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A Discussion of the Dramatic Power and Significance of Act III Scene iv of Macbeth

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A DISCUSSION OF THE DRAMATIC POWER AND SIGNIFICANCE OF ACT III SCENE iv OF MACBETH This scene is crucial to the play, both in terms of the events that take place in it and the implications that it has towards the plot and the minds of the characters involved in it. The scene is set in the main hall of Macbeth's castle, where he is holding a banquet, having invited all the thanes, in order to try and convince them of his worth as king. He is also, however, awaiting news of the fate of Banquo and Fleance, who he has arranged to be killed. This element of the scene is pivotal to both the rest of the scene, but also the play as a whole. The witches originally prophesised that Macbeth would be King, but also that Banquo's children would be Kings. This almost seems to haunt Macbeth, as he cannot bear the fact that he has a "Sword of Damocles" hanging above him, and that his days as King are already counting down towards an end, with Banquo's son Fleance his most dangerous threat after his close friend himself. It is for this reason that Macbeth has arranged the murders of Banquo and Fleance, in order that he might nullify the threat of Banquo's line before it becomes an actual problem for him. However, when Macbeth is informed by the Murderer that Fleance has escaped, it triggers the dramatic events of the scene. Also, the fact that Fleance has escaped means that Macbeth's position is still very much a fragile one and Macbeth himself is very much aware of this, as well as being terrified of the prospect of losing his power, that which is most dear to him. So, these various circumstances mean that the outcome of the attempted murder will dictate the path of the plot after this point in the play, and so the scene is pivotal to the play as a whole. ...read more.


This also emphasises the way in which Macbeth is attempting to justify himself and escape any qualms or doubt about his righteousness as well as his right to be king. One final way in which this is emphasised is with Macbeth's words at the very end of the scene. He proclaims: "My strange and self-abuse Is the initiate fear, that wants hard use: We are yet but young in deed." For me, this sums up Macbeths emotions at this point. He even goes so far as to say that the only reason that he feels so guilty about his actions is that he is not used to killing people, and so he needs to do it more often in order to become less affected by his emotions afterwards. However, this is quite out of character for Macbeth, an experienced and respected warrior. This tells us that his emotions are indeed partly because of the circumstances in which the murders took place, and the very fact that they were murders, and not killings on the battlefield. In general, I believe that the contrasting use of language and actions throughout the scene present a very accurate and intense image of Macbeth's state of mind at this point in the play. The fact that, when confronted by Banquo's ghost, Macbeth is sent into realms of shame and horror, and perhaps even begins the slope to his eventually total mental and emotional disintegration, is contrasting to the fact that in his words, he is utterly convinced of his cause, and convinces those around him of it as well. This shows to me the confusion and schizophrenic nature of Macbeth's mind at this time. It is not only Macbeth who is affected by their actions, however. The character of Lady Macbeth is a deeply complex one to analyse and she herself is perhaps most deeply affected by the murderous nature of the two central characters. ...read more.


This nullifies the ability of the audience to feel pity for her. In Polanski's version of the film, many methods are used to intensify elements of the play in order to create maximum impact. One particular example of this is while Macbeth is being confronted by Banquo's ghost. In this shot, Macbeth falls to the floor, putting him below the rest of the thanes. Also, the man standing immediately behind him is holding a bird of prey. We can learn two things from this, namely that Macbeth has now been lowered beneath Banquo in realisation of his guilt, but most importantly that Macbeth, the hunter, has now become the hunted. This shows the reversal in fortunes and demise of Macbeth, and reinforces the idea that "what goes around comes around", and the "Sword of Damocles" hanging above Macbeth. One other very effective method which Polanski uses is with the presence of the entertainment in the hall. The bear-baiting which is taking place signifies the pleasure now being taken from pain, just as felt by Macbeth. Also, when the animals have been killed they are dragged along the floor, covering the straw which lies there in blood. This represents the corruption of Macbeth's court, just as his mind is corrupted by both people and his own ambition. One other related method to this is the use of the character Rosse. In the play itself, Rosse is a neutral character, but Polanski portrays him as a double-crosser, who murders Banquo, and then helps with the murders of his fellow killers. This shows the corruption of those close to Macbeth, and the way in which evil spreads in every direction. Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, Polanski emphasises the faltering relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In the early parts of the film, they are always shown together, united, and crucially in the same shot. However, from this scene onwards, the couple are shown in separate camera shots, emphasising the growing rift between them, and the fact that they are now arguing against each other. ...read more.

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