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English Coursework - Macbeth

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Shakespeare Coursework Rhiannon Sanderson How does Shakespeare present Macbeth, first as a valiant soldier, and then a murderous tyrant by the end of the play? Macbeth is a play written in the late 1500s by William Shakespeare, a world renowned English writer. Shakespeare was born in the mid 1500s and died in the early 1600s, yet the dates of his birth and death are unknown because there were no many birth and death records made at the time. Although many people have estimated the dates, most of them are based upon hearsay. In his lifetime, Shakespeare wrote many famous sonnets, poems and plays, some of which are the most performed plays across the world. Shakespeare often found the foundations for his plays in history. He would take the most interesting parts from historical stories and legends and change and alter them. An example of this is in Macbeth; Duncan is seen as the good, respected King of Scotland but in reality he was a weak King. Moreover, Macbeth is a murderous tyrant in the play, but in history he was a strong King. Macbeth is believed to have been written for James I. To please the King, Shakespeare introduced a few of his ancestors including Banquo. Also, Shakespeare introduced superstition as a big part of the play, because in the Jacobean period, superstition was rife and the King had a great interest in it. The play sends a message to the audience that witchcraft will result in only bad luck. As well as this, Shakespeare shows an example of the 'Divine Order of Kings.' This means that if you committed a sin against a King, you were committing a sin against God, as Kings were believed to be God's agents. In Macbeth, Macbeth kills Duncan - the King of Scotland - and that is the root of his downfall, so it is a very good example of the 'Divine Order of Kings.' ...read more.


Here, Shakespeare is showing Macbeth as quite a respectable person, because of Macbeth's guilt for even thinking of killing a King. Macbeth says "Duncan hath borne his faculties so meek," meaning Duncan has treated him so kind-heartedly and has shown him a lot of generosity, so why would he want to kill him? This is the last point within Macbeth's transition from a highly regarded man to a dreadful man that Macbeth is seen by the audience as truly upright, because after this part in the play, Shakespeare shows Macbeth as awful and terrible, due to the murder of Duncan. I also believe that this is the last point in the play that Macbeth is shown with any sanity whatsoever. Lady Macbeth is very persuasive in the play, and when she finds out that Macbeth doesn't want to kill Duncan anymore, she very much disagrees. In order to persuade Macbeth to go ahead with the murder, Lady Macbeth insults him and threatens his masculinity. To do this, she says things like "From this time such I account thy love," meaning she thinks what he said about killing Duncan was a worthless promise that gave her false hope. In this case, 'account' means question, and when Lady Macbeth says this, it comes across to the audience that she is in a position to be able to question Macbeth's feelings for her, which would make Macbeth feel very pathetic and like he had lost all control of his marriage. Another insult to Macbeth's masculinity comes when Lady Macbeth says that Macbeth is "letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,'" which means his fear overpowers his desire. 'Dare' tells the audience that Lady Macbeth is saying Macbeth is not very daring and is therefore a coward. This is a very big blow to Macbeth's ego, so it is bound to change his mind on the subject of killing Duncan. ...read more.


This is a careless thing for Macbeth to say in reply to the second apparition, because he does not even think to check any ways "none of woman born" could have a hidden meaning. The hidden meaning is that 'woman born' basically means natural birth in Shakespearean language, so if you were not of 'woman born,' you must have been born by caesarean section which was the case with Macduff's birth. It is now clear to the audience that Macbeth is close to his death, as the apparitions have hinted to it, so this is the final stage in his transition from a valiant soldier to a murderous tyrant. I think that Shakespeare puts Macbeth through these stages from a war hero to and evil murderer, because they make the play a lot more eventful, hence interesting for the audience to watch. To continue my point, the stages make us feel that Macbeth is very unlucky in life and therefore sympathetic towards his character. If the audience's first impression of Macbeth had been on the battle field where he fought Macdonwald, I think they would have seen him as a murderous tyrant from the very beginning of the play, but Shakespeare did not do that for a reason: to make the audience grow to like Macbeth and then feel more involved in his downfall. This also makes the audience have sympathy for Macbeth at the end of the play when he is alone and mad with guilt. Moreover, I believe it is due to the witches that Macbeth became a murderous tyrant, because he truly believed their predictions and decided to shape his life around them. The stages Shakespeare puts Macbeth through not only make the audience grow to like him, but also save some of his good reputation from the beginning of the play, because the audience know he is a good man deep down and that he was just greatly misled. ...read more.

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