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AS and A Level: Macbeth

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The historical context surrounding 'Macbeth'

  1. 1 Macbeth was written in 1606 when Shakespeare was 42 years old. The acting company who would have performed the play was called the King’s Men and their patron was King James I who had come to the throne in 1603.
  2. 2 Macbeth was probably written to please the King; the setting of the play with specific scenes at Inverness, Scone, Fife and Dunsinane would have appealed to King James, who also ruled over Scotland.
  3. 3 King James had brought unity to Scotland and England when he came to the throne and this is referred to in Macbeth when the English, under Edward, and the Scottish, under Malcolm, are united to overthrow Macbeth.
  4. 4 In Macbeth Shakespeare reinforces the Divine Right of Kings, the idea that the power of the king is something that is granted by God and the murder of a king is a crime against God Himself. This links to King James as he had been threatened by an assassination attempt – the Gunpowder Plot.
  5. 5 To celebrate the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot, a special medallion was made with the symbol of treachery on it: an image of a flower with a serpent lurking beneath it. There is a reference to this in the play when Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to “look like the innocent flower/But be the serpent under it”.

The themes of 'Macbeth'

  1. 1 Witchcraft and the supernatural – The play opens with the witches who create an atmosphere of evil and disorder which sets the scene for Macbeth’s downfall. The witches’ prophecies control Macbeth’s actions through his own ambition and lead him to his destruction.
  2. 2 Concealing the truth – Throughout the play many characters put on metaphorical masks to hide their true nature, thoughts or feelings; Macbeth and Lady Macbeth hide their true selves, Banquo hides his mistrust of Macbeth, Malcolm pretends he is evil in order to test Macduff.
  3. 3 Ambition – Macbeth was driven by his own and Lady Macbeth’s ambition. They were not satisfied with being of high status as Lord and Lady but wanted more power and were driven on by the witches’ prophecies.
  4. 4 Order and disorder – Throughout the play there are references to unnatural things happening; the natural order of things is changed by the unnatural act of Macbeth killing the King. It starts with the thunder and lightning in the opening scene and then follows with the witches speeches of supernatural acts.
  5. 5 Manhood – Lady Macbeth calls on the spirits to unsex her to make her more like a man so that she will have the strength to carry out the murder of Duncan. She also questions Macbeth’s manhood when he is having doubts about killing Duncan.

Macbeth as a tragic figure

  1. 1 At the beginning of the play Macbeth has a position of great importance and comes from a noble background. He is well respected and admired by everyone, especially King Duncan.
  2. 2 Macbeth has a flaw in his character so that his virtues are turned to vices and he begins to lose self-control. The witches tell him that he will become King but he cannot wait for it to happen and so determines his own fate by killing Duncan, which then leads to other murders.
  3. 3 The witches and Lady Macbeth contribute to his downfall, but essentially he brings about his own destruction and ultimate death.
  4. 4 In the inevitable process of Macbeth’s downfall he causes the suffering of innocent people – Duncan, Banquo, Macduff’s family and possibly Lady Macbeth.
  5. 5 At the end of the play the audience feels pity for Macbeth because he was originally a good man but was tempted by the idea of kingship and power. If he had responded differently then he might have still achieved greatness.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 10
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  1. Macbeth - Notes on Elements of the Gothic in the play.

    * Transformation * Macbeth is promoted to Thane of Cawdor by King Duncan, the audience have yet to meet Macbeth when Duncan makes this decision thus an impression of Macbeth as an honourable man is formed. The significance of this promotion is that Macbeth goes through a transformation from a brave soldier to a higher ranking, and more noble, position. * Macbeth's dramatic change in character is amplified in act 3 scene one as he attempts to annihilate Banquo, his close friend who he held in high respect at the start of the play.

    • Word count: 604
  2. Macbeth Scene analysis. Act 3 Scene 4 is a prominent scene in demonstrating the plays overall themes including how supernatural and superstitious themes affect human behaviour

    Act 3 Scene 4 is a prominent scene in demonstrating the play's overall themes including how supernatural and superstitious themes affect human behaviour and how power can lead to many forms of corruption. In this scene, Macbeth hosts a feast in honour of Banquo, who Macbeth has plotted to kill. While making the toast, Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo. Lady Macbeth attempts to mask the situation with false excuses for Macbeth's sudden burst of madness. Shakespeare uses this scene as a tool to represent the character development of Macbeth and uses visual imagery to illustrate the key messages.

    • Word count: 958
  3. Free essay

    Macbeth. To what extent do you find the plays ending satisfactory?

