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Macbeth Essay

Character Study of Macbeth: From "Brave Macbeth" to "Dead Butcher"

❶Through the experiences of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare demonstrates that self-destructive guilt cannot be assuaged by recourse to action nor by even the most determined effort to expunge the pangs of conscience by active engagement in denial and transference. This emotion has been important in many events in both works of literature, and in the real world.

How does Lady Macbeth explain Macbeth's strange behavior at the banquet?

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Realization of flaw but unable to prevent tragedy. Plan to meet Macbeth B. Statement that fair is foul, and foul is fair. Allegiance to Scotland and Duncan A. Battle with Macdonwald B. Battle with the King of Norway C. Honor bestowed on Macbeth 2. Witches on the battlefield A. Duncan greets Macbeth with respect B. Decisions made before Macbeth is king A. Eve of the Murder 1. Murder of the guards 2. Macbeth named as king.

Decisions made as King A. Fear of prophecy 2. Reaction to Murderers 2. Meeting with the Witches 1. Response to Prophecy 2. Macduff and family 3. Leaving for Dunsinane in England D. False sense of security E. Revealing prophecy to Macduff 3. Where did they get their information? Why deliver the prophecies on the heath? We know about the heath and Cawdor, but we do not know the source of the other prophecies.

Is it possible that the witches are able to tell the future? When Ross and Angus enter to proclaim Macbeth's promotion, the announcement comes as a surprise to him, and temporarily our attention is diverted since the two men merely state what we have already seen.

More subtly, however, as Macbeth believes the event to be a fulfilment of a prophecy, we note somewhere in the back of our minds that we do not have any information about Macbeth that would allow us to understand how he could become king, especially since we are unaware of any problems with the present King.

What Shakespeare is doing here with Macbeth is comparable to peeling an onion: In the next few lines it becomes apparent that Macbeth not only has thought about being king, but he also believes what the witches tell him is true:. Shakespeare's handling of the three witches or "weird sisters" of Macbeth is in itself equivocal.

He assigns them the first dozen lines of the play their proclamation that "fair is foul, and foul is fair" I, i. When their prediction of Act I, scene iii that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor comes true almost instantaneously, the broad contours of the play's plot are set; Macbeth will become king of Scotland and this will require the elimination of Duncan and his sons.

While the witches perform seminal and salient functions in the play, their appearance on stage is nonetheless limited. Assuming that Act III, scene v. We see very little of the witches and this, in turn, contributes to our uncertainty about who or what they are.

They clearly possess supernatural powers, including the capacity to foretell the future and to read the minds of the mortals with whom they come in contact, and this suggests that they are real but supernatural. On the other hand, even after their final manifestation at the start of Act IV, Shakespeare undercuts the reality of the witches, again raising the possibility that the weird sisters are an hallucination, an emanation from the human psyche.

The key characteristic of Macbeth's witches is that while they can influence Macbeth's actions, they cannot compel him to commit the evil deeds that he undertakes in the course of the Scottish tragedy.

This limitation on the power of the weird sisters, their dependency upon human will to work their black arts, is highlighted by the difference between Banquo's reaction to their initial predictions and that of Macbeth.

After their encounter with the witches in Act I, scene iii, Banquo wonders aloud about whether they were real or whether he and Macbeth are suffering from some type of hallucination: It is not Macbeth, but Banquo, who first notices the witches on the heath, asking Macbeth: Banquo then asks the witches directly whether they "live or are "aught" and Macbeth demands further, "Speak, if you can, what are you? They do not respond to these questions, but simply hail Macbeth, first as Thane of Glamis, then as Thane of Cawdor, and finally as "King hereafter.

Given the witches' prediction that he will become Scotland's king, we have ample reason to believe that Macbeth and his partner in regicide, Lady Macbeth, will succeed in their enterprise of murdering Duncan. What is most remarkable is that just fifty lines earlier, Macbeth has flatly told his wife that they shall proceed no further in the bloody business at hand; in the midst of Lady Macbeth's subsequent argument against such "unmanly" inaction, he commands her to hold her peace.

