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At the time Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, people were interested in the idea of the supernatural and the unknown. It would have been a hot conversational topic of the day in the late 16 th century, with most folks being very suspicious of things of this nature. This seems to be one of the reasons why Shakespeare chose to write a play about this particular theme. Another reason would be that the playwright knew his work would be performed in front of King James; the King was of Scottish heritage and it would be pleasing to him to recognise actual place names used in the play. Scotland as a country is complimented throughout the play: This castle hath a pleasant seat.
The air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses. (A. 1, S. 6) Also, the King had just narrowly escaped death from the Gunpowder Plot headed by Catholic Guy Fawkes, and as King James was a firm believer in the Divine Right Of Kings and The Great Chain of Being (where the King was supposedly directly below God Himself) it seems Shakespeare wanted to flatter the King by reinforcing these themes, even though it would obviously have been a very sensitive issue of the time, the Plot not having been foiled one year ago before Shakespeare wrote the play. In addition to this, the King, as well as his subjects, was firmly interested in the supernatural himself, even writing a book titled Daemonologie on it. Shakespeare seems to have gone to great lengths in the play to impress the King through all these devices. It seems to have worked too rumour has it that the King liked the play so much after it was performed that he even went to the trouble of sending a thank you letter to Shakespeare for writing such a good play. The main themes in Macbeth all link up to what affect the Witches and the supernatural have on the people in the play. Right from the very start, before the Witches have spoken, the pathetic fallacy of the stormy weather reflecting the evil and good forces about to collide show straight away that the play is dramatic and grabs the attention of the audience.
Shakespeare makes the Witches intentions clear to us as soon as the Witches speak, that theyre about to meet with Macbeth. We also see at the same time how evil they are; we hear about what the Witches have been doing to others and what revenge theyd like to take out on people who have angered them. For example, a sailors wife offend one witch and the witch responds by drawing out a plan of attack on her husband: Her husbands to Aleppo gone Ill thither sail Ill do, Ill do, and Ill do. (A. 1, S. 3, L. 10) From this, we know what the Witches mean to do. They are interested in the corruption of good people and it seems Macbeth is a prime candidate for their attention; at the beginning of the play Macbeth is seen as brave, valour's minion, and a valiant cousin (A. 1, S. ) until his utter corruption at the end of the play when hes seen as a bloody butcher. The Witches mean to lead Macbeth astray and by prophesying what they do to him and Banquo they know they can goad his ego and ambition into actually carrying out acts to fill out the future they saw, acts which Macbeth wouldnt have had the guts to otherwise. One thing that affects Macbeth greatly early on in the play is that one of the prophecies he hears from the Witches comes true, when he is greeted as the Thane Of Cawdor.
I know I am Thane of Games, but how of Cawdor? (A. 1, S. 3, Ls. 71 / 72) Shortly after meeting the Witches he receives news of the betrayal of the King by the original Cawdor Thane and sees that he now has the title the Witches said hes one day own. The other prediction of course has a big effect upon Macbeth it strokes his already large ambitious nature to hear that he is going to become King. Although I dont think Macbeth would have done the things he does unless the Witches had met him, it does seem to be that the desire for things like kingship were already in Macbeth; it was the final straw to meet the Witches and their visions of him as King finally tip him over the edge into actually trying to attain the title. However, it doesnt seem to be ONLY the Witches influence that makes Macbeth do the deeds he does. For example, just because Banquo's children are predicted to become Kings (Thou shalt get Kings, though thou be none, in A. 1, S. 3, Ls. 68 / 69) Banquo just doesnt go and murder the King! Banquo is a little more suspicious of the Witches: To win us our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truth. (A. 1, S. 3, Ls. 123 / 124) This stops him from truly trying to fill out the prophecies.
Perhaps because Banquo is nobler, less trusting and less ambitious than the Macbeth's this also stops him from doing anything like what Macbeth does. He also is very weary of anything like the Witches, saying they are trying to treat the two soldiers as friends for their own means. Banquo is suspicious of them and feels that anything like what the Witches predict needs to be treated with caution. Banquo tries, in fact, to warn Macbeth of this, but he doesnt listen and events progress in a downward spiral for Macbeth more and more as the play advances.
If Macbeth had listened to his old friend Banquo things wouldnt have turned out the way they did by far. Although he is wrong about the Witches intentions Macbeth tries to reassure Banquo, and this shows how confident Macbeth is of himself and how things hes sure will go fine for him: If (the Witches and their visions are) ill, why hath it given me earnest of success? Of course, Banquo doesnt have Lady Macbeth as a wife. She could even be seen as a fourth witch, the way she behaves in the play. She is constantly calling out to spirits to help her with the evil deeds she wants to be able to commit and she herself tries (and succeeds) to convince Macbeth that the Witches visions of the future are to come true: Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here and fill me (with) the direst cruelty. (A. 1, S. 5, L. 40) Without the Witches, its true that Macbeth would never have carried out the bloody deeds, but its also his own wife that pushes him into killing the King. She makes comments about him being weak and faint hearted (thy nature, it is too full o th milk of human kindness at A. 1, S. 4, L. 15) when he thinks twice over killing the King, which her husband sees as a great dishonour to God Himself: Hes here in double trust I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against he deed...
who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself. (A. 1, S. 7, Ls. 12 / 16) Lady Macbeth doesnt seem to be able to foresee the consequences of their actions; she feels that they should be uncaring over what things they must do to get Macbeth to be King, saying that a little water will cleanse their hands (i. e. their conscience) over the acts of murder they commit. In the end, of course, its proved that its Lady Macbeth who cant cope with what shes done and she slips into insanity, a raving guilt-obsessed woman who spills out the secrets shes keeping to the doctor who visits her. Even when Lady Macbeth commits suicide it doesnt really have an impact upon the play; Macbeth seems accepting of her death due to the way theyve become alienated towards each other (he doesnt even inform her over the murder of Banquo which shows how he now is not really consulting her anymore): How now my lord, why do you keep alone? (A. 3, S. 2, L. 8) The way Macbeth reacts to her death shows how normal mortality seems to him now, hes not really shocked by death at all, he has bigger things to worry about, such as covering his tracks from the other murders or worrying over keeping his crown.
Throughout the play, strange occurrences with nature seem to happen and supernatural forces seem to be at work. Ive already mentioned the pathetic fallacy at the start of the play, but this theme occurs again and again in Macbeth. For example, while the King is being killed during the night its one of the worst Lennox can remember, saying the night has been unruly the earth was feverous and did shake. (A. 2, S. 3) This reflects the way the trouble in Scotland (the murder of a King) is being mirrored in the weather. Its not just the weather that seems to be troubled; on the night of King Duncan's murder he has trouble sleeping, saying that the night seems stranger because no stars are out (another indication of the way Duncan is soon to die): Theres husbandry in heaven, their candles are all out a heavy summons lies upon me, and yet I would not sleep. (A. 2, S. 1, Ls. 5 / 6) The way this would seem to the Shakespearean audience is one they could connect with; they were believers in the supernatural (hence al the witch hunts at this time in history) and although they feared it, it was something they could understand if they were watching a play being performed on stage. It would seem ordinary to the people of this time to think that the weather was influenced by events on earth. As the play progresses we see Banquo getting more and more agitated and suspicious about Macbeth and the Witches prophesies which affects the drama.
Although Macbeth is his friend, and he d...
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