79 terms

Paper 1: Macbeth - Shakespeare

STUDY
PLAY

Terms in this set (...)

What evidence do we have that the Witches are ambiguous?
THIRD APPARITION: Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care / Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are. / Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane hill / Shall come against him. MACBETH: That will never be. (Act 4 Scene 1) The Witches have conjured up three ghostly visions that make ambiguous predictions. Macbeth is told that he need not fear anything ('take no care who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are') until a forest of trees uproots itself and moves. As this seems to be a physical impossibility Macbeth instantly dismisses it ever happening ('That will never be'). The prediction will come true - but not quite in the way Macbeth expects.
What are the 3 main themes in the play?
Ambition and power, the supernatural and appearances and reality.
What is Macbeth?
Macbeth by William Shakespeare is a play about how ambition and the love of power can destroy someone and those around them.
Who are the main characters?
The two main characters are: Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
Who are the secondary characters?
There are 5 secondary characters: Banquo, Macduff and the 3 Witches.
Who are the minor characters?
The minor characters are: Duncan, Malcolm, Donalbain, Fleance, Seyton, Lady Macduff, the porter and Hecate.
Who is Macbeth?
Macbeth is a complex character who changes throughout the course of the play. He is clearly a brave warrior and leader at the start of the drama but he falls victim to the Witches' predictions. It is unclear whether they plant ideas in his mind or whether they simply highlight thoughts that he has already had. In a series of soliloquies he repeatedly questions himself about his motives for killing the King but is eventually persuaded to continue by his forceful wife. Having committed murder he finds himself caught in a spiral of evil from which he can see no escape. His actions become less heroic and more cowardly as he continues to murder and terrorize others in order to hold on to his power. Towards the end of the play, when he realizes that he is doomed, he briefly returns to his old heroic self.
How is Macbeth ambitious?
At the start of the play, Macbeth is Thane of Glamis. He quickly becomes the more powerful Thane of Cawdor and then murders his way to become and remain King of Scotland. The Witches' predictions seem to waken the ambition already in him and he is spurred on by his wife.
What evidence is there of Macbeth being ambitious?
"The prince of Cumberland: That is a step / On which I must fall down, or else o'er-leap, / For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires; / Let not light see my black and deep desires, / The eye wink at the hand. Yet let that be, / Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see." (Act 1 Scene 4) Macbeth is clearly worried by the strength of his own ambition which he refers to as black and deep desires. He knows there will be obstacles in his way but is determined to get round them. He just hopes that nobody will see what he is up to which is why he wants the stars to stop shining.
How is Macbeth brave?
At the start of the play, Macbeth shows that he is a mighty warrior when he leads the Scottish troops to victory over an invading force. Duncan, the King, rewards him by making him Thane of Cawdor. At the end of the play, when he knows he is about to die, Macbeth regains some of his old bravery, as he faces Macduff in single combat.
What evidence do we have that Macbeth is brave?
"For brave Macbeth-- well he deserves that name -- / Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel, / Which smoked with bloody execution, / Like Valour's minion carved out his passage / Till he faced the slave, Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, / Till he unseamed him from the nave to th'chaps, / And fixed his head upon our battlements." (Act 1 Scene 2). The Captain describes Macbeth's actions on the battlefield particularly when he seeks out and kills the traitor Macdonwald. The Captain uses a number of strong verbs and adjectives to show how brave Macbeth: 'brandished', 'smoked' , 'carved', 'unseamed' and 'fixed'.
How is Macbeth changeable?
Macbeth keeps changing his mind about whether to murder Duncan or not. This is particularly so in the early part of the play. His ambition conflicts with his sense of loyalty and morality. Lady Macbeth is key to persuading him and keeping him determined.
What evidence do we have that Macbeth is changeable?
"We will proceed no further in this business. / He hath honoured me of late, and I have bought / Golden opinions from all sorts of people, / Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, / Not cast aside so soon. I am settled and bend up / Each corporeal agent to this terrible feat." (Act 1 Scene 7) Macbeth has just spent a difficult time convincing himself that killing the King is wrong. He tells Lady Macbeth that he will not carry out the deed. Within the space of a couple of minutes she argues the case for Duncan's death and Macbeth is, once again, set on murder.
How does Macbeth have a guilty conscience?
Throughout the play, Macbeth is tormented by thoughts of the evil things he has done. However, he is caught in a spiral of evil and does not seem able to stop himself.
