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How would Shakespeare’s audience have reacted to the ‘supernatural scenes’ in Macbeth and how would this compare to your reaction?

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Sumera Qureshi 07/01/01 How would Shakespeare's audience have reacted to the 'supernatural scenes' in Macbeth and how would this compare to your reaction? 'The Scottish play', 'THAT play' or 'The King's play'. Even today, when we distance ourselves from the contemporaries of Shakespeare's time, by claiming that we are aren't superstitious and believe in free will, actors still see 'The Tragedy of Macbeth' as an ominous or unlucky play. However, as two different societies, both the Jacobean and the twenty-first century audience would have very different reactions and responses to the supernatural portrayal of evil. "Macbeth", as a play, contains very universal themes, which are explored to a certain degree through Macbeth's own character i.e. ambition and desire. The main theme, however, is the struggle between 'good' and 'evil'. Characters such as Banquo and Duncan represent the 'good' while characters, such as Lady Macbeth and the witches, represent 'evil'. Macbeth, however, is shown to be a multifaceted and very complex character, in that he begins as a 'noble' and 'worthy gentlemen' however, by the end, has become a 'merciless butcher' and we, as the audience, can appreciate these gradual changes in his character much more clearly. ...read more.


This holds a key message for the audience, as the damned spot or 'devil's mark' which she refers to was at that time believed to be where a witch had allowed the devil to suck her blood in return for evil powers, again veritable proof for the audience of her possession by demonic forces. Nevertheless, for the present day audience this would have been just been an over ambitious woman, who has taken the wrong steps towards her goal and now regrets her ways. The killing of King Duncan is also a 'supernatural' scene in which there are a number of unnatural and supernatural events that occur all surrounding or are as a result of his death. The first unnatural instance we see in this scene is when Banquo, assuming there to be a murderer or intruder, draws out his sword to attack. This would have been seen as unnatural, because he draws out the sword on impulse, but it is odd for this to happen in a friend's house. However, in dramatic irony he draws out the sword on the right person: Macbeth, the murderer. In this scene again, we see the contrast in Banquo and Macbeth's character. ...read more.


The feasting and hospitality of this banquet scene also represented friendship and community; the disruption of the Banquet showed to represent the moral dissolution between Macbeth and Scotland. As a modern day audience, we have grown up in a society in which religion holds an occasional influence or relevance in terms of our every day lives, whereas Macbeth's audience grew up guided and governed by religion. In Macbeth, Shakespeare tried to send a powerful message to the audience about the wrong choices; Macbeth, and the right choices; Banquo, that can be made. To follow the formula of a tragedy he gave Macbeth his fatal flaw: ambition, and with the mixture of the witches and supernatural forces created an emotionally charged tale that held relevance to nearly every part of the modern Jacobean audiences' lives. These differences in time and culture are perhaps the reason for such stark contrasts in our responses to the various supernatural scenes, however, the cleverly crafted language and universal themes such as 'good versus evil', are perhaps the reasons why, even today, "The Tragedy of Macbeth" is still regarded as one of the best and most compelling plays ever written. Lit: Excellent and thorough critical evaluation of dramatic approaches and intentions = 24 Eng: Original analysis and interpretation of the moral, philosophical and social context. Thorough exploration of appeal to audience. Effectiveness of language analysed = 22 ...read more.

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