Macbeth Essay, Research Paper
Macbeth Essay Assignment
English drama, as we know it was not always the way it is. It has evolved tremendously since the time of early church plays. Drama in England began long before the Renaissance period. It originated from early church?s ceremonies that were performed to educate the common folk. Before the Renaissance, several kinds of plays were written and produced. Miracle plays and mystery plays were introduced to teach people stories from the Bible. Morality plays taught people how to live and die. Soon, these plays became too dramatic for church purposes; so, priests ordered the removal of drama from the church. Between the 1300?s and 1400?s, various workers? guilds cooperated in staging cycles of plays that dramatized the whole history of human race. According to the Elements of literature book (page 283 paragraph 2), parts of four cycles of these plays have been preserved and named after the towns where they probably came from. These cycles were named, York, Chester, Coventry, and Wakefield. Gradually, the plays became less religious. They often relied on deus ex machina, an artificial device arbitrarily used to resolve a plot. Later, comedy was incorporated into the plays. This clashing of comedy and serious drama showed the English skills of directors and producers. In the early 1500?s, a new kind of play called an Interlude was introduced. Interludes were one-act plays that combined many styles of plays. In the mid-sixteenth century, performing drama in a permanent building came about. Plays were still performed in marketplaces and courtyards after the first theaters were built. James Burbage built the first public theater called the ?Theater? in 1576. Shortly after, a playhouse called the Curtain was built; then came other theaters like the Rose, Swan, Fortune, and the Red Bull. The most popular public theater at the time though was the ? Globe?. The Globe was nicknamed ? The Wooden O? because of its great O-shaped structure. The structure was three stories high and surrounded a yard with an open space in the middle. The Globe would later be the foundation for young writers to display their work in plays. One of these young writers was man named William Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare was and still is the father of English drama. Shakespeare wrote about love and passion. He also wrote about tragedy and Romance. He is well known today in works such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and his sonnets. One of his most famous works as a playwright was the Tragical History of Macbeth. This play was about a man named Macbeth who was driven by ambition to murder his king, to become king. This popular play by Shakespeare was inspired by the real-life events of a man named Macbeth.
Macbeth was a real character who served as King of Scotland, about 1040 to 1057 A.D. According to Holinshed?s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Macbeth had a legitimate reason to claim the throne over King Duncan. Duncan I of Scotland was born in 1001. He ascended to the throne at the age of thirty-three after killing his grandfather, Malcolm II. He was a spoiled and over zealous young man whose reign was spoiled with failed campaigns and death for his people. To gain the respect of his people, Duncan decided to invade Northumberland and attack Durman. The campaign was a disaster. When he got back to Scotland, unhappy lords who later revolted greeted him. His cousin Macbeth, Lord of Moray, was one of the lords involved. Macbeth later slew Duncan and ascended the throne with his wife cousin, Gruach, at his side. Duncan?s sons fled at this time.
Malcolm went to England while Donaldbain went to Ireland. Both later returned and reigned as kings. Before Gruach married Macbeth, she was the wife of Gillecomgain, one of Duncan?s sons. He and Malcolm had murdered Macbeth?s father in 1020. Gillecomgain and Gruach, the granddaughter of Kenneth III, had one son named Lulach. In 1027, Gruach was widowed when her husband was burned alive in his fortress with his men. At this point Macbeth was appointed Lord of Moray and married Gruach. They were married in 1033 when Macbeth was twenty-eight. Macbeth did much for Scotland in his seventeen-year reign. Under him, North and South Scotland were united. He organized a military patrol that canvassed the entire country enforcing law and order. In 1057, Macbeth?s reign ended. Malcolm Canmore raised an army with the help of the English and invaded his homeland. He defeated Macbeth and became King of Scotland under the title Malcolm III, but not without a little trouble.
After Macbeth?s death, his stepson, Lulach, had a brief reign. He was assassinated in March 1058 after
seven months of rule. Most believe that Malcolm and his associates played a major part in his death. Finally,
Malcolm got what he wanted. At the age of twenty-seven, he was crowned King of Scotland. The Tragical History of Macbeth as we know it from Shakespeare?s play, is actually a remodified twist in the life of the real Macbeth.
