Macbeth Context

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Lady Macbeth orders him to take them back but he refuses, so she goes She returns with blood-stained handsToo shocking to be staged, the murder takes place off stageThe porter imagines he is the gatekeeper of hell, He jokes with Macduff about the effects of alcoholShakespeare's fools, Common character type in Shakespeare's tragedies to provide comic reliefRoss and an old man discuss the terrible night that has just passed.Great Chain of Being: This example of falcon being killed by a small owl mirrors how Macbeth has subverted the natural order of the Great Chain of Being by killing his superior, King DuncanACT 3ACT3Macbeth speaks with the murderers, persuading them to kill Banquo and FleancePerhaps reflecting the Jacobean belief in the Great Chain of Being, in which all life on earth was believed to exist in a strict hierarchy ordained by God, when recruiting the murderers, Macbeth asks if, in the 'catalogue' of men, one of them is 'a station in the file'- a man who is a valued soldier.Macbeth is troubled by insecurity, Macbeth keeps his plan to kill Banquo from Lady MacbethEchoing Lady Macbeth's use of the language of evil such as 'ravens' and 'the blanket of dark' in Act 1, scene 5, Macbeth's language here is loaded with imagery of insects and bats; things which Shakespeare's audience associated with darkness and evil. Therefore, as with Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare's audience would have recognised that his use of language signals his inner evil.The murderers attack and kill BanquoDue to the limitations of early modern stagecraft, battles and murders were rarely staged for fear they would not be realistic. However, in a change to this tradition, Banquo's murder dramatically and excitingly takes place on stage.Macbeth reacts anxiously to the news that Fleance is not dead Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo join the table He talks directly to the ghost Lady Macbeth tries to restore calm to the situationOver time, to emphasise Macbeth's descent into madness, more modern productions have chosen to stage Banquo's ghost without an actor. However, as Shakespeare's contemporary audience had a firm belief in the existence of ghosts, when it was first performed, an actor would have played the ghost; made up with animal blood and flour.Hecate rebukes the witches for meeting with Macbeth without consulting her.Shakespeare's audience would have recognised Hecate as the goddess of witchcraft and therefore the ruler of the three witchesLennox speaks to a lord about the murderous goings on. By the end of his speech, it is clear he fears Macbeth.In Shakespeare's time, the audience well understood that speaking against the king was treason; a crime punishable by death. This certainly influences the fact that apart from referring to Macbeth as 'the tyrant' at the end of his monologue, Lennox is very careful how he expresses his suspicions of Macbeth.ACT 4ACT 4The final vision takes the form of a procession of 8 kings carrying a mirror followed by Banquo's ghostThe 8 kings could well represent the ancestors of James I. When the play was first performed, as they passed the king in the audience it is believed they turned the mirror towards him so he could see his own reflection and thus trace his ancestry back to this legitimate source.At Macduff's castle, his wife is angry that her husband has left for England She has a playful conversation with her son about his father. As a result of the dramatic irony which causes us to fear for Macduff and his family, this conversation is somewhat ominousShakespeare's audience would have been mindful of the fact that Macduff's duty to his country, came above his duty to his family.The murderers enter and kill his son and pursue his wife off stage....Shakespeare's audience may well have seen the parallel between Macbeth's killing of Macduff's family and the Massacre of the Innocents; the incident retold in the Bible (Matthew 2) in which Herod the Great, orders the execution of all male children to secure his rule. Shakespeare's audience will have seen the murder of innocents as a clear indication of Macbeth's descent into evil tyranny.ACT 5ACT 5Lady Macbeth's Gentlewoman tells the doctor Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking.Written 300 years before Freud developed our ability to discuss madness, Shakespeare's depiction of the mad Lady Macbeth seems an uncannily progressive presentation of madnessMalcolm orders his army to camouflage themselves with branches from the treesMalcolm's military cunning would have won him respect from Shakespeare's early audiencesOffstage, we hear a scream and Macbeth receives news, Lady Macbeth is dead, Macbeth reacts by brooding of life's futilityBoth Lady Macbeth's suicide and Macbeth's cynicism would have shocked Shakespeare's first audiences; life was believed to be a sanctified gift from God and suicide was a crimeMacbeth feels trapped but refuses to give in and reassures himself by remembering the apparition: no man born can harm himMacbeth's reference to the bear 'tied to a stake' would have had resonance with Shakespeare's audience whose past-times included blood sports such as bear-baiting and cock-fightingFacing Macduff, Macbeth boasts a third and final time that no man born can harm himAt the beginning of the scene Macbeth refuses to 'play the Roman fool' and commit suicide. As suicide was seen as the final means of regaining honour, the Shakespearean audience could have interpret this as his utter inability to act honourably. Or may have respected him for refusing suicide and choosing die in battle.Dramatically, Macduff reveals that he was delivered by Caesarean section rather than an unaided birth via the birth canal.Taking its name from the story that Julius Caesar was delivered by this method, in Shakespeare's day, Caesarean section was a highly risky operation which at best may save the child but kill the mother.Macbeth is killed.The death of a tyrant is a public spectacle. Therefore, Shakespeare's audience would have expected the display of Macbeth's severed head .Macduff displays Macbeth's severed head. And hails Malcolm as King of Scotland, who promises rewards and invites them to Scone for his coronationIn most Shakespearean tragedies, after the chaos, peace and rightful order is restored. Malcolm returned as King thus restoring the divine order: Great Chain of Being and divine right of kings.