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To what Extent is Macbeth a Play of Antithesis?

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Introduction

To what Extent is Macbeth a Play of Antithesis? Macbeth, like many of Shakespeare's famous plays, relies heavily on antithesis to convey its inner meaning. It is very important that each place has opposing forces and parallels, and these make it much better. Shakespeare uses a variety of techniques like cultural significance, charisma and motivating ideas to get his unique message across in each play. Macbeth is one play that incorporates an especially large amount of contrast, and this is evident in almost every scene. There are many on-going themes that are intertwined and help to give the tragedy significance, and essentially keep the audience engrossed. We cannot fully appreciate much of this as citizens of the twenty-first-century, as Shakespeare cleverly integrated many topics specific to the time when he wrote Macbeth. His audiences - especially King James I - who were able to see his plays as he intended, could completely understand what Shakespeare wanted to represent and understand better the way he captivated audiences and kept them interested. People of the Elizabethan times lived very interesting lives - there was always something going on - and for the King of England, Macbeth bore increased impact - James I was a direct relative of some characters and also knew all too well about attempts on a monarch's life, in light of the recent 'Gunpowder Plot'. The characters show real individualism and at times it is almost impossible not to sympathise with Macbeth after he is drawn further and further into evil ways by his ambition. Often, one is drawn into criticising a character's actions as they are so vividly realised in Shakespeare's writing. Macbeth is truly a superb play, one that appeals to many people on an almost personal level. The many soliloquies give the audience an insight into his mind and mentality. We can begin to realise and understand his motives and time come when you even begin to sympathise with Macbeth. The morals are incredibly deep and induce concentrated thought. ...read more.

Middle

(II, i, 50-1) showing that he has been troubled in his sleep by the witches' prophecy and also that Nature is not quite right just before the murder. This means that Nature can almost 'sense' that something bad is about to happen as Macbeth proceeds towards Duncan's bedroom. In the next scene after Macbeth has killed the king, he mentions that he "...heard the owl scream and the crickets cry." (II, ii, 16) A scream is not a natural sound for a normally peaceful owl to make and this is another example of Nature's unrest following the undeserved death of the a 'good' king. In scene three, Lennox talks to Macbeth about the last night's ghastly weather: "The night has been unruly: where we lay, Our chimneys were blown down; and as they say, Lamentings heard I' the air; strange screams of death, And prophesying with accents terrible Of dire combustion and confus'd events New hatch'd to the woeful time. The obscure bird Clamour'd the livelong night: some say the earth Was feverous and did shake." (II, iii, 54-61) Apart from the ironic "...screams of death" and the night's "...woeful time...", this quote shows that after the proper king is removed, Nature almost rebels. The king, ordained and approved by Nature, is dead and so the earth responds by reflecting this. Tremors are felt, and strong gales damaged buildings, showing the general unease. People can see from the conditions that something is wrong even before the murder is discovered. In scene four, Ross and an Old Man discuss the unusual events on the night of Duncan's murder. They learn that Macbeth will succeed him to the throne, "He is already nam'd, and gone to Scone/To be invested" (II, iv, 31-2). The Old man says that he say an "...unnatural" (II, iv, 11) deed - an owl caught a falcon and killed it in mid-air. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is possible that Banquo represents Macbeth's conscience - he tries to keep him from sinning and doing wrong. Nevertheless, Macbeth consistently ignores him, takes things into his own hands, and ends up worse off at the end of the play. Even after Macbeth thinks his conscience is dead, and he is rid of him, Banquo's ghost comes back to haunt him and remind him what he has done. This shows that you should not ignore your sense of right and wrong; you cannot dismiss your conscience forever. Also, it does not pay to do wrong, try and take the easy route, as fate will always find a way. Overall, I think that Macbeth is a play that incorporates a lot of antithesis and is better for it. These opposites and parallels add depth to an already thoughtful tragedy and make them a requirement for Macbeth to be the quality play that it is famed as. Shakespeare has done a fine job and clearly produced a play 'fit for a king'. James I would've been enthralled by the performance and it would've really made him leave the theatre thinking. This was especially because much of the content was tailored towards his interests. Antithesis is an essential part of Shakespeare's plays and Macbeth is a fine example of these. The story is full of comparisons and conflicting themes. The "Nature versus Supernature" idea is especially strong as is the changing balance of power in the relationship between Macbeth and his wife. Macbeth is truly a play of antithesis including such a wealth of contrasting words and phrases - it would not be the same without the direct opposites. As this essay has hopefully shown, Macbeth is full of antithesis and an alert audience will pick this up and appreciate it. There is so much more to Macbeth that just antithesis though; psychology, poetry and moral teaching are buried within the play and the heavy use of antithesis highlights that this broad play has something to appeal to almost everyone. Jonathan Hobbs Page 1 4/27/2007 ...read more.

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