What evidence do we have that Macbeth has a guilty conscience?
"(seeing the GHOST) Avaunt, and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee! / Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold; / Thou hast no speculation in those eyes / Which thou dost glare with." (Act 3 Scene 4) Banquo's ghost appears to Macbeth alone, showing his overactive imagination triggered by a guilty conscience. Although he is now a king, Macbeth cannot command his own emotions and feels irrevocably set on this course of action. The court thinks he is going mad.
Analyse this passage "Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee: I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but A dagger of the mind, a false creation, Proceeding from the heat-oppressèd brain? I see thee yet, in form as palpable As this which now I draw." (Act 2 Scene 1)
'dagger' / 'a dagger of the mind' - the Macbeths intend to use a dagger as the murder weapon. After the murder Macbeth's conscience will continue to stab him - just like a dagger
'I have thee not, and yet I see thee still' / 'I see thee yet' - Macbeth's mind is very confused as he tries to hold the non-existent weapon
'fatal vision' / 'false creation' - is the dagger something conjured up by evil spirits or Macbeth's own conscience?
'this which now I draw' - Macbeth compares the imaginary dagger to the one he is actually holding.
What is the king's divine right to rule?
A king in Shakespeare's time was thought to rule by 'divine right'. This meant that God had chosen that person directly to rule over others. The killing of a king (known as regicide) was therefore considered to be just about the worst crime that anyone could commit. That is why Macbeth's decision to murder Duncan seemed so horrific to an audience of the time and why the murderer has such a guilty conscience. The new King on the throne of England, James I (also known as James VI of Scotland), was paranoid about assassination attempts. This was unsurprising, since the infamous Gunpowder Plot to blow up the King and Parliament had taken place just months before Macbeth was first performed.
What do we know about Lady Macbeth?
Lady Macbeth is even more ambitious and ruthless than her husband. As soon as an opportunity to gain power presents itself, she has a plan in mind. She uses her influence to persuade Macbeth that they are taking the right course of action and even takes part in the crime herself. For a while she is able to suppress her actions but eventually she becomes unable to deal with the guilt of what she has done. She becomes unable to sleep, and mentally unstable, eventually dying in tragic circumstances.
What social and historical context does Shakespeare's play reflect?
Macbeth was written by Shakespeare in approximately 1606. The early 17th century was a time of political upheaval, suspicion and superstition. A new king had just come to power and the future of the country seemed quite uncertain. Shakespeare's play reflects these changes.
What are the 8 key plot points?
1.While returning from a battle victory, Macbeth, a powerful lord, meets three Witches who predict that he will become King of Scotland. 2.Macbeth tells his wife of the Witches' predictions and she encourages him to murder the current king, Duncan, who is staying with them as a guest. 3.After Macduff discovers the murder, Duncan's sons flee the country, leaving the way clear for Macbeth to become king. 4.Banquo, Macbeth's best friend, becomes suspicious of what his friend has done so Macbeth has him murdered too. 5.Macbeth pays a second visit to the Witches and receives more predictions. 6.In England, Malcolm, Duncan's elder son, and his chief supporter, Macduff, plan to invade Scotland to win back the throne. An enraged Macbeth has Macduff's wife and children killed; Macduff swears revenge. 7.Lady Macbeth suffers from guilt for what she has done and eventually commits suicide. 8.Malcolm's invasion is successful and Macduff kills Macbeth. Malcolm becomes the new King of Scotland and the country counts the cost of Macbeth's short but bloody reign.
Describe Macbeth's first meeting with the Witches.
Macbeth, the powerful Thane of Glamis, has led the Scottish army of King Duncan to victory against an invading force and has personally fought bravely. As he returns from the battle with his best friend, Banquo, they meet three Witches. They predict that Macbeth will be made Thane of Cawdor, a more powerful position than that he currently holds, and eventually become King of Scotland. They also tell Banquo that although he will never be king, his descendants will; the Witches then vanish. Almost immediately, Macbeth receives the news that in gratitude for leading his troops to victory Duncan is making him Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth begins to wonder whether this means the other predictions will come true as well.
Describe the murder of Duncan.
