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How Does the First Act of 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare Form an Effective Opening to the Play?

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Introduction

How Does the First Act of 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare Form an Effective Opening to the Play? 'Macbeth' was written in 1606 by William Shakespeare. It is typical Shakespearian tragedy and is one of the most popular. The play was written at the end of the Elizabethan era when James VI of Scotland was named James I of England. Shakespeare, one of the best playwrights of the time, was hired to write a play for the new King and his brother-in-law, the King of Denmark. Macbeth was written to impress the King and therefore involved many of the King's interests. After researching the history of the King, Shakespeare found that he was related to a Scottish thane named Banquo. It was on Banquo and his relationship with the once Scottish King Macbeth, that Shakespeare based his play. The story Macbeth is a true story however Shakespeare changed many aspects of it in order to impress the King. Historical facts show that Banquo aided Macbeth in the murder of King Duncan But Shakespeare knew this would displease the King and he changed the story so he would not make the King look bad. In the original story there is no account of witchcraft, but this was a great interest of King James and so Shakespeare invented three fictional witches to make an impact on the King and the Elizabethan audience. The first act of a play is very important. It sets the tone for the entire play and if it does not capture the audience's attention they may not pay full attention to rest. ...read more.

Middle

Macbeth's first lines of the entire play link very closely to this. "So fair and foul a day I have not seen." Both an Elizabethan and a modern audience would be interested in this. The 'fair' hero Macbeth and the 'foul' witches appear in the same scene and the audience can immediately notice the connection. An Elizabethan audience's ideas of witches are confirmed by Banquo when he says that the witches "look not like the inhabitants of the earth." The shocking appearance of the witches would have immediately grabbed the audience's attention so that they could focus on the play. The witches give Macbeth three prophecies. "All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter!" The witches also tell Banquo that his children will be Kings. Neither Banquo nor Macbeth can believe what they are hearing. Banquo is cautious and does not trust the witches, however Macbeth is curious and it is in this scene that the first idea of murder comes to him. Macbeth's excitement gives the audience a sense of thrill and the murderous thoughts excite and concern the audience and hold their concentration on the play. Soon after the witches vanish, Ross and Angus enter to tell Macbeth that he is the new Thane of Cawdor. This was one of the witches' prophecies and it has come true. "What, can the devil speak true?" Banquo cannot believe this but Macbeth has huge ambition and he begins to think of ways he can become King. His thoughts of murder would shock a modern or Elizabethan audience, as in both cultures regicide is a terrible thing. ...read more.

Conclusion

This again makes the audience anticipant. Macbeth realises his wife's great power and agrees to murder King Duncan. The fact that Macbeth has made up his mind to commit regicide would horrify the audience and they would be compelled to find out what will happen in the rest of the play. At the end of the act Macbeth says "False face doth hide what false heart doth know" This continues the thread of hidden feelings started in scene five and ends the scene on a cliffhanger to encourage the audience to carry on watching. Act one of 'Macbeth' forms a very effective opening to the play. William Shakespeare does this essentially by capturing the audience's attention, whether Elizabethan or Modern. He does this in many ways to make the opening as dramatic as possible. First he uses powerful characters such as Lady Macbeth and the witches to create a tense atmosphere. The character Macbeth also creates an atmosphere, and is an effective character in that he is overpowered and has to make dramatic choices to commit treacherous crimes. The themes within the play are set in the first act. The threads of evil, doom and contradiction form ties that pull the play together and capture the audience's attention. The main plot, the murder of King Duncan, is introduced at an early part of the play but is not carried out until act two. This means the audience will have to keep watching in order to find out what will be the result of the crime. The audience is drawn in to the story and are compelled to carry on watching. It is in this way that William Shakespeare successfully manages to make act one a good opening to the play 'Macbeth'. ...read more.

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