He doesn’t want her to think that he isn’t a man because he had a problem putting the daggers back. He also doesn’t want her to be the source at which people find out about the crime. In the lines “ We’ll fast forward to a few years later, And no one knows except the both of us, And I have honored your request for silence, And you’ve washed your hands clean of this” (Alanis Morissette. “Hands Clean.”) relates straightforwardly relates to the situation Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are in. This would be Lady Macbeth speaking to Macbeth. She would explain that in the future he will still have the crown and no one will know about the murder. She would also say that she hasn’t told anyone about the murder and he shouldn’t worry anymore because he has “washed his hands clean” of the murder. “Hands Clean” is a perfect song to portray the theme ambition to Macbeth.

“Afraid” by Nelly Furtado also shows the theme greed, which relates to the greed Macbeth and Lady Macbeth both have. In her song, Furtado sings, “All you need is some self-reliance, Cause the world is gonna always try us.” (Nelly Furtado. “Afraid.”) This would be Lady Macbeth channeling her greed into persuasion. This persuasion will convince Macbeth to commit the murders and get the crown. She is saying that he needs to trust her and himself and go for it, because it isn’t going to be handed to him if he doesn’t try. Furtado goes on to sing, “We all have the choice to take the lead or follow, I want to feel the light shine on me.” (Nelly Furtado. “Afraid.”) This line directly targets Lady Macbeth’s ambition and greed to seek the crown and eliminate anyone in the way of her path. She would be telling Macbeth he can either kill Duncan and Banquo, take the lead, or sit behind and watch Duncan be king, or follow. Then she says that she wants the light on her. The light relates to the crown and power. She wants all the power and she wants to be the one people look up to and love. Since she can’t have that, so she pushed Macbeth to want and get that. Finally Furtado sings, “I’m a leader not a follower, And I’d rather be paid and popular.” (Nelly Furtado. “Afraid.”) This would be Macbeth saying he’s made up his mind, he is going to be a leader, and he is going to kill the people blocking his path to power. Lady Macbeth fully supports this decision because she wants to be the one behind the man in power.

Some of the themes that one sees in the play Macbeth relate to themes that one sees in modern day music. Themes such as ambition and greed are shown in the songs “Hands Clean” by Alanis Morissette, and in “Afraid” by Nelly Furtado. These two artists perfectly display main conversations Macbeth and Lady Macbeth might have had. Macbeth’s decisions to kill Duncan and hire murderers to kill Banquo will receive their proper consequences as the play continues. Finally, one will learn how far Lady Macbeth will push Macbeth before it’s too late.


Works Cited:
Furtado, Nelly. “Afraid.” Loose .Geffen, 2006
Morissette, Alanis. “Hands Clean.” Under Rug Swept, 2002
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1985. Print.


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