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Macbeth - William Shakespeare

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Macbeth—William Shakespeare, 1606

Involve a protagonist of royal/noble birth, protagonist reveals a fatal flaw (hamartia) causes him/her to go from success and happiness to failure, misery or death at hands of an antagonist, stir up feelings of fear and pity in the audience

The protagonist, Macbeth, a thane of Scottish nobility; his fatal flaw is his ambition and this drives the action of the play forward

Macbeth is a good man who goes wrong, driven by a need for power, which eventually sets him on a path to his own destruction—his wife shares this fatal flaw with him

While Macbeth achieves his ambition to become king, it’s at the expense of his happiness; he murders, lies and behaves brutally to others in order to keep his power

Eventually Macduff kills Macbeth in face-to-face combat—while exciting to watch, all of this should cause feelings of horror and regret in the audience

Catharsis—refers to cleansing of the audience's pent-up emotions; help the audience to feel and release emotions through the aid of tragedy

When watching we identify w/ the characters and take their losses personally

Gives us opportunity to feel pity for a certain character and fear for another, as if we are playing roles ourselves

The hero's hardships compel us to empathise with him, the villain's cruel deeds cause us to feel wrath toward him

Supernatural elements—important role in creating an atmosphere of awe, wonder, sometimes fear; typically used to advance the story and drive the plot

The ghost of Banquo plays an important role in stirring up internal conflict. It is the ghost who warns him of the dangers

Witches in Macbeth play a significant role in the plot; for motivating Macbeth to resort to murder in order to ascend the throne of Scotland

Setting—Macbeth's castle, creates mystery, suspense; his castle reflect his psychological character

Hidden chambers, subterranean vaults, twisting corridors and secret passages can symbolise the hidden depths of the mind, unknown aspects of the psyche that are beyond rational control

Macbeth’s castle – camera angles, the set designed (film)

  • Ambition and guilt—Macbeth’s overweening ambition leads him to kill Duncan and from then on he suffers unendurable guilt
  • Appearance and reality— of all Shakespeare’s characters, Macbeth has the most difficulty in distinguishing between what’s real and what’s not

Rather than writing about men who have all of the power and women who are powerless— he portrays men and women as deriving their power from different sources

Men in this play generally gain power through political/military means

The central conflict of the play revolves around who will become king next after King Duncan

Men who are highest ranking in the military, display bravery/loyalty in war are the men w/ greatest chances of ascending the ranks.

Women—also extremely powerful; don’t gain power through conventional social institutions as the men do gain power thru witchcraft/manipulation

Central female characters in the play are the three witches: Hecate, goddess of witchcraft, and Lady Macbeth

Men, obsessed w/ becoming more powerful, don’t realise that it’s these women who are the forces behind all of the events that lead to their gain/loss of power

The witches prophesise Macbeth's rise to power, have control over the four earthly elements. For e.g. they discuss killing sailors with treacherous winds

Lady Macbeth behind most of her husband's actions leading up to Macbeth becoming king

W/out her forcefulness/manipulations, he probably wouldn’t have had the courage to commit the murders necessary in his climb to power

Decline and destruction of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth revealed at the end of the play despite their strong and dominant portrayal at beginning of play

Primarily aroused by the madness that took over their mental state, portrayed when both of them have sleepless nights and frightful hallucinations—madness in this context is important as a medium to convey to readers the moral lesson that is embedded in the play

The placement of hallucination and troubled sleep in the context is a strategic function as a point that marks the shift and development of the character's power and courage

Present readers with an ironic view of the character's development as they fall from being empowered to nothing—conveys to readers the overall moral message of the piece  evil doings leads to nothing but self-destruction and downfall.

The point of view in Macbeth is third person objective

Witches enter play as means of foreshadow

The characters aren’t speaking directly to the audience but read out soliloquies

The narrator gives an objective without opinions—makes the narrator more neutral 

Takes a clear moral stance in telling the story of Macbeth—portrays humans as creatures capable of good but in danger of giving in to the temptations of evil

All evildoers are punishedthe numerous mentions of heaven and hell remind us that good people who are killed will find eternal happiness, while those who do evil will suffer eternal damnation.

As Macbeth is the main protagonist in the play, many scenes help to illuminate his character

The character of Macbeth is a progressive one

As plot proceeds his few good qualities disappear, while the evil become more and more develop his career is a downward one; he goes from good to bad and from bad to worse

In a play that is abundant in evil occurrences, LM is the overriding source of evil 

Lady Macbeth is only concerned w/ advantages she can have by being married to Macbeth

If Macbeth becomes king by murdering, she can reap the benefits of his killing w/out doing anything

When Macbeth considers not murdering Duncan, LM quickly becomes offended and accuses her husband of not being a man—attracted accusations of misogyny from audience becos women in the play (Lady Macbeth and the witches) are manipulative/evil



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