Duncan is due to stay with the Macbeths as a house guest. When Lady Macbeth receives Macbeth's news in a letter, she resolves to make the most of the situation. Macbeth and his wife plan and carry out Duncan's murder. When Macbeth hesitates, his wife encourages him; she even takes part in the action. They try to cover up their deed by making it seem as if the King's servants are responsible. The following morning, Macduff, the Thane of Fife, discovers the King's body. In the confusion that follows, Macbeth kills Duncan's innocent guards so that they cannot talk. Malcolm and Donalbain, the king's sons, flee the country and the way is left clear for Macbeth to seize the throne.
Describe the scenes in which it is clear that Macbeth has a guilty conscience.
Despite being King, Macbeth does not feel secure, especially when he thinks about the Witches' prediction that Banquo's descendants and not his own will be kings in the future. Banquo is suspicious of Macbeth's part in Duncan's death so Macbeth arranges for some hired murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. They murder Banquo but Fleance escapes. Macbeth is furious but can do nothing. Later, at a banquet, Banquo's blood-stained ghost appears to Macbeth. Only he can see the ghost and the rest of the court begin to wonder whether Macbeth is going mad.
What happens when Macbeth meets the Witches for a second time?
Macbeth decides to consult the Witches again. They show him visions which tell Macbeth: to beware of Macduff, that he cannot be harmed by anyone born of a woman and that he is safe until Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane Hill. As the second and third predictions are logically and physically impossible, Macbeth feels relatively safe. However, he learns that Macduff has gone to join Malcolm in England. Angered by what he sees as Macduff's treachery, he orders Macduff's castle to be seized and the Macduff family to be slaughtered. A devastated Macduff swears revenge on Macbeth and vows to support Malcolm in regaining the Scottish throne.
What happens to Lady Macbeth after Duncan's murder?
Ever since Duncan's death, Lady Macbeth's conscience has been troubling her. She has taken to sleepwalking and tries to wash her hands clean of imaginary blood. She eventually dies; it is suggested by Malcolm later that she kills herself, but Macbeth seems almost too preoccupied to notice.
How does Birnam Wood move to Dunsinane Hill?
Malcolm and Macduff's invasion begins; Macbeth still thinks he is protected by the Witches' predictions but he is wrong. When the invading army cut down the trees in Birnam Wood to use as camouflage, as they move to Macbeth's castle in Dunsinane, it seems as though the trees themselves are moving.
How can Macduff kill Macbeth if Macbeth can't be killed by any man born of a woman?
Macduff comes face-to-face with Macbeth in battle. Macbeth boasts that Macduff cannot harm him but Macduff declares that he was not born naturally, but by Caesarean section. The two men fight and Macduff kills and then beheads Macbeth. Malcolm is declared the new king of Scotland.
Who is Banquo?
Banquo is another general in King Duncan's army and Macbeth's best friend. While both men have ambitious thoughts, Banquo is more cautious and does not resort to murder to get what he wants. Banquo is aware that the Witches' predictions may be tricking Macbeth into evil actions and is the first to suspect Macbeth of murder. He dies while protecting his son, Fleance, and comes back as a ghost to haunt Macbeth.
How is Banquo noble?
Banquo is in many ways Macbeth's opposite. He is kind and caring, loyal and trustworthy. Like Macbeth he fights bravely for King Duncan but does not involve himself with the murder plot. When he and Fleance are attacked his first thought is to keep his son safe. Banquo displays all the character traits that go to make up someone who would be regarded as a truly noble person.
What evidence do we have that Banquo is noble?
"Our fears in Banquo / Stick deep, and in his royalty of nature / Reigns that which would be feared. 'Tis much he dares, / And to that dauntless temper of his mind, / He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour / To act in safety. There is none but he / Whose being I do fear." Act 3 Scene 1 - Macbeth considers what it is about Banquo that gives him cause for concern. He states that Banquo has a 'royalty of nature' or nobility about him which actually makes Macbeth afraid of him. He also acknowledges that Banquo has 'valour' (bravery) and 'wisdom' without feeling the need to take unnecessary risks.
How is Banquo questioning?
Banquo seems far less ready to believe the Witches than Macbeth and is suspicious of their motives. He realizes that the things they predict/suggest may cause his friend to come to harm. Although, like Macbeth, he is ambitious, he thinks more carefully about the consequences of any action.
What evidence do we have that Banquo is questioning?