    This perspective is complicated, however, once we see Macbeth interact with the three witches. We realize that his physical courage is joined by a consuming ambition and a tendency to self-doubt-the prediction that he will be king brings him joy, but it also creates inner turmoil. Shakespeare uses Macbeth to put through how ones 'vaulting ambition' could have woeful effects upon their future actions. Macbeth gets caught in a web of lies and vile acts of murder in which he brings about his own demise.

    • Word count: 869
  4. During the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare temptation plays a notable role in most violent acts. One may have the self-awareness to know their action is bad, however, the temptation causes ambition that overleaps ones true conscience.

    As Macbeth contemplates the thought of murdering Duncan he maintains awareness. Macbeth is Duncan's "Kinsman and his subject" (I, vii, 13-14). Macbeth knows that if he murders Duncan he would murder his cousin, the king. Macbeth is also the Kings "host" (I, vii, 13-14) Macbeth would also take advantage of having the king as his guest. The act would violate all his values. Lady Macbeth resents the way Macbeth reflects about executing the murder. She tells Macbeth that he is a "Coward" because he is indecisive in his decision considering the act is immoral (I, vii, 47).

    • Word count: 832
  5. Macbeth; A Tragic Hero

    At the beginning of the story, Macbeth is returning from Scotland after winning the war for Duncan. This shows that he is a noble person; one of the requirements of tradgedy. The prophecy told by the witches to Macbeth was the very beginning of Macbeth's downfall. They told him that he would be Thane of Cawdor, Thane of Glamis and eventually King of Scotland. "All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis! All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!" (Act 1, Scene 3, Line 48). This immediately sparked the corruption in Macbeth due to his curiousity and faith in what the witches said.

    • Word count: 742
  6. Macbeth. The value system that Macbeth has adopted by the end of the play is one of nihilism. This is conveyed through his indifferent delivery of the absence of meaning in life, and muted response to his wifes death.

    This introduction to Macbeth's character effectively distinguishes him as a 'good guy', or in other words, the protagonist of the play. One of the first paradoxes spoken by Macbeth occurs in Act I scene III, following the fulfillment of the witches' first prophecy-that Macbeth shall be Thane of Cawdor-. "This supernatural soliciting/Cannot be ill; cannot be good." (Act I scene III line 130) By this Macbeth is saying that the recent abnormal events (the appearance of the witches and their first prophecy being fulfilled immediately)

    • Word count: 881
  7. Macbeth Essay

    Macbeth when we are first introduced to him is seen walking across the battlefield with his friend Banquo. The three witches who serve to highlight the supernatural element of the play prophesise about Macbeth and Banquo. They say Macbeth has now taken place of the traitorous Thane of Cawdor and will eventually become the king of Scotland. Banquo is assured he will be lesser than Macbeth but happier as his children will become kings. Macbeth ponders on the prophecy, 'Commencing in a truth?

  8. MacBeth Oral - Murderer Monolouge

    nor the sinful role I have been assigned... the murder of Banquo and his son. No choice I was allowed to make; I owed this to my family. Now I have come to my realisation... I realise what that manipulative serpent has done! Played me like a fool, tricked me he did. 'Twas therefore the noble Banquo's last words that have played my mind, ever since I committed the evil deed. Etched in my mind... staring up at me from his bruised and battered knees. His innocent eyes locked with mine and through his feeble mouth, he stuttered with trembling lips, blood bubbling, as he spat out his final cry.

    • Word count: 782
  9. Free essay

    Lady Macbeth seems strong, but in the end is tremendously weak.

    Lady Macbeth is the seemingly strongest character in the play, pushing Macbeth to commit the murder. This strength is exhibited when she questions Macbeth's manhood. "Unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe-top full of direst cruelty" (1.5 40-43). When Macbeth does not want to go forward with the murder, Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth that he is breaking a promise to her, and describes it in awful terms. "I have given suck, and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me - I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked

    • Word count: 755
  10. Modernization of Macbeth

    Ceo: Congratulations on a successful win. Investor: "chuckles" yeah...luckily you weren't the one shot Macbeth: bah...lets not linger on such a dark moment, we need to live not on the past but on whats to come. Now lets go in and start the celebration...but first I need to go out and get something.... Exit Ceo, Manager and Investor led by Secretary Enter Assassin Macbeth: So how did things turn out? Assassin: All goes well, Banquo shot, and disposed of...

