‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’, goes against many stereotypical images of what is good and what is bad for the present time of 1604. At this time, the public were superstitious and lived in fear of witchcraft while a new monarch, King James, had come to the throne. Macbeth’s character has to overcome many psychological barriers before the murder, which keeps the audience guessing about his motives. The first scene sees a successful use of atmospherically chosen setting in a meeting of three witches.
The scene is said to commence in a, ‘desert place’; this inexplicably informs the reader of the social acceptability of the witches.The audience might gather that the witches are in exile and are forced to live in remote locations. This would make the viewer think of the reasons for this. In 1604, suspected witches were burnt alive, so Shakespeare has reflected the current viewpoint of the supernatural in Macbeth. This would settle the audience into the play, as they would find it easy to follow the discrimination against witches.
Furthermore, Shakespeare uses pathetic fallacy to identify the evilness of the witches. The weather is described as, ‘thunder and lightning’; this gives an image of the witches.Thunder and lighting is a frightening weather condition.
Therefore this sets the tone for the witches’ role in the play as evil and scary characters. In the original time, it was socially unacceptable to discuss practitioners of witchcraft. Shakespeare uses this social ineptitude to shock the audience of the time as he presents witches so openly. Similarly, the first witch says that they will meet again in, ‘thunder, lightening or in rain’.
These weather occurrences are considered to be unpleasant although rain can bring life so the quotation can be interpreted to pinpoint the witches as crucial to the plot.In addition, the first scene portrays the witches as mischievous and frightening. Shakespeare did this to throw doubt on Macbeth’s name, as although he doesn’t feature in the first scene, he does get mentioned in it. As the witches are going to meet with Macbeth, the readers are unsure as to the personality and traits of the character. The audience’s suspicions are emphasised with the line, ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’.
This use of antithesis sets the tone for the rest of the play. Furthermore, the antithesis introduces the audience into the thematic context of the play, which is deception.In contrast, the second scene enforces a positive opinion of Macbeth on the audience. Shakespeare uses the metaphor, ‘smoked with bloody execution’, to establish an honourable image of Macbeth.
The metaphor is referring to Macbeth’s sword with the verb, ‘smoked’, which shows that Macbeth was moving his sword so quickly that it got extremely hot. ‘Bloody execution’, informs the reader of the result that Macbeth gains through his sword-fighting prowess. Furthermore, Macbeth is shown to be so confident in his skills that he looks down on look, through the quotation, ‘disdaining fortune’.Both these quotations show that Macbeth is proficient and successful on the battlefield. This conforms to the typical masculine image of the 1600’s as to be honoured for masculinity; you would have to be bloodthirsty. This emphasises the contrast between modern and the original audience because although the blood thirst may not be so impressive in modern times, an original audience would admire Macbeth for it. We see Macbeth for the first time in scene 3, his first words are, ‘so foul and fair a day I have not seen’. One interpretation of this soliloquy is that Shakespeare is using it in conjunction with pathetic fallacy.
The too extremes of weather represent the confusion that is about to overwhelm the play; this could pre-emptively warn the audience that something evil is going to take place. Another interpretation is that the word, ‘fair’, represents the thrill of defeating the enemy, therefore, ‘foul’, refers to the killing of fellow men. Both these interpretations portray Macbeth as being innocent and guiltless to the corruption that is about to take place; as a result, the audience would have confidence in Macbeth’s character. However, the audience may also be reminded of the similarity between Macbeth’s statement and the witches chant.The use of this subtlety reminds the reader of scene one, and the negativity thrown over Macbeth’s name for being referred to by the witches.
Thus resulting in the audience linking Macbeth with the witches. Though Macbeth’s character seems to alter after the witches prophecy. Speaking to himself, Macbeth questions the motive of the prophecy with the line, ‘if ill, why hath it given me earnest of success’. The audience would identify with Macbeth’s confusion as usually, ambition is a virtue to be proud of so Macbeth is querying how something, ‘ill’, can produce something good.Additionally, Macbeth thinks the idea of murdering the king is, ‘fantastical’.
This is the first time we can that Macbeth thinks about the murder however, this thought develops into a struggle against corruption inside himself which lasts for the whole of act one. Shakespeare uses this rationalisation of the witches’ quote to keep the readers speculating as to whether Macbeth is good or bad; this is successful as the questioning borders on the line between ambition and greed. Furthermore, Shakespeare plays on Macbeth’s new-found ambition with enhanced soliloquy in scene four.When Macbeth discovers Malcolm is to become prince of Cumberland, he identifies him as an obstacle that he must, ‘fall down, or else o’erleap’. This displays Macbeth’s dark side to the audience, as the corruptness is already allowing him to scheme about whom needs to be disposed of, in order to get the throne. The audience may also be disturbed by the certainty of the quotation.
