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"'Macbeth' is a play about the conflict between good and evil." Discuss.

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Introduction

"'Macbeth' is a play about the conflict between good and evil." Discuss. Macbeth is a tragedy, which addresses the inner conflict of people's morality. Furthermore, it appears Shakespeare's intention was to portray the modern day attitudes towards religion and the supernatural of his time. Indeed, the Elizabethan audience the play was written for would have been devout Christians, and would have had strict beliefs towards good and evil. The audience was genuinely afraid of evil, and it was about this time that the Salem witch trials took place, where witches were executed. Watchers would have regarded the witches with suspicion and fear, just as Macbeth and Banquo do in the opening scenes. There is suggestion that this play was written for King James I, as he had a keen interest in the supernatural and occult ideas. Evil is shown in two ways throughout this play. We see the fight between virtue and immorality within characters; through struggles with their conscience, but they are also shown as forces in the outside world, which arose from religion, and ideas of Heaven, Hell, God and the Devil. The theme of evil is shown through unnatural occurrences, the witches, and within characters. However, the intended interpretation of whether these occurrences are literal or metaphorical is ambiguous. For example, the dagger seen by Macbeth just before his murder of King Duncan might be a vision of his own mind, or an illusion created by the witches, to spur Macbeth on to carry out the vicious deed. Whether these things are interpreted metaphorically or literally depend on whether you think Shakespeare meant to promote the supernatural aspect of the play, Macbeth personifies the struggle between good and evil; a battle within his own morality. ...read more.

Middle

One explanation for this vision is that Macbeth's own guilt is making him see this figure, a reminder of the vicious murder he has just sanctioned - a final bout of sorrow before he finally accepts his evil fate. The other interpretation is that it is actually Banquo returning from the dead to haunt Macbeth. Shakespeare's intention is not known, but I believe that as only Macbeth can see the ghost, it is his conscience which created the vision, showing his remorse. However, the signs of remorse are brief, as Macbeth consolidates his appearance as an evil figure, by sanctioning the murder of Banquo and Fleance for the security of his position, and by ruling a "tyranny". By the end of the play all signs of Macbeth's remorse and guilt have disappeared. Macbeth then callously wishes Banquo well, and calls him "dear friend...whom we miss", even though he has just ordered his brutal and unfounded execution. Moreover, Macbeth recognises and embraces his immorality and chooses not to reject or fight it. "I am in blood Stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more Returning were as tedious as go o'er." He exclaims that he has committed treacherous and evil acts, but does not show remorse. In addition, he says he's come this far, and resolves to continue on this evil path to ensure his success. After all, he committed these deeds out of ambition, it would be foolish to give up the success he has achieved. Others also recognise Macbeth's evil nature. For example, Malcolm describes him as " a dead butcher" at the end of the play, implying Macbeth is inhuman and cruel. ...read more.

Conclusion

The darkness has overcome the light, mirroring the change in Macbeth's character. Images of light and dark recur frequently. For example, as discussed earlier, the fact that Lady Macbeth requires a light with her at all times further illustrates this point. Heaven and Hell are also prominent features as use in imagery, and they show the dependence Shakespeare's society had on religion. Indeed the witches are referred to as evil creatures, Banquo calls them "devils". Macbeth recognises his evil nature. This is shown when he says "Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope The Lord's anointed temple and stole thence" Macduff also refers to Macbeth as a "hell-hound". Macbeth himself gives indication that he believes his acts are evil, and that he will receive punishment. He says that he "could not say 'Amen?'". This illustrates that he feels disassociated with God, and feels he is unworthy of virtuous praise. This indicates that he knows he is facing an eternity of damnation. For this reason he shows remorse, but this remorse is subdued, and eventually disappears for good. Macbeth relinquishes any hope of successful repentance, accepting his evil nature. Praying is also common images used to portray the reliance on religion. For instance, Banquo says "Cousins, a word, I pray you". The struggle between good and evil is present throughout 'Macbeth'. In the end we see good overcoming evil; in the death of main character, who by the end was an evil figure. We see virtue restored, taking its place as saviour and leader of humanity. Evil is completely diminished, and the remaining characters seem pure and valiant, all embodiments of complete goodness. It must also be said that although this play was written many years ago, the themes it includes are still valid in this day. 1 1 Luke Snell Macbeth ...read more.

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