"That, trusted home, / Might yet enkindle you unto the crown, / Besides the Thane of Cawdor. But 'tis strange, / And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, / The instruments of darkness tell us truths; / Win us with honest trifles, to betray's / In deepest consequence." (Act 1 Scene 3) Having listened to the Witches' predictions, Banquo recognises that Macbeth has been given the spark that will have lit up his ambitious streak ('enkindle'). He also realises that the predictions are temptations which only reveal part of the truth ('honest trifles'). This is in order to set a trap for something of greater significance, 'to betray's in deepest consequence'.
Who is Macduff?
Macduff, the Thane of Fife, is Macbeth's deadly enemy. He discovers Duncan's body and becomes Malcolm's chief supporter, following him to England to support him in raising an army against Macbeth. When he learns of the murders of his wife and family, Macduff feels guilty about leaving them and driven by a need for revenge. According to the Witches' prediction, Macduff is the only one who can stop Macbeth. The two men meet face-to-face on the battlefield and Macduff kills Macbeth.
How is Macduff loyal?
Macduff's first loyalty is to his king and country. It is he who discovers Duncan's body and reveals the full horror of the murder. He follows Malcolm, the rightful king, to England and becomes his right-hand man supporting him in his bid to regain the throne.
What evidence do we have that Macduff is loyal?
Macduff, this noble passion, / Child of >integrity, hath from my soul / Wiped the black scruples, reconciled my thoughts / To thy good truth and honour. Devilish Macbeth / By many of these trains hath sought to win me / Into his power, and modest wisdom plucks me / From over-credulous haste; but God above / Deal between thee and me, for even now / I put myself to thy direction (Act 4 Scene 3) Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty by pretending to be a worse human being than Macbeth himself. Macduff refuses to give up his loyalty to the Scottish royal family. Malcolm reveals his deception and contrasts the 'integrity' and 'good truth and honour' of Macduff with that of 'Devilish Macbeth'. He finishes by saying that he completely trusts Macduff - 'I put myself to thy direction'.
How is Macduff revengeful?
Macduff wants to rid his country of the tyrant Macbeth and vows to help Malcolm achieve this. When he learns of the murder of his family he becomes even more determined to take revenge. He and Macbeth come face-to-face on the battlefield and Macduff is victorious.
What evidence do we have that Macduff is revengeful?
O, I could play the woman with mine eyes / And braggart with my tongue! But gentle heavens, / Cut short all intermission. Front to front / Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself; / Within my sword's length set him; if he scape, / Heaven forgive him too. (Act 4 Scene 3) Macduff is actually a man of few words preferring to get on with things. He could sit around crying about his loss ('I could play the woman with mine eyes') or making great speeches about his intentions ('braggart with my tongue'). Instead he cannot wait for the moment ('cut short all intermission') when he and Macbeth come face-to-face and he can be avenged.
Who are the Witches?
Although there is clearly more than one of them, the Witches may be seen as seem as a single character; they are often referred to as "The Weird Sisters". Their predictions drive matters forward though they never actually suggest direct action. Rather, they plant ideas in Macbeth's mind and let his ambition do the rest. Many of their predictions are ambiguous.
How are the Witches supernatural?
The Witches are clearly unlike any other characters in the play. Their physical appearance, their style of speech, their actions and their apparent ability to predict the future sets them apart from the humans they seek to control.
What evidence do we have that the Witches are supernatural?
Round about the cauldron go; / In, the poisoned entrails throw. / Toad, that under cold stone / Days and nights hast thirty-one / Sweltered venom sleeping got, / Boil thou first i'th'charmèd pot. / Double, double, toil and trouble; / Fire burn, and cauldron bubble. (Act 4 Scene 1) The Witches meet around one of the most well-known symbols of witchcraft - a cauldron. Into this they throw all manner of foul and evil objects ('poisoned entrails') and cast a spell. Although it is not clear what the spell is for, it is obvious they are up to no good. The Witches' chant is in a different rhythm to the way the other characters speak - this also suggests their supernatural nature.
How are the Witches ambiguous?
When the Witches make their predictions, they only say what will happen and not how it will happen. Macbeth falls into their trap and believes that he is safer than he actually is.
How is the theme of ambition and power shown in the play?
