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The role of secondary characters in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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IB English SL II Finlay Great Gatsby and Macbeth Journal Questions Journal Response Questions: 1. Often in great works of literature a seemingly secondary character has an overarching influence on all aspects of a text. This character is one who appears briefly, or not at all, but is a significant presence in the text who affects action, theme or the development of characters. In one of the pieces of literature covered this semester, explore how this character functions in the work. Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare's greater works of literature and it encompasses the idea of betrayal, violence, and guilt. All these would not have been expressed without the support of a secondary character, which contributes to the development of the plot as well as the themes present in the play. This vital secondary character in Macbeth is Lady Macbeth. Shakespeare strategically portrays Lady Macbeth as an empowered woman and this idea itself was beyond the norm of the society during the time it was written. Her masculine character is essential as it functions as the drive that influences Macbeth's move the dark side. Contrary to the masculine portrayal of Lady Macbeth's character is the illustration of her character's weak and guilty state, which adds emphasis to the major theme of the play. More importantly, Shakespeare specifically placed emphasis on the relationship between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth; Lady Macbeth is the only one who Macbeth loves and receives love from. ...read more.


Overall, all of these further emphasize the fact that Lady Macbeth's masculinity is a key influence on Macbeth's decisions throughout the play and it is the cause of all the violence and betrayal that Macbeth performs. Lady Macbeth's character is a very dynamic one, meaning that although she appears powerful and dominating at the beginning of the play, she eventually becomes weak with guilt and depression. This portrayal of Lady Macbeth greatly contributes to one of the main themes of the play, which is betrayal and guilt. In Act 1 scene 5, Lady Macbeth is described to be filled with power and determination to perform evil and this is shown when she said "Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thought, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelt!" Notice her dictating tone suggested by the diction "come" and use of an exclamation mark. Besides that, horrifying dictions were used such as "spirits", "unsex", and "cruelty". All these express the malevolence scene, as she is about to murder King Duncan and commit an act of betrayal and evil. However, her character then evolved from being evil to a character with guilt and regrets after the act was committed. "Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One: two: why, then 'tis time to do't...Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?" ...read more.


This is when he mentioned "I pull in resolution, and begin to doubt th' equivocation of the fiend that lies like truth", which shows that he has lost confidence in his pursuit to keep his status as King. This idea is also emphasized when he encountered Macduff and said " I'll not fight thee." This marks a great change in his character as he begins to fear and surrender. Overall, Lady Macbeth's death had a great impact on Macbeth's character as it made him reflect on life and the lack of significance it holds. Her death also marked the beginning to all of Macbeth's misfortune in which causes him to express fear and weakness to others. Secondary character is an important aspect of any piece of literature. As shown in Macbeth, the secondary character is the one that contributes the most to the shaping and development of the primary character. This then leads to development of the plot as a whole, which can be seen when Lady Macbeth manipulated and convinced Macbeth to murder King Duncan triggering Macbeth's move to the dark side. In addition, a secondary character could also function as a tool to add more emphasis on the theme and moral values being conveyed in the work. This is shown when the theme of guilt and betrayal is supported by the development of Lady Macbeth's character from being masculine and evil to being mentally disturbed. In other words, it is clearly proven in Macbeth by William Shakespeare that secondary characters have an overarching influence on all aspects of a piece of literature. ...read more.

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