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Macbeth Coursework

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Introduction

"King Duncan's murder marks the beginning of Macbeth's downfall. Who can be held responsible for this?" Macbeth was set in Elizabethan times in 1606 and was later published after Shakespeare's death in 1623. At that time William Shakespeare was a renowned dramatist and would have been well known to the reigning King James. Shakespeare would have been aware of the King's feelings about the divine right of Kings, which was a theme in Macbeth. However, he had to change the character of Banquo as King James was related to him through his ancestry. Shakespeare felt King James would not approve of the fact that in the play Banquo would help Macbeth kill the character of the King. Shakespeare's description of the power held by the King is deliberately flattering and King James also had an interest in witchcraft, particularly since he had previously written a book about it. At that time many people believed in witches and anyone who was thought to be a witch was killed. Superstition was widespread in the Shakespearean era. Shakespeare used the witches to represent evil which is one of the important themes in the play and their presence suggests an atmosphere of evil. Macbeth is entertainment not only for royalty but also for the common people. ...read more.

Middle

After the murder the relationship between Macbeth and his wife comes under pressure as he hides his intentions to kill Banquo from her, "there shall be done a deed of dreadful note". Now the roles are reversed as Macbeth assumes the role of leadership and becomes more independent of his wife. She is no longer the stronger of the partnership and a rift is seen to be coming between them. In contrast to Lady Macbeth's opening soliloquy, where her language was evil, Macbeth now is the one using evil language and she no longer knows of or is part of his plans to commit further murder as he decides to kill Banquo who now stands between him and the throne, "Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, Till thou applaud the deed" and later, "Things bad begun, make strong themselves by ill". As a result of her part in the death of Duncan, Lady Macbeth's mind becomes disturbed and it is believed she commits suicide. Shakespearean audiences would have believed in witches and would have considered witches to have held special powers. People of the day thought that witches were real. Shakespeare uses alliteration in the opening scene where the witches have gathered, "Fair is foul and foul is fair", to create a feeling of confusion. ...read more.

Conclusion

Both spoke to the witches and heard their prophecies. However, each reacted to those prophecies in a different way and this reveals the differences in their characters. These differences are one of the themes of the play, the difference between good and evil and right and wrong choices. Macbeth himself knew that Banquo was good, "He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour to act in safety". (Act 3 Scene 1: 54 - 55) Therefore this proves that Macbeth realises what he did was wrong. In conclusion, it would seem that Macbeth must take responsibility for the murders of Duncan and Banquo. Although it could be argued that Lady Macbeth and the witches exerted influence on Macbeth to commit the murder, nevertheless Macbeth had freedom of choice to resist the influences of both. He made a choice to go along with his wife and the witches and so he is responsible for the murders, although it could be argued that his wife and witches assisted. Macbeth is also responsible for his own downfall. He made wrong choices and was fully aware of what he was doing. His choices also led to him carrying out further murders to protect himself from being found out. The tragedy of this play is that we first meet Macbeth being hailed as good, noble and valiant and unfortunately pride and ambition led him to take part in evil acts. Nicole Blackburn ...read more.

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