Shakespeare set Macbeth in the distant past and in a part of Britain that few of his audience would have been familiar with. Scotland is shown as a wild and savage place ruled over by a weak king, Duncan, who relies on his warrior thanes to keep control. However, through the character of Macbeth, Shakespeare goes on to show that having too much ambition and total control of power is just as bad. By the end of the play Malcolm has become King and it seems likely that he will be much fairer and treat his people justly.
How does Shakespeare examine the good and bad aspects of ambition and power?
In Macbeth, William Shakespeare examines the good and bad aspects of ambition and power. Some of the key aspects are: the fatal flaw, leadership and greed.
What is the fatal flaw?
In a tragic play, the fatal flaw refers to the basic mistake in the central character's personality which drives their actions. Macbeth is basically a good man who goes wrong. He is driven by a need for power which eventually sets him on a path to his own destruction. His wife shares this fatal flaw with him.
What evidence do we have of the fatal flaw?
I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself And falls on th'other -- / [Enter Lady Macbeth] / How now? What news? (Act 1 Scene 7) Macbeth has been thinking about whether or not he should murder Duncan. He reaches the conclusion that the only thing that is motivating him (his 'spur') is ambition which he compares to a horse leaping over an obstacle ('vaulting ambition'). As for the horse and rider, what is on the other side of the obstacle is unknown - it could, of course, be disaster. However, before Macbeth can complete the thought and turn away from the crime, he is interrupted by Lady Macbeth entering. Had she not appeared at this point, the outcome might have been different.
How does Shakespeare use leadership?
In Macbeth, Shakespeare shows us three very different leaders. Duncan is not a good king as although he is kind and generous, he is weak. Macbeth is strong but becomes a bullying dictator. Malcolm seems to strike a healthy balance and combines the good qualities of both men.
What evidence do we have of this?
The king-becoming graces - / As justice, verity, temp'rance, stableness, / Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, / Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude - / I have no relish of them, but abound / In the division of each several crime, / Acting it many ways. (Act 4 Scene 3) Malcolm lists the qualities of a good king or leader when he is testing Macduff's loyalty. As part of the test Malcolm pretends that he has none of these qualities either. It is clear is that Macbeth does not have any of these virtues; if anything he displays the absolute opposites. Even his courage, clearly reported at the start of the play, has deserted him as he terrorises and murders those around him.
How does Shakespeare use greed?
As part of Macbeth's ambition he becomes greedy and selfish. He cannot accept that Banquo's descendants will become kings after him and sets out to alter the prediction by having Banquo and Fleance murdered. He is even unprepared to share power with his wife as he puts her to one side, making secretive decisions and apparently not even caring when she dies.
What evidence do we have of the use of greed?
For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind; / For them, the gracious Duncan have I murdered, / Put rancours in the vessel of my peace, / Only for them, and mine eternal jewel / Given to the common enemy of man, / To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings. / Rather than so, come Fate into the list, / And champion me to th'utterance. (Act 3 Scene 1) As Macbeth completely believes the Witches' predictions he must also believe that Banquo's descendants will inherit the throne after him ('the seed of Banquo kings'). He thinks that everything he has done has ultimately been for their benefit ('For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind'); he has even put his soul ('mine eternal jewel') in danger. His greed means that he wishes to keep power for himself and his own family. So he concludes that the only way forward is to try to alter the prediction by murdering Banquo and Fleance.
Who is more ambitious, Macbeth or Lady Macbeth?

MACBETH
"If we should fail?"
LADY MACBETH
"We fail?
But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we'll not fail." - Act 1 Scene 7
Macbeth has natural ambition but this is reinforced by his meeting with the Witches and by his wife's persuasive powers. Lady Macbeth is ambitious for herself but also on her husband's behalf. For Duncan's murder, most of the plan's details are created by Lady Macbeth. Macbeth carries out the actual murder but Lady Macbeth deals with the cover up. The Macbeths act very much as a single unit, though their ambitious natures and their shared guilt eventually tear their marriage apart. Shakespeare leaves the audience to decide who is more ambitious.
What context links to the theme of the supernatural?
In Shakespeare's time, the powers of evil were thought to be absolutely real; to most people Hell was an actual place and the Devil a constant threat to their souls. In particular there was a fascination with witches and witchcraft. Hundreds of innocent people (mostly women) were executed as suspected witches. The interest came from the very top, led by King James I himself who published a book on the subject called Demonology. When Shakespeare came to write his play, he knew that his audience would find the theme of evil and the supernatural very interesting indeed.
