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How important is the Elizabethan concept of Natural Order to our appreciation of Macbeth?

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How important is the Elizabethan concept of Natural Order to our appreciation of Macbeth? In Macbeth, Duncan is always referred to as a "king," while Macbeth soon becomes known as the "tyrant." How has the "brave" Macbeth, bloodstained and heroic in victory turned into the disease of Scotland? The crux of the issue lies in the Elizabethan concept of the Natural Order. God created man and the whole of the universe in seven days, as stated in Old Testament. Within this world God had created there was another world in which certain principles of nature applied. This is the order in which stones, plants, animals, men up to saints and arch angels were structured according to certain hierarchical principles. The world as we know it was seen as a vast pyramid in which everything had its proper and rightful level. It was expected that one's place in this pyramid of nature would be respected; when one violated the order of nature, evil would result. An attempt to climb a level would be perceived as challenging the Natural Order and ultimately challenging God himself. Those who aspired to rise unlawfully above their proper station could debase themselves. Like to Adam and Eve and Lucifer, who also challenged God's Natural Order, Macbeth, too, through his own 'vaulting ambition' made the same mistake. ...read more.


In the macrocosm, Scotland now "sinks beneath the yoke/it weeps, it bleeds". Macbeth has overthrown the Natural Order and he causes the unnatural confusion; Duncan's "sacrilegious murder" is mirrored throughout nature; "Tis unnatural/Even like the deed that is done". To portray the true state of Scotland's sickness, Shakespeare uses images of false appearances and unnatural happenings; "By the clock 'tis day and yet dark night strangles the traveling lamp". Such imagery is not just a random, coincidental collection of similes and metaphors; Shakespeare masterfully unifies them into a concentrated set of ideas which adds to the vividness of play. On the night that Macbeth "hath broke ope/ The Lord's anointed temple" others describe the night as "unruly" and claim that "the earth/ was feverous and did shake". This is the beginning of the end for Macbeth's inevitable death as God mounts his come back to cure Scotland of her disease and ultimately restore the Natural Order, with a rightful King. However, more tragically, in the microcosm of Macbeth's own life, it is clear that Scotland is not the only thing sick, Macbeth's life falls apart. All aspects of life that we would see as natural are denied him. He strains to sleep as Lady Macbeth stresses "you lack the season of all natures, sleep". Similarly, just prior to this, Macbeth can no longer eat with out interruption. ...read more.


As the embodiment of tyranny, he must be overcome by Malcolm so that Scotland can have a true king once more, "the flower is to replace the weed". As the curtain comes down on the play and in due course Macbeth's life, ironically it is a series of unnatural events that bring about the return of the Natural Order. "Birnam wood must come to Dunsinane" and a man "not of woman born" are be the only incidents which will spell the end of Macbeth. Too late, Macbeth calls for his armour and returns to his natural place, as a warrior, ready to fight. Unlike Richard III who by this point no one cares about, Macbeth through his undoubted bravery despite both of the witches' prophecies being fulfilled, stands firm to fight Macduff who was "untimely ripped". He will "try the last". Sadly, Macbeth, as the audience realizes was to all intents and purposes a good man, but too easily falls into the trap of his hamartia. It is because he could have been a great man that he gains our sympathy and we are able to experience what Aristtole called catharsis. While we should never ignore Shakespeare's great skill of characterization, our appreciation of Macbeth is deepened as we are fully aware of the concept of Natural Order and how Macbeth sought, ultimately in vain, to overthrow it. His tragic demise was inevitable from the start because of this. A. Colin- Jones English Coursework ...read more.

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