    • Word count: 805
  11. Macbeth

    (1.2.54-57) Macbeth was seen as a brave and noble man by all of his peers, and even King Duncan himself. This is why Duncan proclaimed "What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won," (1.2.67) referring to the fact that he named Macbeth to be Thane of Cawdor. One would think that after such accomplishment and high standing that Macbeth would be satisfied with his position.

    • Word count: 851
  12. During a soliloquy the main focus is on the character whose thoughts are being shown In Macbeth Macbeths characters mind changes.

    This means that him being king which to him is the greatest is yet to come. at this stage his character is ambitious and he has set his goal. Two truths are told as happy prologues to the swelling act of the imperial theme. Here Macbeth is referring to the prophecies as being the start of his journey to become king. Also the fact that he describes them as happy show his ambitious character again. This supernatural soliciting cannot be ill cannot be good. This shows Macbeth questioning the witches' prophecy questioning whether they are a good thing because he can become king or a bad thing because he has to kill.

    • Word count: 595
  13. Relationship between Macbeth and Banquo

    After the witches have vanished and Macbeth is proclaimed thane of Cawdor the actors should start hiding things from each other and make this noticeable by starting to stand further apart. At this point Macbeth and Banquo do not trust each other as much anymore we can tell this because Macbeth starts speaking aside and talking to himself and the audience. 'Glamis and thane of Cawdor: the greatest is behind', This suggests that he does not trust Banquo as much anymore because he is talking to himself, which show he is going mad, and it sounds like he is plotting to do something.

    • Word count: 598
  14. The Witches in MacBeth

    So much of what is called control depends on the person that is being controlled. The promise of a throne may send some people to their knees while others will take to their heels. When the witches hold out their promises to Macbeth the only surety they have is a knowledge of his ambition and his need for power. In the end this was all they needed to be sure of. They may try to manipulate, but they do not need to control. The character flaws that Macbeth has will be enough to fill their needs.

    • Word count: 976
  15. Macbeth - Character flaws.

    Macbeths need to be all powerful was a direct cause of his death. At the beginning of the play, the third witch says 'All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king hereafter' (Act I. Scene iii line 49). This had intrigued Macbeth. At this part in the play, he has reached a great point in his life as the Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth is now in touch with both the supernatural and the evil, and though still skeptical, he wants to become king at all costs. Though dressed 'In borrow'd robes' (Macbeth, Act I.

    • Word count: 915
  16. Macbeth Banquo and I were on our way back from the battle against the Norwegians when we first met them. We were both captain

    I was already the Thane of Glamis but I did not understand how I could be Thane of Cawdor when he still lives! Banquo about his future and they told him he would not be king but his descendents would be, also he would be greater and happier than me. As we were walking back we met Angus and Ross. At that very moment they proclaimed me Thane of Cawdor. They told me of his betrayal and how Duncan had said I was to be Thane.

    • Word count: 676
  17. The Diary Of Banquo

    The thing that scared me about that was that they also stated that I would never become king! How odd I thought, how on earth can Macbeth be made king and then my children rule after him? Then a messenger came from nowhere to tell Macbeth that he had been made the thane of Cawdor! So the first prophecy had been fulfilled. Then when we returned, the king was very pleased to see both of us for some reason.

    • Word count: 551
  18. The Porter's Speech

    The humour of having a drunken Porter in the middle of the play can be thought of as a 'laugh conductor' and would prevent the audience from doing this later on in the scene. "Here's a farmer that hung himself on the expectation of plenty". This links with the theme of nature in the play and how Lennox describes the strange happenings and the brutality of the night when nature seemed to have been in key with the violence of men's doings.

    • Word count: 846
  19. Letter to LadyMacbeth

    You will be pleased to hear that I received no heavy injuries. I did however manage to give that traitor, Donwald, a fatal blow. It was not long after that when I came upon three of the strangest beings I have seen. They resembled hags, old and withered, yet their speech told me different.

    • Word count: 245
  20. Macbeth - Witch visits - mood and setting

    When he says "The Thane of Cawdor lives a prosperous gentlemen, and to be king stands not within the prospect of belief". This shows that he finds the witches prediction about him being King of Scotland unbelievable and also finds it hard to believe he will be Thane of Cawdor as the current thane is living a wealthy life. Macbeth's motive for seeing the witches in Act Four Scene One is because he is uncertain about his future and the destiny of who will be King of Scotland.