How does Shakespeare use the theme of the supernatural?
In Macbeth, William Shakespeare uses evil and the supernatural as a background to all the events which take place. Some of the key aspects are: wicked thoughts and actions, the activities of the Witches and the disruption of nature.
How does Shakespeare use wicked thoughts and actions to convey the theme of the supernatural?
The Witches' predictions encourage Macbeth to think wicked thoughts and carry out evil deeds. As well as murder, Macbeth is also guilty of lying, deception, cowardice, seeking out further contact with evil forces, behaving brutally with both physical and verbal violence and showing a lack of love and concern for others.
What evidence do we have of the use of use wicked thoughts and actions to convey the theme of the supernatural?
Present fears / Are less than horrible imaginings. / My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, / Shakes so my single state of man that function / Is smothered in surmise, and nothing is, / But what is not. (Act 1 Scene 3) Before the first murder of the play takes place there is a slow build up as Macbeth wrestles with his conscience. The wicked thoughts he has are almost worse than the actual deeds ('Present fears / Are less than horrible imaginings'). He becomes more concerned with what might happen rather than reality ('nothing is, but what is not') and uses evil methods to achieve his desires. Once Duncan's murder has taken place, a line has been crossed and further acts of wickedness keep on coming.
How does Shakespeare use the activities of the Witches
to convey the theme of the supernatural?
The Witches' appearance at the start of the play in the middle of a thunderstorm (apparently of their own creation) sets the tone for what is to follow. As well as predicting the future, controlling the weather and casting evil spells, they also discuss the wicked acts they carry out against ordinary men and women. In a couple of scenes they interact with Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft.
What evidence do we have of the use of the Witches' activities to convey the theme of the supernatural?
Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o'th'Tiger: / But in a sieve I'll thither sail, / And like a rat without a tail, / I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do........ I'll drain him dry as hay: / Sleep shall neither night nor day / Hang upon his penthouse lid; / He shall live a man forbid. / Weary sennights nine times nine, / Shall he dwindle, peak and pine. (Act 1 Scene 3) One of the Witches describes how a sailor's wife has insulted her and how she plans to take her revenge ('I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do'). She plans to follow his ship (The Tiger) and drain the life out of him by not allowing him to sleep. She is going to keep this up for 567 days ('sennights nine times nine' or 7 × 9 × 9). As both Macbeth and, particularly, his wife discover, sleep deprivation is an awful punishment.
How does Shakespeare use the disruption of nature to convey the theme of the supernatural?
Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o'th'Tiger: / But in a sieve I'll thither sail, / And like a rat without a tail, / I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do........ I'll drain him dry as hay: / Sleep shall neither night nor day / Hang upon his penthouse lid; / He shall live a man forbid. / Weary sennights nine times nine, / Shall he dwindle, peak and pine. (Act 1 Scene 3) One of the Witches describes how a sailor's wife has insulted her and how she plans to take her revenge ('I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do'). She plans to follow his ship (The Tiger) and drain the life out of him by not allowing him to sleep. She is going to keep this up for 567 days ('sennights nine times nine' or 7 × 9 × 9). As both Macbeth and, particularly, his wife discover, sleep deprivation is an awful punishment.
What evidence do we have of Shakespeare's use of the disruption of nature to convey the theme of the supernatural?
The night has been unruly: where we lay, / Our chimneys were blown down, and, as they say, / Lamentings heard i'th'air, strange screams of death / And prophesying with accents terrible / Of dire combustion and confused events, New hatched to th'woeful time. The obscure bird / Clamoured the livelong night. Some say, the Earth / Was feverous and did shake. (Act 2 Scene 3) Moments before Macduff announces the discovery of Duncan's dead body, Lennox talks about events that were occurring while the murder was taking place. These include strong winds, strange ghostly cries in the night, an owl screeching (thought to be a bad omen) and even an earthquake. The natural world has been disturbed and disrupted following the unnatural killing of a king.
How does the opening scene of the play set up the theme of evil and the supernatural?
The characters are three witches who are mysterious and otherworldly. They speak or chant with a particular rhythm of their own. The scene is set in a wild and unruly place and the Witches are meeting outside in the middle of a thunderstorm. Their language emphasizes disruption and that everything is confused and chaotic (eg 'Fair is foul, and foul is fair'). The characters, setting and language that Shakespeare uses all combine to create a memorable opening scene which concentrates on evil and the supernatural.
