How to Write a Critical Essay on Macbeth

Writing guide
Posted on January 15, 2020

For a student pursuing higher education, particularly in literature, knowing how to write a critical essay on “Macbeth” is one of the things that must be learned that is assigned to students on a regular basis. When writing this type of essay, you will be required to do more than just describe ideas and provide evidence on the ideas you are proposing.

This type of paper entails more exploration of the ideas you have proposed and then evaluating each point you have suggested. You will also be required to compare the ideas and evidence of the points you are exploring with other issues that are similar to those you are writing about.

Moreover, you are to be really versed in the original text of ‘Macbeth’ created by William Shakespeare as citing and referring to the entire texts will be a necessary component of your writing. Be sure to get acquainted with the text before you set to working on the critical essay, no matter which aspect or conflict you choose to analyze.

Step-by-Step Guide to Writing on Shakespeare’s Play

Writing a critical essay on “Macbeth” might seem complicated. However, if you did your best to read the play, you ease the task.

First, ensure you understand the tutor’s requirements. If you start your writing without clearly understanding the essay details, you set yourself up for failure.


  • Step 1. Make sure you know what your tutor expects from you. If you don’t, ask your instructor for details.
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  • Step 2. Get an idea of the source material available. The source material is available in the form of media – a movie, a book, or any other work of art. Review the source material more than once.
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  • Step 3. Take as many notes as you can when you assess your source material. It’s the key to success for your critical essay on “Macbeth.” Before you can write a good critical essay, you must be able to create solid arguments to highlight the ideas you are presenting. Forming solid arguments implies learning to bring forth your reasoning and all the evidence in a clear and well-structured way. In addition, the arrangement of the arguments should lead the reader to your logical conclusion. In order to make solid arguments, you must critically analyze and evaluate the subject for every argument, and you should provide good responses. The starting point to writing a good critical essay is the ability to critically analyze and evaluate the points that you are making. It is only after doing a critical evaluation of the issues of your essay that it will be possible for you to begin writing your critical essay.

Critical Reading

A critical essay on ‘Macbeth’ asks you to evaluate this famous piece by William Shakespeare. To do a critical analysis of this text, you have to become familiar with the primary recourse – the tragedy.

Get to know more about a courageous Scottish general named Macbeth by reading and rereading the work by a well-known English poet and playwright. Why is it important to do it several times? The point is that you have to look at the story about Macbeth who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches from different ‘distances’ and angles to make a clear viewpoint at the end of the day. Why? Mainly because of the fact that Macbeth is one of the most mysterious and uncommon tragedies of Shakespeare.

Check Your Notes

After you’ve finished your reading and taking notes session, check your notes to see what problems and patterns stand in the text. Try to come up with a solution to the problems you’ve identified. For instance, you may notice that even though Macbeth embraces evil and take the step of no return when it comes to killing someone, the main character also evokes some kind of sympathy in the readers. Here, you’re welcome to make an educated guess about why the audience might feel that way. This solution will help you develop your essay focus. But together with that, you’ll have to come up with a solid argument to back up your point of view.

Do Your Research

If required, search for trusted secondary sources. If the students of your course are required to use sources for the project on “Macbeth,” you’ll have to perform some research. Ask your tutor or view critical essay instructions to find out what type of secondary sources you have to use.


  • Check British Library to find out more about this piece of literature.
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  • Go to to get your hands on various animated videos that let one explore the play and its context or use a contemporary translation that makes William Shakespeare’s language more understandable and approachable.
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  • Browse to review a detailed analysis of the play.

Articles from magazines, newspapers, or scholarly journals and books are some sources that you might use in your work. Consider using also databases of your college library in addition to internet research. Your college might be subscribed to various databases that give you free direct access to many different resources that students can’t reach via a search engine.

