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Why is Act two Scene two an important scene in ‘Macbeth’?

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Introduction

Why is Act two Scene two an important scene in 'Macbeth'? Act two Scene two from the Shakespeare play 'Macbeth' is very important to the play. We see in this scene Macbeth's reaction to having just killed his king, Duncan. At the time it was written, the people generally believed the king of the country was 'appointed' by God himself. It is written during King James' time, after the famous GunPowder Plot in 1605 in which Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament with King James inside. Therefore it is thought the play is also a warning to anyone considering treason against their king. Shakespeare's audience would have considered the killing of their king not just a sin but an ultimate sin against God as they believed he had chosen the King by birthright. This probably would have made the play extremely fascinating for the audience, as they would have been desperate to find out what was going to happen to Macbeth as he had committed sacrilege. It also reflects certain aspects of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's characters, showing him openly guilty, and her being harsh and unfeeling in her speech. The scene also shows many underlying themes in the play, for example, guilt and trust. All these factors contribute to make the scene important to the play. Stagecraft is one of these contributing factors. Shakespeare uses stagecraft well in this scene to convey feelings and the atmosphere of the scene to the audience. An atmosphere of darkness is created in this scene using dramatic devices. Lady Macbeth at the beginning of the scene says, 'It was the owl that shrieked...' (II ii 3) which suggests a night time atmosphere to the audience as owls are nocturnal animals (bearing in mind that Shakespeare would not have had modern scenery or props available when he wrote the play). Lady Macbeth also says, 'I heard the owl scream, and the crickets cry.' ...read more.

Middle

As she is not naturally evil and needs 'helping' if she is to be involved in Duncan' murder. Also the drink may aid her in suppressing her guilt. Lady Macbeth's need to have help in attaining courage could also be seen earlier in the play, 'Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full Of direst cruelty!...' (I v 40-3) Lady Macbeth needs to ask the spirits to give her courage and 'make' her evil, which gives the impression that she is not naturally evil but that she wants to help her husband achieve his ambition, as well as fulfilling hers to be queen. Earlier in the play, Lady Macbeth hints that she will kill Duncan herself 'Leave all the rest to me', and the audience discover in act two scene two that she did in fact intend to kill Duncan herself, '...- Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done't...' (II ii 12-13) The fact that she could not kill Duncan because he reminded her of her father also reinforces the fact that she feels guilty about the murder, even though she never shares her feelings of guilt with her husband. Lady Macbeth also uses euphemisms when describing Duncan's murder during this scene, such as 'he is about it' (line 4). The fact that Lady Macbeth cannot apply more graphic terms to the murder suggests she is feeling guilty about it, just as in act one scene five she cannot say 'Hail King of Scotland' to Macbeth, but uses other phrases such as 'All-hail hereafter' (line 55). We can also tell that Lady Macbeth is feeling nervous about the murder as she exchanges short parts of dialogue with her husband (lines 15-9), and she is irritated by the animal noises which she ought to be used to as she lives there. ...read more.

Conclusion

(I v 65-6) implying that Macbeth should look innocent but in fact be calculating and evil. In act two scene two, Lady Macbeth puts an outward appearance to her husband of strength and having no guilt, as if setting an example. However, it is implied to the audience in her soliloquy (and other points) that she in fact does feel guilty, so Lady Macbeth's appearance is different to her reality, as we discover her guilt later in the play. Innocence, another theme in the play, is talked about by Macbeth in Act two Scene two. Sleep is portrayed as healing, 'Chief nourisher in life's feast;-' (line 39), and Macbeth has lost this. However, sleep in this context is also a metaphor for innocence, and Macbeth implies he will no longer sleep as he is no longer innocent. Also he is isolated from God, also showing his innocence has been destroyed in murdering Duncan. There are many references to blood in 'Macbeth'. Shakespeare did this to reinforce guilt, another main theme in the play, as the blood in the play's context represents the character's guilt. Macbeth says he cannot wash off the blood, meaning his guilt, showing that he truly realises he will always be guilty from this point on. Lady Macbeth in this scene however believes she can wash off her 'guilt', suggesting that she has not realised the reality of her actions as yet. The dark setting for this scene symbolises evil, as it does in other parts of the play. For example, Banquo's murder takes place in the dark, which reinforces the idea that darkness symbolises evil. In this scene, as it is immediately after the murder of Duncan, it is particularly 'evil' and is set in the dark. Hands in the play are often used to represent the characters feelings in the play, for example, Macbeth refers to his hands as 'hangman's hands', implying he has the guilt of a murderer, and Lady Macbeth says 'What, will these hands ne'er be clean?' in act five, which suggests she cannot wash away the blood (her guilt). ...read more.

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