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"Macbeth" (or "The Scottish Play")

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Introduction

GCSE Macbeth Assignment Shakespeare wrote "Macbeth" around 1606. This was a very violent time for the newly recognised British Isles. Just three years earlier, after nearly half a century in power, Queen Elizabeth I had died. She was succeeded by James I (or James VI of Scotland). James was of Scottish heritage and his style of rule was very different to that of Elizabeth who had been strong and imposing character. It would seem that James was a weaker monarch and in 1605, just two years after being crowned, there was a plot to destroy the houses of parliament, a symbol of his power. This is famously known as the Gunpowder Plot and is still commemorated every year on the 5th of November. Most agree that Shakespeare wrote "Macbeth" (or "The Scottish Play") to comment on the underlying mood of the time. He sets his play in Scotland to try and win favour with King James and furthermore, makes the subject matter that of assassination and regicide ending in overall failure, to try and warn other possible plotters against the king. King James was renowned for his fascination and hatred of witches and during his reign tens of thousands of "witches" were killed. Shakespeare thus makes all the carnage and murder in the play the result of the witches' prophecies. Our first impression of Macbeth is a very good one. In only the second scene, before we even meet Macbeth, we hear him referred to as "brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name." Again, before Macbeth is even introduced to us, King Duncan remarks (with regard to Macbeth and Banquo) "they smack of honour both." Although we are also told that Macbeth's sword was "smoked with bloody execution" this is most definitely seen as a positive attribute and not as grounds for worry for the other characters. It could however, be a hint from Shakespeare that things are not completely as they seem. ...read more.

Middle

It that shows that he has not managed to calm down. Shakespeare usually wrote in iambic pentameters and these short one-word questions distort the flow of this pattern and are meant to indicate the paranoia and nervousness of Macbeth and his wife. Macbeth must have been extremely perturbed when he was in the room with Duncan. He says "this is a sorry sight," whilst he is looking at his hands. This indicates that the killing was messy and later, Macbeth describes them as "hangman's hands." This could mean that Macbeth is disgusted and sorrowful for committing such a disgraceful crime and that he is showing signs of remorse. He continues to use euphemisms, such as "deed" to block out and forget the murder as much as he can. Shakespeare tries to give the audience the impression that Macbeth is sorry for his actions and not a cold-blooded person. Shakespeare also gives Macbeth another human element whereby he has him looking down at his hands, something that many people can identify with. Macbeth then goes on to talk about the "deed." He mentions that when the two grooms were in the room with Duncan one cried, "Murder!" As Macbeth has refrained from using this tabooed word throughout the passage he must be very unstable to finally use it. Shakespeare also uses an exclamation mark which is meant to startle the audience and create suspense with a short pause. The short pause here is in start contrast to Macbeths other words which are written to be spoken very quickly. This is to give the audience the idea that Macbeth wants to forget his experience and get it off his chest as quickly as possible. A good example is when Macbeth is again talking about the two grooms, "That they did wake each other: I stood and heard them; but they did say their prayers, and addressed them again to sleep". ...read more.

Conclusion

When Macbeth accepts Macduff's challenge, even though he knows the end is near, the valiant and honourable side of his character shines through again. Macduff calls Macbeth a "coward" and tells him to "yield." Possibly in one final maniac act of desperation he accepts the challenge and does not yield. He says that he cannot be dishonoured, "to kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet." This is very clever as it uses distinct imagery that is easy to relate to. He goes on to say "I will not yield... to be baited with the rabble's curse", saying that if he yields even common people will tease him. He goes forth to battle with Macduff and is killed. Shakespeare's Macbeth is on of the classic tragic figures in literary history. He personifies a man's corruption as a result of power. From our initial view of him, as what can only be described as a hero, we see him fall into an abyss of mental instability and eventually insanity. Shakespeare investigates many ideas such as, things not being as they seem, feminine influence and the overall result of regicide. He uses many cleverly crafted semantic fields such as clothes ("why do you dress me in borrow'd robes") and a man's face ("There's daggers in men's smiles"). These all work as clever imagery to further entice the audience. Apart from being a tragic hero, Macbeth is also one of the most complicated of all of Shakespeare's characters. He goes through almost every emotion that we have a word for, and his feelings always contradict. First we think he is a fearless warrior, and then we see him bullied by his heartless wife. This serves a superb dramatic purpose for Shakespeare as the audience are never sure what to think or what to expect next. The conclude, the play "Macbeth" is undoubtedly one of Shakespeare's greatest masterpieces and is a timeless piece of theatre - with its core, being the dramatic enigma that it the character, Macbeth. ...read more.

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