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Discuss how Elizabethan audiences would have reacted to the first Act of Macbeth.

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Discuss how Elizabethan audiences would have reacted to the first Act of Macbeth. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth during an age in which the supernatural was a part of everyday life for the people of England. Prior to the wave of Christianity that swept through England, local chieftains and ordinary citizens had been firm believers in witchcraft, spells and fairies. King James had written books on the subject, giving the subject credibility in the eyes of his people. The idea of demons and witches tempting good people to do bad things was widely accepted, especially since the Bible itself made references to the devil. The introduction of the witches in the very first scene of Macbeth would have created a very intriguing effect and would have been accepted by the audience. Another fact that played an important role in the way Shakespeare's audiences reacted to his plot was the social order and the hierarchy of the spectators who watched his plays. Only three classes existed which were the rich, the merchant middle class and the poor class. Shakespeare's plays were performed at the Globe theatre which acted as a model for other theatres around the country. It is said that the balconies on top were the most expensive seats and these seats were occupied by the rich and noble people at the time. ...read more.


(Act 1 Sc. 1 Ln. 12),The audience are also told that the witches will return, this eccentric way of speaking gets the audience thinking and brings a sense of eagerness to see what happens next. Moreover, this scene would also have reminded them of their own streets, with poor lighting, and the small dark homes they lived in. Similarly the three segments of the audience would have reacted differently to Lady Macbeth's soliloquy. As she finishes reading the letter from her husband, various feelings of greed and temptation enter her mind. She also has feelings of doubt and uncertainty she felt that Macbeth lacked courage and would not commit such an atrocious act, "yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o'th'milk of human kindness...." (Act 1 Sc. 5 Ln. 15). She then calls upon evil to remove her femininity from her. The intensity of this speech must have given all three segments of the audience a sense of trepidation and for some an enormous sense of rage and disgust. "The raven himself is hoarse..." (Act 1 Sc 5 Ln. 7),She uses raven which is recognized as an evil bird. "unsex me here..."(Act 1 Sc.5 Ln.9), She wanted all the characteristics a woman had to have in those days, removed from her. ...read more.


"So clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels, trumpet - tongued against the deep damnation of his taking off."(Act 1 Sc. 7 Ln.20), In those days people were firm believers in the 'divine right of kings'. It was a belief that said that only God could choose the king and nobody else. Macbeth never refers to the crime he is about to commit as murder. He alters the word by using various less dissonant synonyms like "assassination", "surcease", "bear the knife" and "taking off". The educated audiences would have recognized the speech and reacted accordingly to the significance of the lines and Macbeth's guilt overcoming him. In my opinion, it is very likely that the middle and lower classes would soon have got bored due to the length of this speech, which does not have much excitement and horror as the soliloquy of Lady Macbeth. No matter which category the audience belonged, the use of magic and supernatural features on stage would have been a thrilling source of entertainment! The witches, thunder and lightening and murder would have delighted Shakespeare's audiences as much as today's ideas of aliens existing and high-tech special effects thrill us! In conclusion, it can be said that the Shakespearean audience cannot be classified as of one type only. Social backgrounds, levels of education and religious elements all played a role in the way each spectator reacted to Macbeth and his actions. ...read more.

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