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Macbeth - How Shakespeare presents the characters in Act 3 Scene 1

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Introduction

Examine how Shakespeare presents the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Act 3 Scene 1. How do their words thoughts and actions make the scene such a dramatic and important scene in the play? In the majority of Shakespeare's compositions, Act 3 usually consists, in terms of context, the most important scenes in the play. Macbeth is no different; Act 3 and in particular Act 3 Scene 1 is the point in the play where events are rapidly building to a dramatic and tragic climax. In the previous scenes the audience witnessed the violent assassination of the much loved King Duncan by Macbeth followed by the (said / mentioned) murderer's inevitable election as king. In a historical context, the general public at the time of the production's release would have understood the significance and seriousness of Macbeth's actions more so than modern day audiences. Regicide was not only seen as an evil act against king and country but also against God. The Divine Right of King's was widely believed; which stated every monarch is selected by God and has sole right to the throne (usurper). More notably, genuine threats such as the Gunpowder Plot against the ruler at the time, King James I, made the murder of King Duncan not only more believable but something audiences could actually relate to. Act 3 Scene 1 commences with a condemning soliloquy by Banquo. He shares with the audience his strong accusations regarding the manner in which Macbeth has become King Speaking dangerously of deceit and treason, 'Thou played'st most foully for't', Shakespeare cleverly aligns Banquo with the audience and in doing so emphasizes the shocking nature of King Duncan's murder. ...read more.

Middle

However, Macbeth has other hamartias which are explored further on. If I was directing this scene, I would strive to get the key point across. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have just been crowned king and Queen of their beloved nation. The 'honeymoon' period has just begun and they both absolutely adore their new roles, 'Thou hast it now King, Cawdor, Glamis, all.' Therefore, I would endeavour to make sure this comes across to the audience by ensuring the actors were dressed accordingly; royal robes and jewellery etc. Also, the actors should portray a relieved and joyful persona to illustrate the fact that Macbeth and his wife's efforts have finally been rewarded. During Macbeth's soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 1, Shakespeare reveals the character's true colours. Macbeth explains that despite Banquo being his best friend, he understands that Banquo must be murdered in order for him to remain in power; 'to be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus.' This extract would confirm the audiences' earlier thoughts and feelings about Macbeth's intentions with Banquo. It also proves that the compassion and sincerity he showed towards Banquo in their last conversation was just an act. Shakespeare compares Macbeth's feelings about Banquo to an actual event in the past, 'as it is said Mark Antony's was by Caesar.' Macbeth acknowledges Banquo's integrity but cannot help feeling that perhaps he is the Achilles heel to making him last upon the throne. Just as in Ancient Rome, Mark Antony was said to be in fear of Octavius Caesar. ...read more.

Conclusion

Several supernatural hallucinations throughout the play profoundly affect Macbeth; culminating with the evil forces overpowering Macbeth and his morals. For example, the prophecies of the three witches and the appearance of Banquo's ghost. These two points in the play would have been very significant for the audience at the time. Witches were associated with using uncompromising potions, flying, becoming invisible at will and using disguises for the evil spirits in control of them. In Shakespeare's time, a large proportion of people believed in witches. Hundreds of thousands of women were accused of employing the mentioned familiars to cause misfortunes and disasters. As a result, many were either executed or tortured. Even King James I was personally frightened of witches, passing a law that condemned anyone connected with witchcraft. In hindsight, it is now clear that witches were just innocent people used as scapegoats for mistakes made by others. Macbeth is a prime example of Shakespeare's use of the tragic pattern. The play begins with the rise and fall of a man of high estate. This is followed by a flaw in character, Duncan's trust in Macbeth for example, 'a gentleman on whom I built absolute trust.' Then murder, exile and alienation of enemies and allies; King Duncan's Murder, the Princes' flee, murder of Banquo and dismissal of Lady Macbeth. All leading to the gradual isolation of the tragic hero, tragic recognition of the flaw by the tragic hero; 'and now a wood comes toward Dunsinane' and eventually the death of the tragic hero. Macbeth is slain by Macduff. Tragic patterns similar to this one are used in every one of Shakespeare's renowned tragedies. ...read more.

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