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Shakespeare used the supernatural to entertain and terrify in Macbeth. How would you use the supernatural element in the play to entertain and terrify a contemporary audience?

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Shakespeare used the supernatural to entertain and terrify in Macbeth. How would you use the supernatural element in the play to entertain and terrify a contemporary audience? The supernatural element of Macbeth is very important. Not only can it be used to terrify and entertain it is also contributes to the tragic aspect of the play and I consider it one of the main themes of the play. The supernatural element underpins the tragedy - if the witches hadn't made their prophesies to Macbeth then Macbeth wouldn't have killed Duncan, nor would he have ordered the death of Banquo. Neither would Lady Macbeth have wanted Duncan murdered nor gone insane, nobody would have died; there would have been no tragedy and no play. The time Shakespeare was writing Macbeth was a time of great superstition and suspicion of the supernatural. Most people did subscribe to the idea of the paranormal and most people were very scared of this. This is testified by the fact that Witchcraft was a crime punishable by death. The law passed in 1604 stated 'If any person shall use any invocation or conjuration of any evil or wicked spirit; or shall consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed or reward any evil or cursed spirit to or for any intent...that every such person being convicted shall suffer death." King James I himself believed very much in the supernatural and he even wrote a book about the subject entitled 'Daemonologie' or 'Demonology'. This book explores and discuses witchcraft, necromancy, possession, demons, were-wolves, fairies and ghosts. James was obsessed with witches and witchcraft and he was convinced that witches were out to get him. Witchcraft was in fact one of the main obsessions of the time. Audiences watching Macbeth at the time shared this belief and Shakespeare's portrayal of it would not only have been easily recognized and understood but have incited real fear into them. ...read more.


In this scene Macbeth claims to see a dagger before him although he questions its reality and thus questions his own sanity and if his senses are working "Art thou a dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?" (II.1.36). This dagger is a cunning dramatical tool as it lets Macbeth express in his soliloquy just how he is feeling about killing the king. In this soliloquy that is now famous Macbeth expresses his fears but he also allies himself with witchcraft, murder and secrecy. "Witchcraft celebrates Pale Hecate's off'rings, and withered murder, alarumed by his sentinel, the wolf." (II.1.51) At the beginning of his soliloquy he experiences horror at the reality of what he is contemplating, but he gives away to resolution. "I go and it is done." (II.1.62) By this he means his has decided to do the deed after much discussion. He realises that talking isn't getting him anywhere "While I threat, he lives" (II.1.60). The audience's perception of the supernatural in this scene is that it has taken over Macbeth's mind and it has influenced and warped all his senses. It is the supernatural that is making him do this evil deed, as the brave soldier Macbeth would never have even contemplated such a thing before he dabbled in the supernatural. Macbeth also sees several apparitions when he visits the witches in Act 4, Scene 1. At the beginning of this scene we see the witches making an unpleasant and unchristian broth "Eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog." This is to prepare the audience for the arrival of Macbeth and also to offer some parallel to the wickedness practiced by Macbeth. Macbeth sees these when he goes to visit the witches for a second time. He needs to know more. "Tough the treasure of nature's german tumble altogether even till destruction sicken: answer me to what I ask you" When he says this he is basically saying even if order is turned to chaos, at any price, tell me. ...read more.


Insanity and the fear of becoming such would be the main focus of my play as I consider this to be the only fear in Macbeth that is still very much a fear today. In the Banquet scene I wouldn't show a ghost and instead I would show Macbeth going insane as I imagine this'd be a more effective way of conveying Macbeth's fear. I would take advantage of the dark and grotesque imagery that is said by Macbeth. I would also exploit the fear of insanity in the scene in which Macbeth sees the dagger before him. I wouldn't show the dagger and instead show Macbeth try to clutch thin air. I would present the witches much like Orson Welles' did in his forty's adaptation i.e. I would only show the back of them and use dark light to obscure their faces as this was a very effective technique that Welles' employed as how the audience imagine the witches to be behind the light is far worse than make up or masks could achieve. Doing this also portrays the witches as mysterious and secretive, it also intrigues the audience and they are left wanting to know more as Macbeth was. I would not show the apparitions to the audience, this way the audience would only know as much as Macbeth, thus maintaining the identification and achieving further fears and enjoyment. Despite society and what frightens society having changed considerably since Macbeth was written it can still be a very frightening play. Although the task of using the supernatural to entertain and terrify would have been easier to do for an Elizabethan audience it can still be used to do this for a contemporary audience. If an audience is willing to be scared and modern day technology such as lighting and sound are used effectively this task would be achieved and the audience would therefore be suitably scared and definitely entertained. Cressida Greening 1 ...read more.

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