In Act one of Macbeth, the weird sisters appeared in thunder and lightning to plan their encounter with Macbeth. Macbeth and Banquo then met up with them upon a heathe in which they revealed to them their prophecies. At the same time, the witches were telling them the prophecies; the prophecy of Macbeth becoming Thane of Cawdor was taking into creation. With this knowledge, Macbeth?s character changed slowly from good to evil. He wrote a letter to Lady Macbeth that may have well been the plotting of King Duncan?s death.
In Act two, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth finally agreed to kill King Duncan. As the plotting of the murder went on, Macbeth became increasingly nervous. The ironic object is, in the end of the play; Lady Macbeth became more psychologically affect4ed by the murders than Macbeth did. In the same act, King Duncan was discovered dead in his room and his chamberlains were framed. Macbeth then killed the Chamberlains in act of insecurity.
In Act three, the main even that took place was the murdering of Macbeth?s good friend Banquo. Banquo became suspicious of Macbeth killing the king, so Macbeth hired two murderers to kill him. The murderers killed Banquo but failed to kill his son Fleance. During supper, Macbeth began to hallucinate again. He saw Banquo?s bloody spirit in one of the seats. It is at this point in which, people began suspecting Macbeth of the murders.
In Act four, the weird sisters again entered the play. This time their master Hecate was scolding them. Macbeth also decided that he was going to visit the witches again. It was here that Macbeth was given three apparitions. The first one warned Macbeth of Macduff. The second apparition stated that any man born of woman could not kill Macbeth. The third apparition said that Macbeth would not die until Birnam Woods moves to Dunsinane Hill. When Macbeth got back to his castle, word came to him that Macduff had fled the kingdom. Fearing treachery, Macbeth ordered that Macduff?s family be killed. Both Lady Macduff and her son were murdered. In England, Macduff found Malcolm and urged him to combine forces with him to destroy Macbeth. Malcolm feared that Macduff might betray him, so he tested him. In the end, they decided that it was time to pay Macbeth a visit.
In Act five, Lady Macbeth?s sleepwalking spoke of their plan to murder King Duncan. The doctor and nurse who looked after her witnessed everything. Soon in the act, Lady Macbeth was announced dead. In this Act, all of the prophecies of the witches were once again taking into action. Macduff and his army came with branches from Birnam Woods symbolizing the coming of the woods to Dunsinane. Battle raged on, and it finally came down to Macbeth and Macduff. Macbeth told Macduff that he did not want to fight. He told him that woman born could not kill him. Macduff then revealed to Macbeth that he was ripped untimely from his mother?s womb and that he could kill him. Instead of giving up, Macbeth still decided to fight. He fought against destiny and he could not prevail.
Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of Shakespearean tragedies is the use of various types of imagery to emphasize the theme of the story. In Macbeth, William Shakespeare uses nature imagery, water, blood, light versus dark, good versus evil, night versus day, clothing imagery, and animal imagery. Imagery is figurative language or mental pictures that enable the author to show the significance of specific actions. Shakespeare uses nature imagery and the presence of blood as mediums for explaining the parallels between characters, their actions, and the nature of sin.
The weight of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?s crimes are represented through the reaction of nature to those actions. Shakespeare shows this relationship by using body politic. Body politic states that if politics go wrong, then nature goes wrong. In Macbeth, the murder of King Duncan is the political flaw, where chaos is nature?s reaction. The first example of body politic occurs when Duncan arrives at Macbeth?s castle.
?This guest of summer, / the temple-haunting martlet does approve, / . . . that the heaven?s breath / Smells wooingly here;? (Act 1. Scene4.line 4-6).
The irony of a church bird dwelling on a house of evil shows that something is wrong in nature. On the night of the murder, Lady Macbeth says, ?I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry?. (Act 2. Scene 2. Line 15). Her statement is a revelation to the audience, because owls give a pleasant, calming ?hoot? and a cricket?s voice is not that of a cry, but that of a sweet ?chirp?.
In scene four, Ross wonders at, ? . . . the heavens, as troubled with man?s act, / . . .. By th? clock ?tis day, / and yet dark night strangles the traveling lamp.? (Act 2.Scene 4.Lines 5-7).
Ross speculates as to why the heavens are troubled because there is an eclipse in the sky. In other words, it is day, but darkness reigns. It is quite fitting that on the night of Duncan?s death, there is an eclipse. The fact that an eclipse is rare supports the possibility that something is wrong in nature.
