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Explore Shakespeare's dramatic presentation of Macbeth in Act 1 discussing how audiences have responded then and now.

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Introduction

Clive Cutler 11B English Coursework Explore Shakespeare's dramatic presentation of Macbeth in Act 1 discussing how audiences have responded then and now Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare between 1603 and 1606, features a Scottish warrior called Macbeth, whose life is totally changed by the prophecies of three witches. It shows how a hardened warrior such as Macbeth, who can nearly win battles on his own, can be mentally destroyed by a series of events which happen over a few days. The play starts gloomily and with a sinister feeling about it; there is thunder and lightning which in Shakespeare's play mean there is going to be trouble ahead, and things will not be as they seem to be, giving and immediate warning to the audience, while the three witches begin to cast their spells. Shakespeare opens with the witches to show their domination over the events which are forthcoming to the play. In everything that the witches say, they deliberately confuse and talk in riddles: 'When the battle is lost and won' and 'Fair is foul' and 'Foul is fair' which sets the scene for what happens later in the play. The language creates a cloud over events, leaving the audience confused and puzzled over what is to happen to Macbeth and the other characters in the rest of the play. ...read more.

Middle

However, Macbeth's dreams are shattered by what Duncan is to say next: 'Our eldest, Malcolm, whom we name hereafter The Prince of Cumberland', meaning that Malcolm, not Macbeth, is to be the next King. The audience is as shocked by Macbeth at this sudden event after the earlier build up and would sympathise with Macbeth whose balloon has been popped and is crashing to the ground. He is extremely angry and distraught at Duncan as after everything he has done for him. It was his greatest desire to become King of Scotland, a dream shattered by Duncan, who surely must pay for what he has done- or will Macbeth carry on being loyal to his King in hope of future rewards? Will the wait for the third prophecy come true? This is a difficult decision for the audience to make as Macbeth has been associated with evil earlier in the act, but also has, done good deeds for his King. The audience ponders on which way he will turn-towards good, or evil-and will anyone influence his decision? In the next scene Shakespeare begins to answer the audiences questions as scene 5 is set in Macbeth's castle, where Lady Macbeth is reading a letter from Macbeth describing the events. ...read more.

Conclusion

What would the audience think of Macbeth now? Still confused and unsure, or has his mind been made up for him? Shakespeare's makes it clear what Macbeth is thinking in a lengthy soliloquy. The first words show that Macbeth is not convinced by the idea of murdering the King, but he does look at both sides of the argument, so this shows the audience that he is seriously considering the crime. He discusses that he will have to do it quickly and recognises it as an 'assassination' which going to go against everything he 'has ever' fought for. But he also will ravage his mind, he is not presented as greedy, but it shows he human instincts for success. Macbeth explains his doubts to Lady Macbeth and says he is happy with what he has, whereas Lady Macbeth uses emotional blackmail and claims she knows what he is exactly going to do. She also attacks his manhood, which turns him to her side, and she totally convinces him by twisting and manipulating everything. Finally they decide that they will do it but Macbeth is not totally on the good or evil side. The audience therefore will not know whether he will do the treasonous crime or not. Shakespeare leaves it in the balance: will he or won't he? This adds to the dramatic tension of the play, and leaves the audience as undecided as Macbeth himself. ...read more.

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