The fact that Macbeth has only gave himself the two options of killing Malcolm or being killed in the process, signifies that Macbeth’s mind is beyond repairable, as it is so corrupt.The audience is forced to accept that Macbeth’s positive character is turning power hungry and as a result, start to dislike him. In 1604, the gap between the rich and poor was extremely large, so the poor original audience’s brave warrior may become in their view, a pompous man of status. However, in scene five, Shakespeare reveals another opinion of Macbeth through the use of a metaphor. Lady Macbeth admits to herself, that she does, ‘fear thy nature’, and, ‘though wouldst be great; art not without the ambition, but the illness… ‘.
This opinion is both positive and negative, depending on the view it is looked at.Lady Macbeth fears her husband’s kind nature, and uses the metaphor, ‘illness’, to describe Macbeth’s weakness. This sentence may give a negative impression, as a weakness has been revealed to the audience, although it may present a positive side, as his weakness leads to him being good-natured.
Furthermore, Lady Macbeth input into the scheme becomes more apparent. Lady Macbeth wills her husband to come home so she can, ‘pour my spirits in thine ear’. The metaphor, ‘pour my spirits’, may be interpreted to give a negative image of Lady Macbeth, this is because after scene five, Macbeth is shown to be more ruthless and evil.Shakespeare may want this to be interpreted so the audience thinks that Macbeth’s kind natured spirit, has been replaced with the cold one of his wife.
In addition, Lady Macbeth uses a metaphor to show how much she wants Macbeth to, ‘look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t’. This means that Macbeth should look normal on the outside, but be plotting for the murder on the outside. This begins the in-depth plotting that leads the audience to acknowledge Lady Macbeth’s effect on Macbeth.
Shakespeare uses the metaphor, ‘heavens breath’, to display the tranquillity of Macbeth’s house.However, Shakespeare may have intended for the house to represent its owner; the house looks innocent on the outside, but conceals many secrets within much like Macbeth’s personality. This is an example of dramatic irony; Shakespeare uses this to emphasise King Duncan’s naivety, as the reader is more aware of the events that are about to take place. This makes the reader acknowledge the severity of killing the king, that even the house feels the need to be discrete.
In addition, Shakespeare uses antithesis in the form of two birds, a raven from scene five, and a martlet from scene six.The raven is said to sound, ‘hoarse that croaks the final entrance of Duncan’, whereas the martlet is described as a, ‘guest of summer’. One interpretation is it is representing the theme from the start, ‘foul is fair.
.. ‘. While the raven, which has been a symbol of death, has tried to warn the king so much that it has croaked it self hoarse, the martlet is seemingly inviting the king into the house. This would remind the audience of the theme.
Another interpretation is that the antithesis creates dramatic comparison between the two scenes while adding to the atmosphere.The negative imagery of the raven continues the dark atmosphere of Lady Macbeth talking to the supernatural whereas, the martlet adds to the naivety and ignorance of the king. In scene seven, Macbeth confuses the audience more when Macbeth queries that it might be the, ‘be-all and the end-all here’. This quotation reveals that Macbeth still has thoughts of doubt about the murder as, ‘be-all’, refers to the opportunities that will arise, although, ‘end-all’, reminds the reader of the dangers of killing Macbeth.
Macbeth also questions the stereotypical role of a host, that he should, ‘against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife’. This re-instates a positive image of Macbeth in the audience’s mind, thus keeping the audience associating with his human nature. However, the use of an aggressive metaphor from Lady Macbeth enforces a negative portrayal of Macbeth. This occurs when Lady Macbeth states that when talking about, ‘a babe that milks me’, she would have, ‘pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums’.This reminds the reader of the previous scene when she was begging for the gods to un-sex her, as she is showing some masculine emotions.
Seemingly throwing her feminine maternal tendencies away, she states that she would kill the baby if she had swore to do so. Although a modern audience may not be so shocked by the metaphors, a 1604 audience would be horrified at the thought of a woman, especially one of high status, talking so fiercely graphical. Macbeth’s mind changes again after this metaphor and decides to kill the king. This results in the audience thinking of Macbeth as cold hearted once again.In conclusion, Shakespeare has cleverly kept the outcome from the audience by using Macbeth’s timid nature.
I believe that the audience had a glimpse of both hope and goodness at the start of scene seven although, Macbeth suddenly changed his mind at the question of his manhood from his wife. Generally, Macbeth is a good character but psychologically weak, this weakness leads him to change his mind when confronted by his wife. However, I think Lady Macbeth is only accountable for part of Macbeth’s viscous path as his soliloquy shows us that he was also contemplating and plotting the deadly events.