The presence of animal imagery in this play helps to develop the irrationality in Macbeth?s deed. ?A falcon, tow? ring in her pride of place, / was by a mousing owl hawk?d at and kill?d.? (Act 2. Scene 4. Lines 12-13). The irony in this statement is that a mousing owl killed a falcon. Falcons are associated with birds of prey more than owl. In fact, the stereotype of the falcon is statelier than the owl. It is like comparing a vulture to a cardinal. There is a significant difference between the two. The falcon represents Duncan, where the owl represents Macbeth. As the falcon sits on her ?pride of place? (Act 2. Scene 4. Line 12), Duncan sits on his throne. As the musing owl is inferior to the falcon, Macbeth is inferior to Duncan. Another tool that Shakespeare uses to portray the presence of evil in Macbeth is a main ingredient of life. Air is the nourishment of all life, because it provides the numerous gases that animals and plants need to survive. Ironically, Shakespeare uses air to represent evil.
?Hover through the fog and filthy air.? (Act 1. Scene 1. Line 12). The witches open Act 1 with an evil chant that establishes air as the environment for evil. Shakespeare describes the air as filthy. Shakespeare also used imagery of blood.
The first time Shakespeare used blood as a symbol took place in Act II Scene II, when Macbeth is going to kill Duncan. He imagines a bloody dagger in front of him, pointing towards Duncan?s room in his castle. As Macbeth described it, “And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, which was not so before…It is the bloody business which now informs thus to mine eyes.? (Act II, Scene II, 55-58)
The blood in this scene foreshadows that Macbeth is about to kill Duncan. It also shows his fear about killing Duncan, because his mind is playing tricks on him. He is developing a guilty conscience although he has not yet committed the murder. During the feast at Macbeth?s castle, after his crowning, Banquo was murdered. Blood was mentioned in this scene as a foreshadowing device. Macbeth imagined the bloody ghost of Banquo sitting in his spot at the table. He said, “Never shake thy gory locks at me?. (Act III, Scene IV, 64-65)
This describes the blood on the ghost. Lady Macbeth also mentioned the “air-drawn dagger” that Macbeth saw before killing Duncan. Macbeth?s fear and guilty conscience from his killings is rising steadily. While he is killing for his own purposes, he does not realize how much it is hurting him mentally. His images of bloody ghosts and knives are evidence of this, as Macbeth is unable to keep a clear mind. This is also foreshadowing that all of Macbeth?s killings will eventually cause great mental problems for Macbeth.
It is interesting how Shakespeare incorporates imagery into Macbeth. By using imagery, Shakespeare is able to communicate the message of evil and chaos. Imagery serves as an effective tool in bringing about understanding and correlations. As a result, Shakespeare has managed to establish a basis for literature dealing with evil and sin. In the play Macbeth, we discover that Macbeth is a tragic hero. Macbeth is very ambitious, courageous, and a moral coward: all these things lead to his tragic death at the end of the play.
At the beginning of the play, Shakespeare defines Macbeth as a hero very clearly. However, he is very ambitious to be king. At the beginning of the play, he was loyal to the king. While he did imagine that of murder, his mind rejects it and said, “Why, if fate will have me king, why, chance may crown me?, (Act I, Scene 3) yet, increasingly his ambition defeated his good nature. When Duncan named Malcolm the Prince of Cumberland, Macbeth decided on the murder of Duncan. When Duncan arrived at Inverness, Macbeth controlled his ambition for the time being and did not kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth who called him a coward soon reflected the failing of his decision. From then on, after the murder of Duncan, Macbeth entered into a life of evil. Since he overcame his good nature, he no longer needed to be with his friend Banquo. He wanted to protect his ambition, by killing the king. He then killed Banquo, due to the prediction of what the witches said about Banquo’s son becoming the king. Macbeth wanted to ensure that he would reach his ambition without problems. Macbeth, who now no longer needed any encouragement from Lady Macbeth, started to leave her in ignorance of his plans. Near the end of the play, Lady Macbeth sleepwalked and had a dream about the killing of Duncan and Banquo. She died because of all this pressure and guilt about the murder. Macbeth would never have guessed that Macduff would come back for revenge for the killing in Macduff’s household. When Macbeth found out that Macduff was not born of woman, and found out that Birnam Wood had been seen moving, he realized that the third apparition had deceived him. He understood he was no longer safe. Through the development of his character, Macbeth turned from a fine natured person to an evil person. His ambition, strong belief in the witches, ended him of his life, and caused many people to lose their lives. Understanding the importance of imagery and character development in Macbeth helps us develop the theme of the play.