Lady Macbeth defies him, and the spurs embedded in her reply tap deeply into Macbeth's psyche. Most interpreters have focused on Lady Macbeth's skillful manipulation of gender identities and the strong innuendo of sexual tension between the two in their explanations of why Macbeth changes his mind and decides to kill the king.

But Macbeth is not merely a susceptible puppet of his wife's finely-honed goading, for while she is the prime mover in the assassination of Duncan, the other murders in the play of Banquo and MacDuff's family are exclusively Macbeth's doing and this shows that he retains the capacity for independent action.

Lady Macbeth's influence is a catalyst, but Macbeth is a willing object of her persuasions, but the seeds of his decision are sown well before the end of Act I.

The witches' promised intention to meet Macbeth aside, the first we hear of him is in Act I, scene ii, as a wounded sergeant reports that "brave Macbeth" swathed in the blood of the rebels, "unseam'd" the old Thane of Cawdor "from the nave to th' chops" I, ii.

The loyal officer Rosse then says that Macbeth is "Bellona's bridegroom" I, ii. Even before he arrives on stage, we know that Macbeth is capable of bloody deeds in a good cause , while the figurative reference to Bellona will soon materialize in the character of Lady Macbeth. It is after this, in Act I, scene iii, the Macbeth and Banquo encounter the witches with their intriguing prediction that Macbeth will become Scotland's monarch. Macbeth leaves open the normative question of whether this prediction is good or ill, but when he becomes Thane of Cawdor by "chance," he speculates that it may be possible for him to become king "without my stir" I, iii, l.

Macbeth's hopes for a passive and legitimate route to the throne are dashed in the very next scene of the play. In Act I, scene iv, the good King Duncan tells Macbeth that he owes more to his loyal general than he can pay l. This is somewhat illogical, but for a brief moment it appears that Macbeth might becoming king without "stirring," that Duncan might name him as his successor. But after Duncan names his son Malcolm as heir apparent, Macbeth realizes that the prophecy that he will become Scotland's monarch will not unfold without action on his part.

He acknowledges that this will entail Duncan's murder and that his ambitions have caused him to develop a still notional murder plan.

Toward the end of the scene, Macbeth withdraws and, in a stage aside, he tells us the naming of Malcolm is a step that bars his ascent With the possible exception of King Lear, no character in any of Shakespeare's plays undergoes such a radical devolution as that which transforms Lady Macbeth from a nearly superhuman character in the first act of Macbeth into a sleep-walking zombie at the start of Act V.

When we first see Lady Macbeth on stage, she is plainly in command of her faculties and, in fact, she has deliberately intensified her capacity to realize her royal ambitions for power.

We learn of her again at the start of Act V when a doctor The complexity of the character of Macbeth and the 'curse' that attends its performance in the theatre would seem to make it a poor choice for performance. It is these very qualities, however, that make it one of the most popular plays in the canon. The role of Macbeth has the ability to provoke sympathy and ire occuring in the text simultaneously, but these qualities only become clearer when an actor brings the play to life on the stage, in a film, or in a television programme.

Which element is emphasised is the choice of the director, and this choice affects the play's balance and overall impact. Unlike many of Shakespeare's plays, there is an eye-witness account of a performance at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in The Tragedy of Macbeth is undoubtedly one of the darkest portraits of a villain that Shakespeare could have written.

Macbeth is without any redeeming qualities whatsoever, as he and his venomous Queen murder their way to the throne of Scotland, before revenge and insanity take their toll. Is it possible that the people of Scotland would have tolerated such an ignoble pair?

As experience has taught, trying to understand British history from Shakespeare's history plays is a wasted effort, since the playwright was in the business of filling his playhouse with plays that people would pay to see.

Naturally, he would take an incident and turn it into a spell-binding yarn to satisfy the patrons. If this is so, then it is necessary Through the experiences of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare demonstrates that self-destructive guilt cannot be assuaged by recourse to action nor by even the most determined effort to expunge the pangs of conscience by active engagement in denial and transference.

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