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Macbeth is as much the tragedy of Lady Macbeth as it is the eponymous character - Discuss with a particular focus on how Shakespeare exploits language in order to heighten the drama and tragedy for the audience.

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Introduction

Macbeth is as much the tragedy of Lady Macbeth as it is the eponymous character. Discuss with a particular focus on how Shakespeare exploits language in order to heighten the drama and tragedy for the audience. For my essay I am going to compare the tragedies of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and decide whose is the greater. I will look at how Shakespeare exploits language to heighten drama and tragedy for the audience. William Shakespeare wrote 'Macbeth' around the year 1606. It is widely thought that the play was written for the King of Denmark, who was in Londonon a visit to his brother-in-law, James I. Shakespeare found the nucleus of the play in a book, which he used many times in writing his historical plays: Ralph Holinshed's 'Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland' published in 1577. According to Holinshed, Duncan I was a weak king, and Macbeth a rival chief with a genuine grievance. Macbeth had met 'three woman in evil apparel', who had made certain prophecies. Encouraged by his wife, and aided by a certain Banquo and some friends, he killed Duncan and reigned honourably for seventeen years. Also in Holinshed's 'Chronicles' there is a story of an old warrior chieftain called King Duff, who was murdered by a man called Donwald and his wife, when the King was staying in their castle as a guest. Shakespeare combined the two stories in composing the plot of Macbeth. Although there was a historical Lady Macbeth, she had one son, Lulach 'the simple', this may explain the child whose brains she would have 'dash'd out had she so sworn'. The traditional criteria for a tragedy are that the main character has to occupy a weighty and well-respected position. The main character would suffer from a fatal flaw that would eventually lead to their demise. To speed up this process, external forces would act as catalysts to the main character's flaw. To display the brutal side of the main characters' flaw, innocents would suffer. ...read more.

Middle

Shakespeare gives Lady Macbeth such harsh language so that the audience immediately recognises that she is an unstable, but strong character in the play. Before Macbeth goes into Duncan's chamber he sees an imaginary dagger. The dagger is an external representation of Macbeth's inner ambition. It leads him slowly towards the king's bedchamber, leading him towards his goal. The use of the dagger is for the audience, the effect of externalising his ambition in the form of a dagger is screaming to the audience that he will perform his task. Macbeth's opening rhetorical question, 'Is this a dagger which I see before me' is followed by 'come, let me clutch thee'. By addressing the dagger as 'thee' he is personifying the dagger, as though he is trying to touch his ambition, he is accepting his task. The following rhetorical questions highlight his inner turmoil within this soliloquy, almost question his own sanity. As he gets closer to Duncan's room his vernacular becomes more violent, 'blood', 'wicked', 'witchcraft'. This type of language is very similar to Lady Macbeth and the witches, relating Macbeth to them hints as to what will become of him in later stages of the play. It also shows that the witches and Lady Macbeth are indeed external manipulators. In line 52 of Act 2, Scene 1, Shakespeare personifies murder, 'thus with his stealthy pace, with Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design moves like a ghost', I think it is strange for the playwright to personify murder in something that is already dead. This may suggest that a murdered person will return to stalk the person that had killed them. The last three lines of Macbeth's soliloquy heighten tension, 'I go, and it is done: the bell invites me, hear it not Duncan, for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven, or to hell'. Although the line is referring to Duncan it is also reflected upon Macbeth, because if he does the right thing and walks away he will go to heaven. ...read more.

Conclusion

The note is an externalised form of her guilt. Shakespeare uses prose in this scene to heighten the feelings of pathos from the audience, and also displays the dramatic descent that her character has undergone. During most of Act 5 Macbeth remains publicly defiant for the most part holding onto the witches' words. Privately though he reveals that he has 'lived long enough' and has 'supped full with horrors' on hearing of his wife's untimely demise. 'She have died hereafter', which his as much a reflection of her life as it is of his. He then thinks about the futility of life, 'a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more'. Shakespeare uses Macbeth's thoughts on life as an extended metaphor, 'it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound of fury, signifying nothing', this quote sums up his views of life. He realises the ephemeral nature of life, but it has become too late to change. The audience should feel a sense of pity for Macbeth for all he has seen and committed. He has no wish to 'play the Roman fool' which is one last stand against life. Bringing more pathos from the audience. His wife may have played the 'Roman fool' but he was not about to follow her path. At the time of Macduff's confrontation Macbeth's demise is now in sight. The audience can see this and sympathise with Macbeth, which is the key ingredient to a tragedy. In examining the facts before me I believe that Lady Macbeth suffers greater tragedy than Macbeth does. She suffers far greater inner turmoil than Macbeth. It is not until after Lady Macbeth has died does Macbeth finally begin to show signs of repent and guilt. Penny Woolcock's 1996 adaptation of 'Macbeth' supports my views; she also saw that it is Macbeth that is her fatal flaw. Shakespeare makes sure through his language, that the audience feels the suffering of the main characters; he exploits language well in order to heighten tension. ...read more.

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