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Macbeth - The Dramatic Effectiveness of Act 2 Scene 2.

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Introduction

Macbeth The Dramatic Effectiveness of Act 2 Scene 2 Act 2 scene 2 is a pivotal scene in the downfall of Macbeth and the disintegration of Lady Macbeth. It is the scene where Macbeth commits the greatest crime of all; regicide. A Jacobean audience, and indeed James I, would have been deeply shocked and appalled by these actions so the dramatic impact of the scene is very important. Not only does it turn the noble, brave Macbeth 'Bellonna's Bridegroom'{1:2 54} into a murderer, it also contains key themes and motifs that drive the play forward. The scene comes immediately after Macbeth's famous soliloquy where he talks himself into killing Duncan. Prior to this point the audience are unsure if Macbeth would follow his wife's instructions. He dithered and she is the one we demonise as evil, 'fill me from the crown to the toe top full of direst cruelty'. The alliteration and shocking metaphor is reminiscent of the witches' opening scene when they too call on evil; 'fair is foul and foul is fair'{1:1}. It's almost as if Lady Macbeth is aligning herself with the instruments of evil and this would be abhorred by the contemporary audience. Macbeth's soliloquy creates a mood of foreboding, he alone on the stage, allowing the audience access to his thoughts. The soliloquy is a dramatic convention often used by Shakespeare to enable a character to voice their most innermost thoughts. ...read more.

Middle

He looks at the blood on his hands and says, 'This is a sorry sight'. The audience will feel empathy, we feel part of the conspiracy, we are angry that Macbeth went through with it as he is obviously a reluctant villain. This is in stark contrast from the heroic Macbeth on the battlefield who unseamed his enemy 'from the nave to the chops/ And fixed his hands upon our battlements'. Macbeth is only too well aware, as is the audience this blood is of an innocent. This scene also sets up the recurring image of blood most notably when Lady Macbeth obsesses over her blood stained hands; 'Here's the smell of the blood still; all the Perfumes of Arabiawill not sweeten this little hand' [5:1] Yet Lady Macbeth is still in control of proceedings at this stage and admonishes her husband. Macbeth continues referring to God, his victims invoked God while his ties with God were severed, 'say Amen/ when they did say 'God bless us'. Here Shakespeare again is playing to the audience, and reinforcing the severity of the crime Macbeth has committed. Monarchs during this era were considered to be God's representatives on earth- killing the king was a crime directly against God. Also Macbeth here is giving a harrowing description of what he did. Shakespeare chose not to show Duncan's murder. ...read more.

Conclusion

The repetition of blood and hand throughout the scene reinforces the impact of the respective themes. Lady Macbeth returns, saying she bears the same guilt as her husband only she conceals it. The knocking calls for action, we know the murder will be discovered and the scene closes on a cliffhanger. She pushes Macbeth to bed, he is still numb with regret. Without his wife's guidance here we would suspect that he could confess. Again, Shakespeare is allowing the audience to be sympathetic. Macbeth closes the scene as if closing his fate. 'Wake Duncan with thy knocking. I would thou couldst'. He wants to turn the clock back, his remorseful and the audience are left to anticipate his next actions. Scene 3 then brings in the Porter's scene- comic relief to dissipate the extreme tension and make the audience further ponder on the resulting consequences of Scene 2 Act 2. This scene is dramatically effective through language, action, characterisation and imagery. Perhaps what allows it work so efficiently on stage is the contrast between the two characters. Lady Macbeth almost plays the orthodox role of a man, her ambition, her uncaring nature and manipulative and exploitive ways are unconventional. Shakespeare intended to mislead the audience here, he wants to demonise her to highlight the human frailty of Macbeth and yet it is ironic that the roles are reversed in the final act. ?? ?? ?? ?? Conal McGarrity 11A ...read more.

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