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English Literature GCSE Coursework - Shakespeare (Macbeth)

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Introduction

"The dead butcher and his fiend-like queen". Is this an accurate description of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth? In the beginning of the play, Macbeth can be described as being loyal, courageous and noble. He is liked, trusted and respected by everyone around him. However this soon changes after his first encounter with the three witches. This is because the witches inform Macbeth that his life could be far different, therefore changing Macbeth's perception of his life. In doing this, they do not actually use true powers, they use the power of suggestion. This is where we begin to see a change in Macbeth's outlook on life and his behaviour By the end of the play, Macbeth has been given this label of "butcher". He has been transformed from a mighty and ambitious warrior to a cruel and unjust ruler. Macbeth could well have fitted the description of "butcher" very well as he did kill many people, even people who were very close to him. He kills Duncan, the king, Banquo, his best friend, and also Lady Macduff and her son. The Collins Modern English Dictionary describes a "butcher" as an indiscriminate and brutal murderer; this is certainly what he was becoming. To be a "butcher", Macbeth first had to be changed from a loyal leader of Duncan's army, to a cruel killer. This all came down to the work of the witches, Macbeth's greed and Lady Macbeth's ambitions. The first contribution to Macbeth's later attitude could well have been his newly found title of Thane of Cawdor, given to him after the end of the battle, by Duncan himself. ...read more.

Middle

Macbeth was frustrated at Macduff for leaving the country before Macbeth could kill him. Macbeth then committed his worst murder, which was almost definitely an act of butchery he killed Lady Macduff and her son, two innocents with no real involvement. Macbeth is now fighting for what he is, the king. By the end of the play, Macbeth is tired of living. This is caused by his struggle to stay king and to get rid of his threats, giving in to all the pressure: "I'gin to be aweary of the sun." As he prepares to defend the castle, he again looks to the witches for spiritual support, hoping that their prophesies are at all true because if they are not he will lose everything he had gained. Once Macbeth and Macduff come to face each other, Macbeth does not fear him as the witches told him anyone born by a woman will not harm him. Macbeth refuses to kill him whilst fighting each other as he is sorry for the killing of his family. He later finds out that Macduff was born by caesarean section and so accepts his fate but refuses to surrender. This shows his previous form in Act 1 of his fearlessness, when he was good and honest, and shows that he is not afraid of death. By sparing Macduff's life and showing the courage to fight to his death, Macbeth shows that he was not all pure "butcher", but a good man led on by his ambition. ...read more.

Conclusion

Lady Macbeth once again shows her fiendish ways when she pretends to faint after hearing about the murder of the King and the murderers. She knows that King Duncan and the servants have been murdered, yet she fools the people around her to believe that she is truly shocked about such treacherous happenings. The irony of this is that the night before she was not concerned at all, but is now acting as though it is tragic. In conclusion I believe that the quote from Malcolm, "A dead butcher and his fiend-like queen", is not an entirely accurate representation of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, contrary to my initial thoughts. This remark may have some truth to it, as Macbeth did kill Macduff's family brutally, and Lady Macbeth did manipulate Macbeth into doing the things he did, but they both realised what they had done, and what they had done was bad. They regretted their actions and I don't think that regret is something that a "butcher" and a "fiend" would feel. The "butcher" and "fiend" side of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth showed up only in certain places, suggesting that these sides are some kind of alter-ego they both have, maybe even a mental problem, but they both were normal noble people before it all started. The witches can be seen as more responsible for Macbeth's actions as they gave him the thought of regicide, but it was Lady Macbeth that spurred him on to put that thought in to action, which later got out of control under the influence of their own ambitions. Caol´┐Żn Byrne 12A1 Page 1 ...read more.

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