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How does shakespeare create a sense of evil and disorder in act 1 of macbeth

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare create a sense of evil and disorder in Act 1 of Macbeth? Ellice Caldwell-Dunn. Shakespeare uses a wide variety of methods as a dramatist to build on Macbeth's theme, good versus evil. He uses many language and character techniques to create a sense of unnaturalness, and an overturning of moral and social order during Act 1 to engage the audience and create the atmosphere for the tragic fall of a great hero. To begin with, Shakespeare specifically chooses to open the play with a topic that would be alarming for a Jacobean audience; witches, and treachery. In the Jacobean period, treachery was seen as horrific, as they believed in the divine right of kings; God chose the king, and therefore if you were against the king, you were also against God. Macbeth opens on a battlefield, where the audience later learns a traitor has betrayed the king, who has brought him to battle. "Assisted by that most disloyal traitor, the Thane of Cawdor." The king wins, however, and gives the title of the Thane of Cawdor, the traitor's former title, to Macbeth. This not only opens the play with something typically horrific for a Jacobean audience, but also gives a sense of dramatic irony right at the beginning of the play, as, although the audience have little idea, Macbeth, having received the title of the traitor, is soon to become a traitor himself. The structure of Act 1 contributes significantly to a sense of evil and disorder, as Shakespeare uses alternating scenes to display the contrast between the forces of good and evil. He starts Macbeth with the witches, a clear stereotypical sign of evil, and then opens Scene 2 with the king, a stereotypical sign of good. The rest of Act 1 then unfolds in the same pattern, using odd numbers (1,3,5 and 7) for the forces of evil, and even numbers (2,4 and 6) ...read more.

Middle

"Only look up clear, to alter favour ever is to fear. Leave the rest to me." She is indifferent to killing God's representative on earth, and has no conscience or fear for the murder, showing her character to be truly psychopathic, and, ultimately, evil. Her uncontrolled desire to kill would build up tension in the scene, and the fact that she is excited by the thought of murder would make a Jacobean audience feel uneasy and uncomfortable, as this is not typically a thought a hero's wife should have. She disobeys and controls her husband several times in Act 1, which was uncharacteristic for women to do as they were expected to serve their husbands, and she scolds him for having a conscience when they plot to murder Duncan. "Screw your courage to the sticking place." By insulting Jacobean views Shakespeare shows the audience that there is clear disorder in Macbeth, as, despite woman and man having their place in Jacobean society, the women have power over the men, and are contrary to typical Jacobean characters. The fact that Lady Macbeth, wife to a great hero, has such naked ambition and that she is willing to blur her moral boundaries, shows a distinctive link between her character and the witches - the fact that all are evil. During Scene 5, she calls on evil spirits to help her with murdering Duncan, by unsexing her, and ridding her of all innocence and femininity. "Come, you spirits, that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe topfull of direst cruelty." This not only emphasises that her character is psychopathic, as she asks to be evil, she aspires to be evil, but also links with one of Shakespeare's strongest motifs, the destruction of natural things. The use of long sentences shows she is rushed, excited and impatient, and the words during her speech are predominantly constanents, making the pronunciation of the words awkward to read. ...read more.

Conclusion

This pattern shows that sleep is a natural and essential thing, and, by depriving characters in the play of it, they have destroyed its naturalness, and crossed the barrier between right and wrong, into evil. Additionally, Shakespeare uses the pattern of the corruption of the innocent during Act 1 of Macbeth. Firstly, the witches corrupt Macbeth by persuading him that, in order to become king, his thoughts need to turn to murder. He is then corrupted again by Lady Macbeth, as when he is having doubts about whether it is morally correct to murder Duncan, she scolds him and tells him to rid himself of weakness and persuades him to destroy his own conscience, and ultimately, himself. "Yet I do dear thy nature, it is too full o'th'milk of human kindness." Duncan is then corrupted, and despite his innocence, he is murdered. Paired with the strong motif of the destruction of natural things, Shakespeare creates an alarmingly abnormal and twisted atmosphere to Act 1, as destroying innocence is a clear sign of disorder, and, eventually, will lead to all evil. In conclusion, Shakespeare uses a wide variety of techniques to generate a sense of disorder and evil for the audience in Act 1. He skilfully uses layers of ideas, such as treachery and the alternating of good and evil in the early scenes. He uses the witches as symbols of evil, highlights the elements as being in disorder via the weather and the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as capable of great violence. Onto this, he adds the blurring of moral values, the rhythm of the language, the look of the witches, and the motif of the destruction of the natural order as devices to highlight chaos. Taken together, these act as powerful signals to the audience of the disorder and evil that are played out in Act 1 of Macbeth setting the scene for the rest of the play. ...read more.

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