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Characters What kind of people are the characters in this drama? How can we decide? Characters in Shakespearean drama are judged by (i) their actions; (ii) what others say of them (iii) what they themselves say in public (iv) by what they say in soliloquy, i. e.
when thinking aloud or in asides´ . We tend to judge people by their actions and by what they say in public, but these are not always a true reflection of the real character; people do not always reveal themselves to others, so we can only accept this evidence with reservation. In Macbeth´ we learn that Duncan has been deceived by the first Thane of Cawdor whom he considered to have been a gentleman on whom I built An absolute trust yet who was guilty of treason. Again Lady Macbeth´ s words to Duncan, Act I, Sc. vi Your servants ever Have theirs, themselves, and what is theirs, in cost, To make their audit at your highness´ pleasure, Still to return your own, are spoken shortly after she has decided that he will be murdered. Only when they think aloud, (soliloquy), can we accept without reservation what they say.
In soliloquy lies truth. At the same time there are different interpretations of a soliloquy, and of the tone in which it is spoken. It all depends on the reader´ s attitude. It is a good approach to be open-minded, to attempt to look at both sides of the question, before arriving at a conclusion. Language In Macbeth Language Language is made up of words and sounds; it is concerned with creating effect by producing images and by placing words. It includes syntax, diction and even tone.
Imagery involves the working of the senses, the vivid description of an odour, a melody, a visual picture, of taste or touch. Syntax refers to the order of words in a sentence, the length of sentences. It is associated with diction and imagery, e. g.
in the use of inversion (changing the normal order of words often for emphasis), eclipses (omitting certain words) and antithesis (setting one word or idea against another with the object of heightening the effect of what is said). Diction is the writer´ s choice of words. The dramatist may use religious terms, technical terms, dialect, or may even create words. He may use multi-syllabic words, or monosyllabic words. The imagery in Shakespeare has been discussed elsewhere.
It is vivid. In Act I, Sc. ii he compares an undecided battle to two spent swimmers, that do cling together and choke their art. We see the swaying armies; weary of battle, impeding one another, too tired to strike, too frightened to break off the fight. A few lines on, MacDonald is pictured as a kind of carcass with the flies of evil swarming on him. Swarm is the memorable word here; it creates the picture.
The description of the battle by the Captain in this scene is made startling by the violent imagery created by words and phrases like so´ d with bloody execution, unsealed him from the naves to the chaps, Reeking wounds. We see another Macbeth in Lady Macbeth´ s description of him as too full of the milk of human kindness, suggesting mildness and gentleness. Shakespeare pictures the poetic, imaginative Macbeth in, Now o´ er the one half-word, Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse The curtain´ d sleep; witchcraft celebrates Pale Hecate´ s offerings. We visualise Tarquin striding out to rape Lucrece and understand Macbeth´ s horror at his own deed. We see the other side of Macbeth in Act V, Sc. iii as he screams abuse at his servant, the devil damn thee black, thou cream-fac´ d loon!
NOTE: his use of antithesis in Act II, Sc. ii as Lady Macbeth tells herself, What had quench´ d them hath given me fire depicting the chamberlains´ minds befuddled with the same drink that sharpens her courage. In this sense, too, the word Shriek´ d describing the owl´ s cry, emphasises the pitch to which her mind had been raised. Malcolm´ s speech in Act IV, Sc. iii is an example of the effectiveness of ellipsis What I believe, I´ ll wail; What you know, believe; and what I can redress, As I shall find the time to friend, I will. It emphasises the decisiveness of Malcolm.
In Act IV, Sc. iii, the value of the catalogue is seen as Malcolm lists the vices of Macbeth and a little later offsets them with the King-becoming graces. In the same scene assonance and alliteration are used to accentuate the bleak outlook for Scotland as Ross describes the scene to MacDuff, It cannot Be call´ d our mother, but our grave: where nothing, But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile; Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rent the air Are made, not marr´ d; where violent sorrow seems A modern ecstasy. Rich in assonance and alliteration and especially in imagery is Macbeth´ s speech when he learns of his wife´ s death.
His picture of all time, tomorrow, all our yesterdays, from day to day is shown as adding up to dusty death. Life is shown as a brief candle which aptly pictures the uncertain flickering of man´ s life span; his changing fortunes. Life he depicts as an unreality without substance, as an actor is also a shadow of reality. The sound and fury echo mankind´ s futile efforts to assert himself. Atmosphere Atmosphere may be created in several ways. A tense atmosphere may be produced by staccato (quick-fire) dialogue as in Act II, Sc.
ii, when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth show their tension by the rapid, almost monosyllabic exchange of question and answer. It may also be shown by the confrontation of two antagonists e. g. when Macbeth and MacDuff finally come face to face in Act V, Sc. vii. The stage setting also contributes to atmosphere.
The thunder and lightning that accompany the appearance of the Witches and the Apparitions, create an air of excited nervousness. The Sleepwalking scene also induces a feeling of pity. Tension may be relaxed by humour. The classic example of this is the Porter´ s bawdy humour in the Knocking-at-the-Gate scene which follows directly after the murder of Duncan. Irony Contributing to atmosphere is irony. Dramatic irony may be divided in to (A) Irony of Situation, i.
e. the placing together of people and events is such a way that it may have some future significance. E. g.
it is ironical that Duncan has been betrayed by the first Thane of Cawdor, and now makes Macbeth the new thane (who will also betray him). It is also ironic that the Ghost of Banquo sits in Macbeth´ s chair at the banquet, as his heirs will take over the throne of Scotland now occupied by Macbeth. (B) Irony of Speech, i. e. when the speaker uses words which, apart from their obvious meaning, have for the audience a further meaning hidden from the speaker, E. g.
in Act I, Sc. vi Duncan says, This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself Unto our gentle senses. The audience and reader are aware at this time that the murder of Duncan is being planned within the walls of this same castle. In Act II, Sc. iii, Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth, A little water clears us of this deed. We recall this in the Sleepwalking scene when she cries out, What, will these ne´ er be clean? , and we realise how ironical her earlier remark has been.
The Apparitions´ prophecies about Birnam Wood and man of woman born are also ironical in the circumstances of their fulfilment. In fact, as mentioned elsewhere, the imagery of Appearance and Reality is in itself ironical. Dramatic Irony must not be confused however with Irony of Tone, i. e.
when the speaker´ s tone of voice belies the words he uses. An excellent example of this is in the opening speech of Lennox in Act III, Sc. vi. Imagery: There is so much imagery in Macbeth´ that one may indicate only some of the variety of examples to be found. There are many recurring images, often inter-related, and associated with the different themes in the play. The great bulk of Shakespearean metaphors and similes is drawn from simple, everyday things.
Nature is a rich source and provides much of the imagery in Macbeth´ . Imagery, based on Appearance and Reality, Manliness, Light and Darkness, Disease and Corruption is also common. Other imagery that might be explored includes Clothing imagery, and Sleep imagery (which may be associated with the imagery of Nature).
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