How does Shakespeare create sympathy for Macbeth in the 1st two acts of the play?

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Vallee Nadarajasuntharam

How does Shakespeare create sympathy for Macbeth in the 1st two acts of the play?

In a tragedy it is essential for the audience to feel a sense of loss or waste of human potential. How does Shakespeare ensure the audience has sympathy with Macbeth at the beginning of the play?

Act one, scene two reveals Macbeth’s greatness, potential, courage and most of all his loyalty to Scotland. The sergeant had just brought the news that Macbeth had killed the ‘disloyal traitor,’ the Thane of Cawdor in battle. The sergeant speaks of Macbeth as ‘brave’ and he also say ‘well he deserves that name.’ This shows that Macbeth has a good name within Scotland by the people and he is well respected. The king himself calls Macbeth ‘noble’ and gives him the title of Thane of Cawdor. This shows the trust and reliance that the king has for Macbeth because the previous Thane of Cawdor was murdered because he was a ‘disloyal traitor’ so this obviously means that the king has now given this title to someone (Macbeth) who he thinks is worthy. This all shows that Macbeth is a man of potential for greatness but somehow takes the wrong path and ends up having a blackened name. This is a way that has already created sympathy for Macbeth because he is a hero in many peoples mind and something must have happened or provoked him to change so dramatically.          

The main cause for Macbeth’s change was the evil witches. He was driven by the supernatural element. Any man would desire to receive a higher position if he has the chance to get it and that’s what Macbeth did. Macbeth says in act 1 scene 3 ‘Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor: The greatest is behind,’ showing that he’s an ambitious man as he does not celebrate his position of thane of Cawdor but is thinking ahead of being King. There is nothing wrong in this because it’s only human to be ambitious and because one of the prophecies of the witches had come true, he was probably happily thinking that the second would also come true. At this point of the play, there is still no wrong in Macbeth.

Shakespeare gives Macbeth asides and soliloquy’s which are really good because the audience can get a real insight into Macbeth’s character and thoughts. In the first aside, we can really see what Macbeth thinks about the prophecies and his future. He thinks that the witches can’t be bad as they have told him something true but also says that he’s imagining the future but also his mind is racing on to what might be but what is not. He realises that murder is part of his fantasy but he’s not too happy about murder and he’s not at peace with himself because he as all these horrible thoughts within him. This shows that Macbeth is quite confused about the witches and what is to be. Macbeth has not ignored the witches but at the same time he hasn’t totally believed them either because he’s not sure about being king. This creates understanding for Macbeth because he’s not sure and is naturally bemused. Macbeth understands that murder has to take place in order for him to become king but for such a brave soldier, murder should not be a big deal but because Macbeth understands that killing in a battle is different from killing someone who is a friend, he is reluctant. This shows Macbeth’s nobility and that he’s a good person. Macbeth hasn’t yet decided that he will murder people in order to get what he wants. Here, a good impression, of Macbeth, is created to the audience and so later in the play will create sympathy for him because the audience will think that Macbeth was such a person of noble character.

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When Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are together, Macbeth always looks as if he is the good and innocent one because of the contrast of both their characters. If Macbeth hadn’t had Lady Macbeth as a wife, I don’t think that he would have gone through with the murder of Duncan. Lady Macbeth admits that her husband is too soft and kind for him to carry out the murder as she says ‘Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full o’ the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way…’ Here the audience are reminded of Macbeth’s ...

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