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Shakespeare’s treatment of evil in Macbeth

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Introduction

The Perse School for girls English Literature Centre number: 22135 Michelle Cheung February 2002 Shakespeare's treatment of evil in Macbeth It is clear right from the beginning of the play that the witches play a key role in the play. The opening scene shows the witches planning their meeting with Macbeth. Not only does this scene hold suspense and capture the audience's attention from the start of the play, it sets the atmosphere also. They meet on a moor in thunder and lightening, this portrays an evil image. This is how Shakespeare portrays evil at the start of the play. Shakespeare used rhyming couplets for lovers and magical characters, as well as at the end of a scene to round it off. The Witches speak this certain way to stress their mysteriousness and sense of confusion. Some of their lines contradict each other and this can be very effective and powerful. All: Fair is foul, and foul is fair Hover through the fog and filthy air. - (1.1) This is to emphasise the witches hate for good, and love for evil. Also, this would have caused tension among an Elizabethan audience. Witches were believed to be associated with the evil powers of Hell, and that they had diabolical powers and could take demonic power over anybody they chose. The image of them being able to fly would frighten them. In the Royal Shakespeare's Company's production, starring Anthony Sher and Harriet Walter, the witches are shown as extremely mentally unhinged and deranged. ...read more.

Middle

Lady Macbeth describes in violent terms what she herself would be prepared to do in this situation, she explains how willing she would be to kill for the Throne, by stating that she would go as far as murdering her own child if necessary. "I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn As you have done to this." - (1.7) The idea she expresses here certainly fits perfectly with the 'fair is foul and foul is fair' speech. This shows that appearances may be deceitful. Lady Macbeth seemed like a very feminine, weak lady. This is shown when the murder of Duncan had just been discovered, Macduff says to Lady Macbeth: "O gentle Lady, Tis not for you to hear what I can speak: The repetition in a woman's ear, Would murther as it fell" - (2.3) She is also a very cautious criminal; she remembers details well such as in Act Two, Scene two, when Macbeth had just murdered Duncan, he forgets to leave the daggers back to the scene of the crime. Macbeth, at this point, is shocked after what he had just done. He is frightened, and very guilty, he is not in the state to return the daggers. So Lady Macbeth does it for him to cover their tracks. Not only does she influence Macbeth to such actions, but she is ambitious enough to finish off any things he had begun. ...read more.

Conclusion

While throughout most of the play, Lady Macbeth spoke in unrhymed iambic pentameter. At the end when she was sleep talking, she spoke in prose, which showed how disjointed her mind was: "Wash you hands, put on your nightgown, look not so pale: I tell you yet again Banquo's buried; he cannot come out on's grave." - (5.1) In conclusion, I think Macbeth was extremely influenced by the witches. They were the main reason for spread of evil. There is certainly with little doubt, without the witches, and their prophecies, Macbeth would not have murdered Duncan. Though the witches were the main reason, the others was also his ambition, his weakness to temptation, and the power his wife had over him to tempt him to do what his conscience knew was wrong. Lady Macbeth is incredibly determined, and powerful, and eventually, the two of them lost their passion they had for each other because of their evil deeds and desire for control "Your hand, your tongue, look like th' innocent flower, But be the serpent under 't. He that's coming, Must be provided for: and you shall put This night's business into my dispatch, Which shall to all out nights, and days to come, Give solely sovereign swat, and masterdom." - Lady Macbeth. (1.5) "Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself, And falls on th' other." - Macbeth (1.7) ?? ?? ?? ?? Michelle Cheung 1 ...read more.

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