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How is this scene dramatic for both a modern and a Jacobean audience?

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Introduction

How is this scene dramatic for both a modern and a Jacobean audience? This is a powerful scene in a dramatic play. The scene needs to have impact; it marks an important point, the beginning of the end for the Macbeths. This essay will try to show how Shakespeare has given this scene its impact, what it is that would make the scene dramatic for Jacobean and modern audiences, and to say something about how modern directors have staged it to enhance the dramatic elements for a modern audience. The scene comes at a dramatic point. Shakespeare has already established a theme of suspense; the scene comes just after we see the English army preparing to fight Macbeth. The fall of the Macbeths, as predicted by the witches, is imminent. The subject matter of the scene is also inherently dramatic; it shows the mental breakdown of Lady Macbeth. The portrayal of this inner turmoil is key. This is achieved partly through dramatic irony, where things the unconscious Lady Macbeth says in this scene conflict with her earlier words. For example, in act 3 Lady Macbeth said, "what is done is done", meaning she would not let the murder worry her, but in this scene she echoes this with "what's done cannot be undone". ...read more.

Middle

As kings ruled by God's authority it was blasphemous to oppose them. This idea of the divine right of Kings was topical when this play was written. In 1609 King James I published 'Works' in which he talks about the divine right of Kings. "Kings are not only God's lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God's throne, but even by God himself called gods." Jacobean audiences therefore would have had a special horror of regicide. The suggestion that the nurse should "remove from her [Lady Macbeth] the means of all annoyance" would also be more dramatic for the Jacobean audience as they had strong views on suicide. For most people suicide was a mortal sin. The act carried strong connotations of shame and horror. Suicides were refused burial on consecrated ground and often their property was confiscated. Again this was topical. Three years before this play was written Sir Walter Raleigh, a leading figure, made an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Although the way he reacted to his subsequent execution may have persuaded some to rethink, it is likely, however, that many people would have believed that suicide was a great sin, and would have found Lady Macbeth's thoughts of suicide abhorrent. ...read more.

Conclusion

Tension is added because we cannot see all the action. Polanski chose to have Lady Macbeth sleepwalking naked. Though nudity would still have had some ability to shock in 1971, overall this is unsuccessful. The nudity makes the scene less dramatic as it draws away the attention from Shakespeare's words. This version, like the RSC production, chooses to have little or no lighting, which adds drama, as we cannot see quite what is happening. In conclusion, this scene is key is setting the direction of the action of the remainder of the play and sets up the downfall of the Macbeths. Both Shakespeare and many modern directors have understood the need to make this scene dramatic. Shakespeare ensures that the stage directions, the choice of character, and the language all contribute to the sense of drama. Shakespeare would have had the advantage of an audience that was better able to take clues from the text and understood better than today the horror of regicide and of possible suicide. Modern directors need to appeal to an audience that is less well attuned to the sensibilities that Shakespeare was writing for, but are able to inject drama through dramatic staging or scenery, costume, sound effects, and dramatic lighting. In doing this they are working on foundations that Shakespeare himself built. ...read more.

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