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How does Shakespeare present Macbeths character before the murder of Duncan?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare present Macbeth's character before the murder of Duncan? 'The Tragedy of Macbeth', goes against many stereotypical images of what is good and what is bad for the present time of 1604. At this time, the public were superstitious and lived in fear of witchcraft while a new monarch, King James, had come to the throne. Macbeth's character has to overcome many psychological barriers before the murder, which keeps the audience guessing about his motives. The first scene sees a successful use of atmospherically chosen setting in a meeting of three witches. The scene is said to commence in a, 'desert place'; this inexplicably informs the reader of the social acceptability of the witches. The audience might gather that the witches are in exile and are forced to live in remote locations. This would make the viewer think of the reasons for this. In 1604, suspected witches were burnt alive, so Shakespeare has reflected the current viewpoint of the supernatural in Macbeth. This would settle the audience into the play, as they would find it easy to follow the discrimination against witches. Furthermore, Shakespeare uses pathetic fallacy to identify the evilness of the witches. The weather is described as, 'thunder and lightning'; this gives an image of the witches. Thunder and lighting is a frightening weather condition. Therefore this sets the tone for the witches' role in the play as evil and scary characters. ...read more.

Middle

Additionally, Macbeth thinks the idea of murdering the king is, 'fantastical'. This is the first time we can that Macbeth thinks about the murder however, this thought develops into a struggle against corruption inside himself which lasts for the whole of act one. Shakespeare uses this rationalisation of the witches' quote to keep the readers speculating as to whether Macbeth is good or bad; this is successful as the questioning borders on the line between ambition and greed. Furthermore, Shakespeare plays on Macbeth's new-found ambition with enhanced soliloquy in scene four. When Macbeth discovers Malcolm is to become prince of Cumberland, he identifies him as an obstacle that he must, 'fall down, or else o'erleap'. This displays Macbeth's dark side to the audience, as the corruptness is already allowing him to scheme about whom needs to be disposed of, in order to get the throne. The audience may also be disturbed by the certainty of the quotation. The fact that Macbeth has only gave himself the two options of killing Malcolm or being killed in the process, signifies that Macbeth's mind is beyond repairable, as it is so corrupt. The audience is forced to accept that Macbeth's positive character is turning power hungry and as a result, start to dislike him. In 1604, the gap between the rich and poor was extremely large, so the poor original audience's brave warrior may become in their view, a pompous man of status. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, the use of an aggressive metaphor from Lady Macbeth enforces a negative portrayal of Macbeth. This occurs when Lady Macbeth states that when talking about, 'a babe that milks me', she would have, 'pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums'. This reminds the reader of the previous scene when she was begging for the gods to un-sex her, as she is showing some masculine emotions. Seemingly throwing her feminine maternal tendencies away, she states that she would kill the baby if she had swore to do so. Although a modern audience may not be so shocked by the metaphors, a 1604 audience would be horrified at the thought of a woman, especially one of high status, talking so fiercely graphical. Macbeth's mind changes again after this metaphor and decides to kill the king. This results in the audience thinking of Macbeth as cold hearted once again. In conclusion, Shakespeare has cleverly kept the outcome from the audience by using Macbeth's timid nature. I believe that the audience had a glimpse of both hope and goodness at the start of scene seven although, Macbeth suddenly changed his mind at the question of his manhood from his wife. Generally, Macbeth is a good character but psychologically weak, this weakness leads him to change his mind when confronted by his wife. However, I think Lady Macbeth is only accountable for part of Macbeth's viscous path as his soliloquy shows us that he was also contemplating and plotting the deadly events. Robert Ankcorn ...read more.

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