? Blood will have blood.? (Act III, Scene IV, line 122)
This was said right after Macbeth?s feast in which he sees Banquo?s ghost. It shows Macbeth?s confusion, as well as his want for retaliation against the bloody ghost. However, the only way he knows to fight back is by killing more people. Killing more people caused Macbeth to be crazier, and his guilty conscience grew. After the killing of King Duncan, Macbeth?s hands were stained with blood. He did not immediately wash it off; instead, Lady Macbeth had to literally push him to be washed. This foreshadowed that there will be more blood shed because of King Duncan?s murder. King Duncan?s blood, led to Banquo?s blood and soon Macduff?s family. ? Blood will have blood,? he said. In the end, Macbeth?s blood was shed.
Today, many versions of Macbeth are being produced. We see re-enactments of the first plays in some of today?s theaters and motion picture production studios. Although many authors and directors have tried to act out the play of Macbeth in different versions, the concept of understanding it is very different from reading. According to Connie Spillman, reader of Macbeth, ? Reading this long play is very boring. When we watched the BBC version, it was more real and exciting.? Nancy Nickson also stated, ? Reading was hard for me because every time I get interrupted, I lose focus of where I was reading. On the other hand, watching the play gave me an opportunity to maintain my place in the play even when I?m interrupted.?
When reading a play, there is always an opportunity to skim back to already read information, for reference to what is presently read. Reading the play helps with understanding the play as a whole because you are actually reading the entire work as intended by the writer. In Macbeth, there is a very little chance of missing an idea because scenes are neither cut nor added in. A disadvantage of reading Macbeth is that I did not understand most of what was going on, because of the English style it was written. Most of the time, I would fall asleep reading it, because it had too many dialogues.
When I viewed the play on film, my understanding of the play expanded because actions were performed to carry out certain phrases. Viewing a play gives the audiences a feeling of what is going on. It sets in motion a physical description of the information given from reading. There is a saying, ? Action speaks louder than words?, and this was the case in the play Macbeth. According to Mrs. Stalder, Macbeth is a play that was meant to be performed, not read. The only disadvantage in the film was the fact that scenes were added and subtracted from the play. In the BBC version of Macbeth, scenes were cut out and new ones were added in. For example, in act five scene three, Macbeth?s conversation with the doctor and Seyton was cut out. A new scene with the witches standing in the background was added when Macbeth met with the murderers. Although many have different beliefs in the versions of the play, Macbeth still is a great drama.
The use of supernatural forces made Macbeth very popular around the Renaissance period. Macbeth dealt with witches and how they played a big role in building the plot for Macbeth. People around that time were not very fond of witches. The fact that Shakespeare added witches in the play brought attention to the play. The setting of play was quite interesting. It involved a loyal nobleman whom by evil, turned against his king. This idea may have caused the viewers around the Renaissance to focus on that concept happening. Women in the Renaissance period were quiet in their marriages. They did not have much to say. In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth acted as a driving force behind Macbeth?s actions; this was also very ironic at the time.
A reader today can still pick up Macbeth and gain from it knowledge. A modern viewer can take a glimpse of what life was around that time. A modern viewer can experience from reading the kinds of lifestyles people lived in. A modern viewer can see how ambition can destroy the life of a good man. There is also a great deal of rhetorical devices included in Macbeth. A modern viewer can use Macbeth as a guide to imagery and archetypes. Imagery is what developed the plot of Macbeth and its theme. From Macbeth, viewers can see the spiritual warfare between good and evil that still exists today. From Macbeth, we can learn that there is evil in everybody. This is a fact that has been forgotten by today?s society. Macbeth may have been written hundreds of years ago, but it is still considered great drama; simply because it tells a story of a tragic hero. Supernatural, Imagery, Archetypes, and the fact that people?s beliefs and morals are affected by the play, makes Macbeth great drama.