Explain Shakespeare's theme of appearances and reality in the play.
In Macbeth, things are never quite what they seem. Characters say one thing yet mean something else and use euphemisms to hide reality. Wicked and violent acts such as murder are covered up or the blame is shifted onto someone else. The Witches mislead Macbeth, or they at least make suggestions which allow him to mislead himself. Ghosts, visions and apparitions occur regularly. All of these things contribute to the many contrasts which exist in the play; almost nothing is as it should be.
How does Shakespeare examine the theme of appearance and reality in the play?
In Macbeth, Shakespeare examines how appearances can be deceptive and that the reality behind them is often unpleasant. Some of the key aspects are: seeing things, sleep and dreams and fake hospitality.
How does Shakespeare use seeing things to convey the theme of appearance and reality?
The play is full of spirits, ghosts, optical illusions and visions. While some of these are conjured up by the Witches, others are as a result of a guilty conscience following acts of wickedness. This is why Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are particularly affected. It is difficult for them to admit to others (or even each other) what is happening - this might mean they would be suspected of madness.
What evidence do we have of the use of seeing things to covey the theme of appearance and reality?
Mine eyes are made the fools o'th'other senses, / Or else worth all the rest. I see thee still, / And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, / Which was not so before. There's no such thing: / It is the bloody business which informs / Thus to mine eyes. (Act 2 Scene 1) In one of the most famous scenes in the play, Macbeth sees a vision of a dagger just like the one he is about to use to kill king Duncan. Blood is covering the blade and the dudgeon (handle). Lady Macbeth thinks her hands are covered in blood. Even though Macbeth cannot believe his eyes ('Mine eyes are made the fools o'th'other senses') and in reality realises he is having an hallucination ('There's no such thing') he is still fascinated by the dagger's appearance.
How does Shakespeare use sleep and dreams to convey the theme of appearance and reality?
After the murder of Duncan has taken place, both Macbeth and his wife have trouble sleeping and are tormented by guilty dreams. Lady Macbeth regularly sleepwalks and replays events in her mind as she tries to wipe away the memory of what she has done. Eventually she goes mad and she dies, probably by committing suicide.
What evidence do we have of the use of sleep and dreams to convey the theme of appearance and reality?
LADY MACBETH: The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now? What, will these hands ne'er be clean? No more o'that, my lord, no more o'that. You mar all with this starting. DOCTOR: Go to, go to; You have known what you should not. GENTLEWOMAN: She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of that. Heaven knows what she has known. (Act 5 Scene 1) The Doctor and one of the ladies-in waiting observe Lady Macbeth as she sleepwalks and goes over events in her mind. She is thinking about the murders of Macduff's wife and of King Duncan and how Macbeth reacted when he saw Banquo's ghost. These events all become muddled together in one continuous speech which suggests that Lady Macbeth is losing her reason. The blood on her hands is, of course, not real but in her highly charged emotional state she imagines that it is ('What, will these hands ne'er be clean?'). Her unconscious words and actions give her away to the people watching.
How does Shakespeare use false hospitality to convey the theme of appearance and reality?
King Duncan is a guest in the Macbeth's home when they decide to murder him. Rather than look after him as good hosts should do they send him to his grave. Later in the play the Macbeths host a banquet for the other Thanes. They are not just being generous - their hidden agenda is to get the other nobles to support them.
What evidence do we have of the use of fake hospitality to convey the theme of appearance and reality?
MACBETH: You know your own degrees, sit down; at first and last, the hearty welcome. [The LORDS sit] LORDS: Thanks to your majesty. MACBETH: Our self will mingle with society and play the humble host; our hostess keeps her state, but in best time we will require her welcome. LADY MACBETH: Pronounce it for me, sir, to all our friends for my heart speaks, they are welcome. (Act 3 Scene 4) Macbeth subtly reminds his guests that they all have a particular rank ('you know your own degrees') and that he is at the top as King. Cleverly he pretends to 'play the humble host' to make them less suspicious of his motives. The Macbeths appear to be putting on a show of solidarity for the Thanes. In fact Macbeth has just ordered the murder of one of them (Banquo) and has refused to tell his wife what he has been doing. Their words are very polite and apparently warm. The word 'welcome' appears three times which is almost overdoing it!
How is the theme of appearances and reality presented in the play?