Read Your Research and Take Notes

When you have all your sources in front of you, you have to read them. Do it carefully just the way you did when reading your primary sources. Do your reading several times to ensure you understand your focus and take notes. If there are any significant passages that you find important to the story of Macbeth, highlight each to be able to get back to it later. Indicate clearly when you quote some source by using quotation marks and jotting down some details about the source like the book or article title, the name of the author, the number of the page.


  • Never highlight sentences of phrases only because they look meaningful.
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  • Always highlight phrases or sentences that do support your arguments.

Writing Your Critical Essay on Macbeth

Once you’ve got all those ideas at hand, develop your thesis statement. A tentative thesis statement will reflect the main focus of your critical essay and provide an arguable idea. Your thesis statement might include only one or several sentences. In case you go multi-sentence way, include the general idea in the first sentence and proceed to a narrow one in the second sentence.

It’s important to make your thesis clear and ensure it has the right scope of information. In other words, you can’t just say that Macbeth or witches are ‘bad.’You have to specify what exactly makes them “bad.”

In a critical essay on ‘Macbeth,’ your thesis statement might sounds as follows, “In the very beginning of ‘Macbeth,’ the Scottish general is depicted as a faithful and courageous soldier that plays an important role in the king’s eyes. Macbeth is the Thane of Glamis, and he is not looking for any financial benefit. The moment Macbeth meets the three witches, listens to what they say about his future, and retells the story to his wife, the Lady Macbeth forces her husband to make it happen. Macbeth feels his desire for power overcoming him. Eventually, he kills the king in order to grasp the power in his own hands. Critical arguments about the concept of power could set your thesis statement for creating this type of an essay.

Once you have carried out the research and ground work to know what you want to base your critical paper on, you should begin working on your paper after developing strong arguments. It is at this point where you develop your line of argument when you consider the organization, expression and sequence of the ideas of your essay paper. This should be done in order to ensure the essay you write will flow logically.

Develop the Structure

As well as any college essay, critical essay on ‘Macbeth’ must be structured properly. Just a chaotic flow of phrases and sentences will never let you submit a five-star piece. Thus, you can’t miss the basic structure for your critical project:

  • The introductory paragraph is an opening part of a critical essay. It has an engaging hook that attracts your readers and make them wanting to know more. It’s your goal here to begin the discussion with outlining the main ideas. At the end of your introductory section, there should be an informative and clear thesis statement. If you include these important elements, you will be able to lead your readers to your critical interpretation of ‘Macbeth.’
  • The main sections. This is the part of the critical essay where you provide all of your ideas and supporting arguments, as well as cover the key issues that you mentioned in the intro. In order to come up with the best results possible, give your audience the description of all the examples, and add quotes for research credibility. The general purpose of yours here is to read, analyze, and inform your readers. For that reason, you have to pay attention to the way William Shakespeare presents the main material in his play. Is it accurately? Disorderly? Clearly?
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  • Your critical conclusion. At this stage, you do your best to sum up your critical essay on “Macbeth.” You write up to 150 words and, if allowed or required by the tutor, add your personal viewpoint.

‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare: What to Evaluate?

Taking into account your main goal here – to write a critical essay on a famous play – you have to get the idea of criticism. The latter works as the process of judging both – negative and positive aspects of the written piece. When writing a critical essay on “Macbeth,” you consider:

  • The main positive aspects of the play.
  • The general style of the play.
  • The core readers that might be the most interested in this piece.
  • The goals that Bard of Avon tried to achieve through his work.

In case with the critical essay on the play, your primary goal is to consider all the points that we’ve just discussed. To put it simply, when your readers open your essay at some point, they should not have any questions regarding the clarity of the structure or your writing in general. From the first glance, they must get the idea of the discussed aspect and ensure it is worth their attention.

Writing a critical paper is all about getting the message you want to send to your readers, and this entails ensuring the arguments you make are presented in a logical and clear way. Even as you critically argue your points, it is important that you organize them in a manner that will enable the reader to follow the points easily.

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