    • Word count: 934
  21. To what extent does Macbeth fulfil the role of a tragic hero

    It is very common for the tragic hero to be a central character in Shakespearean tragedy. Many of the plays take the name of the central character highlighting their importance: 'King Lear', 'Othello', 'Hamlet', 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Macbeth' is no exception. Macbeth is pivotal to the play but his position as central character is shown in the opening scene when his is the only name to be mentioned thus emphasising his importance to the play: "There to meet with Macbeth."

    • Word count: 950
  22. How Does Shakespeare Show How the Character of Macbeth Changes Between Act I Scene iii, and Act III Scene I?

    His speech in Act I Scene iii shows that he is still loyal to Banquo. However, by Act III Scene i his irrational speech betrays his paranoia. His action in employing the murderers shows his desperation to remain king, combined with his speech exposes his deceitful nature. Macbeth's guilty and frail mental state is revealed through his speeches to the audience. In Act I Scene iii, Macbeth initially appears to be afraid of the witches' prophecy. This can be deduced from Banquos' question upon seeing his friend Macbeth's reaction to the prophecy. He asks Macbeth, "Why do you start and seem to fear, things that do sound so fair?"

    • Word count: 678
  23. Examine the role of the three witches in Macbeth, how do they influence Macbeth and can it be argued Macbeth is a fourth witch?

    A critic may make this deduction because as he has been told this information he will try to understand what it actually means and everything he does will be in spite of this information. Due to this various action by Macbeth shall be taken in order for him to gain these, sort after titles. So it can therefore be said that the three witches planted the seed of ambition into his mind when they gave him these fact or it can also be said that they triggered this streak of ambition in him.

    • Word count: 787
  24. Macbeth is a truly tragic figure because we see a great man brought down by one great weakness. Discuss.

    His heroic loyalty is present until the last minute when he constructs a list of reason why he shouldn't commit this atrocity where is informs Lady Macbeth "we will proceed no further in this business (murder)" giving the audience a dieing reminder of what a great man he was. In spite of his atrocities Macbeth is a pitiable man. While the thought of murder crossed Macbeth's mind, he was initially against the idea of murdering Duncan, but later changed his mind as a result of Lady Macbeth's manipulative persistence.

    • Word count: 877
  25. How adequate is 'tragedy of ambition' as a description of Macbeth?

    By the end of the play, Macbeth's ambition ultimately causes his ruin and that of Scotland. There is no doubt that Macbeth has ambition. His ruthless seeking after power is the tragic flaw that causes his downfall. When the witches tell Macbeth that he will become King, his interest is instantly aroused. Macbeth ponders over whether to believe them, and he agonises over whether he should kill Duncan to gain the throne. Macbeth lists all the reasons he shouldn't - "return/To plague th'inventor", "I am his kinsman and his subject", "his host", "this Duncan...hath been/So clear in his great office", "The deep damnation of his taking-off".

    • Word count: 914

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Explore the ways that witchcraft is presented in ''Macbeth'' and compare the way we may wish to present it today

    "In conclusion to this we can see that the witches knew what would happen once they had given the prophecies to Macbeth, however, they did not tell him what to do, therefore he acted out of his own intention and for his own personal benefit. This shows us that human nature, if provoked, can be destructive and can destroy that around us and should in all honesty be more feared than witchcraft itself. Even though, people in modern times are not frightened of witches and magic, it all comes back to hunger for power and money and that is how Macbeth came to become a murderous, over-ambitious man, because he feared that he would not become rich and powerful. So even though we are not still afraid of witches, we still kill for money and power, and this is an issue carried through from the 16th century and before, to today."

  • To What Extent Do Feel That Roman Polanski's Interpretation Of The Witches Is In Keeping With Shakespeare's Text?

    "After comparing and contrasting Roman Polanski's film version of Mac Beth to that of the original text. I have come to the conclusion that in Polanski interpretation he has indeed kept very much in line with the text. Polanski has added an even more cathartic feeling to the end of the play than already exists by using the fight scene, which shows that even though Mac Beth knows he is defeated and is going to die he does not surrender and fights like a true hero to the death. The changes he made to his film furthered the excellence that the play already possesses and they were very innovative and creative."

  • What is the role of the Witches and to what extent are they responsible for Macbeth's tragic end.

    "Knowing the information that Macbeth did the deed himself I have drawn the conclusion that because he was pressured into doing the murder I would say that he is the least responsible for his tragic end. I would say that Lady Macbeth is the next least responsible but she did not do the deed however she really pushed Macbeth to do it. The most responsible would be the witches as they first put the idea in his head and then say that he is invincible to all "woman born"."

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