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Macbeth - Discuss the ways in which the play presents to us the picture of a man caught between the promptings of his worldly ambition and an acute awareness of moral and religious values.

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Introduction

English Coursework Discuss the ways in which the play presents to us the picture of a man caught between the promptings of his worldly ambition and an acute awareness of moral and religious values. The tragedy of Macbeth is that we watch the downfall of a great man because of a flaw in his character. The play begins with the description of the battle between the Scottish forces led by Macbeth and Banquo, and the rebels led by Macdonald and the traitor Cawdor, and the Norwegian forces. The captain says, "brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name", and describes how he mercilessly beat of the rebels and the Norwegians against the odds. He is a hero among the king's court, and as he later says, he "hath brought golden opinions from all sorts of people". However, even at this early stage, we see an undesirable side of the character, as described by the bloody captain; he says that Macbeth and Banquo fought so viciously that they "meant to bathe in reeking wounds, or memorise another Golgotha". This reference to Golgotha would have had a much greater impact on the deeply Christian audience of the early 17th Century, when everyone would have known that this was the name of the hill on which Jesus was crucified. Therefore, with this reference Shakespeare must be aiming to show that Macbeth is not all good, and that although he is a brilliant general, and the hero of Scotland, he is also ruthless, and bloody. ...read more.

Middle

He begins by saying that he would skip the afterlife if only it meant that he could succeed in becoming king. This is a measure of just how ambitious he is; he is a man who is always aware of the afterlife, he mentions it so often, yet says here that he would rather be successful in this one act, than live for ever at God's side. He then begins to state the arguments against murder, beginning with the knowledge that the murderer will have justice eventually. He says that he shouldn't kill him because he is his relation, king and host. He then uses very vivid and apocalyptic imagery to describe how Duncan's virtues will "plead like angels against" his own lesser virtues, in heaven, because Duncan is such a saintly king. This implies that Macbeth does not think that highly of himself, because he recognises that Duncan is a far better king than he ever could be, and is a far better person than he. The image of the "naked newborn babe striding the blast" is another example of how vivid Macbeth's imagination is, while giving another reason not to carry out the murder; the pity that he should feel for the old man. This is the most powerful reason for me, because of the way it is explained, and because I know how the murder will torment Macbeth and his wife for the rest of their lives. ...read more.

Conclusion

In Act 1 Lady Macbeth told him to "consider it not so deeply" after he was terrified by his inability to say "amen", but yet this is the type of thing that haunts him to the end of his life, and drives him to isolate himself from everything that he holds dear. Once he knows that he has "forsaken the life to come", he cuts himself off from all moral and spiritual values, and though he is still very aware of these values, he just ignores them. As Macbeth himself said, I am in blood Stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as going o'er. In this horrific and apocalyptic imagery, he conveys that he might as well continue to be bad, rather than admit his mistakes, and try to be forgiven. This idea is repeated, when the doctor says that the patient must help itself to be healed from a disease of the mind, and he basically says that he can't be bothered with this. He has a deeply troubled mind, but yet his pride stops him from admitting that he ever made a mistake. By Act 5, scene 3, he knows that it is over, and begins to mourn himself. He says, again with imaginative imagery, that his way of life is slowly dying, And that which should accompany old age, As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have. Hector Guinness 03/05/2007 1 ...read more.

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