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Supernatural events occur throughout Macbeth - Analyse the dramatic devices Shakespeare uses to portray these events, their ef

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Supernatural events occur throughout Macbeth - Analyse the dramatic devices Shakespeare uses to portray these events, their effectiveness and their function Like many others during the Renaissance period, James I was immensely fascinated with witchcraft and the supernatural. Belief in witchcraft had long existed in the British Isles, and James was not the first ruler to take such superstition seriously. Just as he believed that kings were chosen by God and granted their throne by divine right, James also believed that the Devil and his followers sought to destroy royal power by means of evil spells. Witch hunts and burnings flourished during his reign, and the king himself personally oversaw many witch trials and executions. Taking into account the King's intrigue and fascination with the supernatural, Shakespeare wrote the play 'Macbeth' for James I following Queen Elizabeth's death, entwining themes of witchcraft and the supernatural within the story. The play opens with the three 'withered' and 'wild in attire' witches in thunder and lightening. Shakespeare is using pathetic fallacy; the weather is reflecting the supernatural and evil events occurring. It was believed in superstitious times that storms were signs of dreadful events to come. The witches talk of the war that Macbeth is fighting in, as 'hurlyburly'; this makes them seem more powerful and above that of normal beings as they disregard it without a care. ...read more.


The second apparition is a blood stained child rising from the cauldron. In a play, acted out this was probably very disturbing and an effective technique to emphasise how sinister the event is. This apparition makes Macbeth believe no human can kill him, however we know the witches are tricking him as someone born by caesarean is not 'woman born.' Again, in the third apparition, the witches are using equivocal language, yet Macbeth does not apprehend this trickery. This use of trickery on Macbeth shows us how knowledgeable the witches are and emphasises the power of the supernatural witches. Lady Macbeth calls on evil spirits to fill her 'from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty' so that she can help Macbeth kill Duncan, as she believes he is too good-natured. Shakespeare uses shocking language to portray this event: 'Stop up th' access and passage to remorse' 'Come to my woman's breasts, and take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers.' This alliteration is used to reinforce the meaning of the line, to emphasize just how sinister and evil this deed is. This image is disturbing, as she wants her milk to be turned to poison so that any baby she has will be killed. ' I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out!' ...read more.


Shakespeare again refers to animals associated with the night; Lennox talks of the 'obscure bird' that 'clamoured the livelong night'; the presence of the owl signifies the supernatural. The effect of this is that we feel the presence of the supernatural whenever evil events occur, to accentuate its continual dominant power throughout the play. The main vision is Banquo's ghost in the banquet scene. Shakespeare uses shocking images to portray this event, the bloody state of Banquo's ghost and Macbeth appearing to have gone insane. The actor of Macbeth will be utterly bewildered and look quite insane talking to a ghost he can see, 'Thou hast no speculation in those eyes which thou dost glare with!' but that is not visible to anyone else, 'What sights, my lord?' This device is used to emphasise Macbeth's weak state of mind, as it clearly shows us he is petrified when he sees the ghost, crying out 'Which of you have done this?' 'Thou canst not say I did it! Never shake thy gory locks at me!' Macbeth sees Banquo in a bloody, 'gory' state as a ghost, which shows he was brutally murdered. As Macbeth is horrified when he sees Banquo's ghost, this shows us Macbeth's morals have not been completely twisted and still has human emotions unlike Lady Macbeth who was 'unsexed' by the sinister supernatural spirits. This shows the power of the supernatural goes beyond natural forces as it can affect and control natural emotions, morals and actions. ...read more.

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