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Macbeth was first performed for King James (of England and Scotland) in 1605.

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Introduction

Macbeth was first performed for King James (of England and Scotland) in 1605. Shakespeare wrote the play in the knowledge that it was likely to appeal to the king, who was interested in witchcraft. In the Jacobean period, most of Britain believed that witches existed and there were laws in place that forbade anyone from practicing witchcraft. The king had written an academic work on the topic, and by including the witches and supernatural events in the play Shakespeare raised some popular contemporary issues. He also created more interest for King James by having the character Banquo in the play. Banquo was a Scottish ancestor of King James, and as predicted by the weird sisters, Banquo's sons become kings. In act 1, scene 1, a scene of three witches confronts us. This alone would have created mystery and fright to the audience, setting the scene of the play to come. 'Macbeth´┐Ż was written in a period when there was a high interest in witchcraft and the supernatural. People were confused and scared by the supernatural, so the sight of three witches would have told the audience that the play would be full of evil and lies. This scene is a short opening to the play. It is long enough to awaken curiosity, but not to satisfy it. The mood of the play is set, although the action and the introduction of the leading characters do not start until the next scene. ...read more.

Middle

In her sleepwalking, Lady Macbeth plays out the washing theme that runs throughout the play. After killing Duncan, she flippantly tells Macbeth that "a little water clears us of this deed;" now it is evident that this is not true, as the sleepwalking lady tries in vain to scrub the stain of blood off her hands. Lady Macbeth's stained hands are reminiscent of the Biblical mark of Cain the mark that God placed on Cain after he killed his brother Abel in the story of Genesis. Like Cain's mark, the stain of blood follows Lady Macbeth and reveals her guilt to the watching doctor and gentlewoman. However, Cain's mark is a sign from God that protects Cain from others' revenge; Lady Macbeth's mark, on the other hand, does not protect her from death, and she dies only a few scenes later. The doctor's behavior in this scene is interesting in that it closely resembles the work of a psychoanalyst, but precedes the "father of psychoanalysis," Freud, by centuries. Like a Freudian psychoanalyst, the doctor observes Lady Macbeth's dreams and uses her words to infer the cause of her distress. Like a psychoanalyst, too, the doctor decides to "set down what comes from her" as he listens .After witnessing her distress, the doctor declares it the result of an "infected mind" this too sounds like the diagnosis of a modern-day psychiatrist. ...read more.

Conclusion

To his horror, the messenger is right. He resolves to fight Malcolm and Macduff anyway and die honorably. Shakespeare creates definite senses of evil through what is said and heard, like the end of Macbeth's soliloquy. There is a thin line between good and evil in the play, and it is easy to over step the mark, which Macbeth does. He goes from war hero to a corrupted king in a matter of days. The possible turning point is when Macbeth hears a prayer but cannot pronounce 'Amen', and he himself thinks of this deeply. He knows himself that what he has done was wrong, and he acknowledges this by refusing to return to the scene of the murder. Shakespeare uses blood to almost 'stain' Macbeth's mind, marking him permanently as a murderer. Macbeth knows that a water can never get rid of the guilt. Shakespeare's use of language and structure manages to create tension right up to the till the end. He manages to gradually build it up and then release it a little, and then increase it until finally the act of regicide takes place. His use of dramatic irony, the supernatural and indecision all combine to keep the audience on the edge of their seats throughout these scenes. His use of the right language in the right places helps the characters and the play to become really believable. Throughout the play, the supernatural plays a major role. A wise choice by Shakespeare at the time and it still works today. ...read more.

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