Through characters' language - Many of the words the characters use have double meanings, are twisted for a particular purpose or are used to highlight contrasts (eg "So foul and fair a day I have not seen")
Through characters' thoughts - The Macbeths have evil intentions and even when they seem friendly and welcoming are often actually plotting how they can hold onto their power (eg when Duncan is welcomed into their castle as an honoured guest)
Through characters' actions - Acts of pure evil are presented as though they are somehow beneficial to others (eg when Macbeth orders Banquo's death, he suggests to the hired murderers that it will be of benefit to them)
What is the form of Macbeth?
The form of a text is the type of text you are reading or watching. The form of Macbeth is a dramatic play. More specifically, it is a tragedy.
What is a tragedy? What effect does it have on the audience?
Tragic plays can be traced back all the way to the beginnings of drama in Ancient Greece. In Poetics, one of the first books of literary criticism, Aristotle set out the key features of tragedy. He stated that tragic plays would involve a protagonist (the leading central figure) who is usually of royal or noble birth. In the course of the play, the protagonist reveals a fatal flaw (a character defect) which causes him or her to go from success and happiness to failure, misery and, often, death at the hands of an antagonist (his opposite). Tragedy set out to stir up feelings of fear and pity in the audience - this is known as catharsis.
Does Macbeth have the features of a tragic play?
All of these things can be seen at work in Macbeth. The protagonist is clearly Macbeth himself, a thane of the Scottish nobility. His fatal flaw is his ambition and this drives the action forward. Macbeth is basically a good man who goes wrong. He is driven by a need for power which eventually sets him on a path to his own destruction. His wife shares this fatal flaw with him. While Macbeth clearly achieves his ambition to become king, it is at the expense of his happiness. He feels he needs to murder, lie and behave brutally to others in order to keep his power. Eventually he goes too far when he slaughters Macduff's family. This causes Macduff to take up a position as the play's antagonist - Macbeth's opposite. Eventually Macduff kills Macbeth in face-to-face combat. While exciting to watch, all of this should cause feelings of horror and regret in the audience.
What is the structure of Macbeth?
The structure of a text refers to the way in which events are organized inside the play as a whole. In the case of Macbeth, the structure is strictly chronological. This is where events are revealed to the audience/reader in the order in which they have happened. Sometimes events are described rather than shown (eg Macbeth becoming king). Others happen offstage (out of sight of the audience) for example, Duncan's murder.
How are the events of the play structured? What historical link is there to that?
The events of this play are organized into five acts, each containing a number of scenes. However, it is important to note that Shakespeare himself almost certainly did not organise the play in this way and that this structure would have been added later during the editing process when the plays were turned into published text after being performed that way. The idea of the five-act structure is a useful one, though, as it follows the model designed by Gustav Freytag, a German author from the 19th-century. Having carefully studied classical drama, he suggested there were five stages in a tragic dramatic structure. He named these stages: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and catastrophe.
What happens in the exposition?
Exposition - Introduces the characters, setting, events and key ideas. Act 1: Main characters are introduced; the Witches make their predictions; thoughts of murder start to form.
What happens in the rising action?
Rising action A series of related events occur leading up to the key moment in the plot. Act 2: Macbeth keeps changing his mind; Lady Macbeth takes control; King Duncan's murder (key moment).
What happens in the climax?
Climax Marks the turning point of the play. Up to this point things have gone well for the main character - now things will go rapidly downhill. Act 3: Macbeth becomes King; Banquo is murdered and Fleance escapes; Macduff joins Malcolm in England.
What happens in the falling action?
Falling action The main conflict between the protagonist (the central character - Macbeth) and the antagonist (his opposite - Macduff) is established. Act 4: Macbeth returns to the Witches; Macduff's family is slaughtered; Malcolm and Macduff plan their invasion.
What happens in the catastrophe?
Catastrophe - The protagonist is defeated by the antagonist and events return to a state of normality. Act 5: The invasion is carried out and Malcolm becomes King; the Witches' predictions come true in unexpected ways; both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth die.
What is poetic structure?
In a play such as Macbeth, examining structure might also refer to the poetic structure which is used. As you will have observed, the majority of the writing in Macbeth is in poetic form, though sometimes prose is used. There are three areas to look out for: lines with a five-beat rhythm, lines with a four-beat rhythm and lines written in prose.