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Macbeth - tragic hero?

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Introduction

The first time we hear about Macbeth he is presented as a hero - 'brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name.' Before meeting the character we are told what other people think of him. This builds expectations. The audience would expect Macbeth to be the brave, heroic type, and would want to meet him. However, when we do meet Macbeth this original opinion begins to falter. The very first line he says is 'So foul and fair a day I have not seen.' This instantly connects him to the witches as the line is very similar to the witches 'fair is foul and foul is fair' chant at the end of scene 1. As people in the time of James I saw witchcraft as an undoubtedly evil thing, it would also taint his heroic status, which he received from the words of Malcolm in scene 2. This would create interest as the audience could want to see if this supernatural connection developed. The witches words influence him greatly, it is clear he is intrigued - 'Stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more.' This shows the ambitious nature of his personality and also leaves the audience wondering whether or not he will achieve the goals set by the witches. Shakespeare has given Macbeth a very complicated personality. ...read more.

Middle

Straight away they promise to meet Macbeth. This creates suspense as the audience will be waiting for this to happen, and could also be thinking about what will occur when it does. The witches also establish the theme of evil in the play. Shakespeare does this by using symbols such as 'Graymalkin' and 'Paddock'. At the time and even now these creatures are associated with evil or the supernatural. At the end of the scene the witches perform the infamous chant 'Fair is foul and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air.' This could tell the audience that appearances are deceptive in this play, and could make it seem very mysterious. The chant could also be interpreted as a spell - adding to the supernatural or evil theme. To add to the magical aura that Shakespeare has created around the witches, he has made them finish each others sentences - 'Where the place?' - 'Upon the heath.' This indicates a psychic connection between them, making them appear supernatural to the audience. They also have a habit of predicting the future, especially the third witch. They are also first seen with a backdrop of thunder and lightening. This could make them seem very powerful. In the play Scotland seems to be a political and literal, mess. ...read more.

Conclusion

King James I was obsessed with the supernatural and even wrote a book on it. The attitudes to the King were also typical of the time. As Shakespeare would want to please the King (the monarchy had a lot of power in those days), he had to make sure that Macbeth would get his comeuppance, as James I had been a target of the gunpowder plot and would be sensitive about royal murder. When you consider that King James I was also king of Scotland it shows how strongly Shakespeare shaped his play to the King's interests. The limitations of theatre are also apparent as Shakespeare relies on language instead of props to get images across to the audience. For example, the description of the battle -'they meant to bathe in reeking wounds, or memorise another Golgotha.' This line portrays a clear image of the battle without the use of any special effects, and also relates to the audiences religious bearings (the reference to Golgotha). I find the opening act of Macbeth very successful as Shakespeare creates interest while managing to introduce the main themes. It involves the audience and prepares us for the rest of the play by giving us an insight into what will happen, but still leaves us wondering, shrouding the future occurrences in mystery. Discuss How Shakespeare Creates Mystery And Interest In Act 1 Scenes 1-7 ...read more.

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