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The History and Background behind Macbeth

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Brittany Hildebrand

on 29 October 2018

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Transcript of The History and Background behind Macbeth

The History and Background Behind William Shakespeare's
A Refresher
on Shakespeare himself!
2. Behind every great man is a great woman (Every great man is supported, guided, helped, and even pushed by a great woman)
What do YOU think?
1. There is such a thing as fate
Shakespeare's Inspiration and Thoughts for the Tragic Play
Shakespeare wrote the play for James I, England's new king, who had been king of Scotland. To please James, Shakespeare set the play in Scotland, used many characters who were James' ancestors, and included witches, a subject that James often wrote about. The play is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy -- probably because King James often fell asleep during performances!

3. Witches, demons, and evil spirits actually exist
4. Sometimes it is necessary to do something wrong to get what you want
5. What goes around comes around (karma)
6. Human beings are easily tempted by things they want, even if it's wrong
7. There are circumstances or events that justify murdering someone
8. Success is worth any price you have to pay
9. Your astrological forecast, your horoscope, is a good indicator of how your day will go
10. We owe something to other human beings in our lives
11. Traitors should be executed
Shakespeare's source for the story of
was The History and Chronicles of Scotland (1526), written by Hector Boece, a Scottish historian and humanist (Many scholars question the factual reliability of Boece's work, and point out that Shakespeare took liberties with
's history for dramatic purposes.)

King James I has quite the story...

There was no successor to the throne of England. Therefore, Elizabeth I chose James VI of Scotland to succeed her. After her death in 1603, James VI of Scotland became James I of England (the guy has TWO titles; one in each country!)

Why did she pick this guy? Elizabeth I had been instrumental in the death of her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, who was beheaded.
On her deathbed, Elizabeth wanted to ease her way into Heaven, so she chose Mary’s son, James, to become the next King of England.

The appointment of James I was a good political move, unifying England and Scotland under one king.

So, who is this guy,King James I?
RECAP: Macbeth, a tribute to King James I
Important inspirations for the play to reiterate:

Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in 1606, during King James’ reign.

The setting of the play is in Scotland, King James’ homeland.

Ancestors of King James I were considered in the play; Banquo, an ancestor of James I, is also a character in the play and shown to be a virtuous person, just as King James' ancestor was.

James believed himself to be an expert on witchcraft, thus, witchcraft is included in the play.

Scotland in the 1600s, when Shakespeare WROTE the play
Scotland in Medieval Times
: an appeal to Elizabethan people’s interests as well as the kings!
When Queen Elizabeth ruled, people of England were referred to as "Elizabethans" -- "her" people!

In the play,
, Shakespeare demonstrated the Elizabethan belief that the country is stable
if the king is good and virtuous.

Elizabethans believed that evil occurs in darkness, which is a recurring theme in

Shakespeare also included a lot of blood and murder, which the Elizabethans expected to see in a play. Entertainment!

The play was considered a thriller – a threat to
a King and the perceived evil behind the threat is very interesting and suspenseful.

When the play begins, there are two wars in progress:

Civil War - King Duncan vs. Macdonwald’s rebels

National War - Scotland, led by King Duncan, against invading Norway, led by King Sweno

the play itself

At the start of the play, King Duncan is the King of Scotland.

The Setting
The play takes place in Scotland during Medieval times, which is specifically the 11th century, or 1000-1099 (Woah! That's old!)
Main Plot Summary of Macbeth
Characters to Know:
Who matters?
Macbeth: The main guy! Brave general under Duncan who becomes too ambitious after three witches prophesize that he will be King of Scotland. He turns to evil actions.

Lady Macbeth: Vicious wife of Macbeth, even more ambitious than Macbeth.

The Witches: They tell Macbeth that he is to become king, leading him to evil acts. They also tell him various other information, but are very ambiguous and unclear in doing so.

Banquo: Macbeth’s friend and general who becomes very suspicious throughout the play. He faces grave danger halfway through the play for these thoughts.

King Duncan:
current King

of Scotland

Macduff: another
general in the play; knows
the king, and
comes to know Macbeth

Malcolm: Duncan’s eldest son; heir to the throne
Macbeth as the Tragic Hero
Many critics argue Macbeth is a tragic hero in this play. So, what is a tragic heroyway?

A tragic hero is a man of noble stature. He is not an ordinary man, but a man with outstanding quality and greatness about him. He is destined for downfall, suffering, or defeat, though. However, his own destruction is for a greater cause or principle.

So, to recap: common characteristics of a tragic hero:

# Usually of noble birth
# Posseses hamartia - a.k.a. the tragic flaw that eventually leads to his downfall.
# Undergoes peripeteia - a reversal of fortune brought about by the hero's tragic flaw
# His actions result in an increase of self- awareness and self-knowledge
# The audience must feel pity and fear for this character.

Only with the tragic hero's death can the order in nature and society restored.

*Fair and foul – To the Weird Sisters what is ugly is beautiful, and what is beautiful is ugly. Throughout the play, fair appearances hide foul realities.

*Equivocation – To equivocate is to lie by saying something that sounds fair, but which has a hidden, foul meaning.

*Nature and the unnatural – In Macbeth the word “nature” usually refers to human nature.The whole play is about unnaturalness taking hold.

Blood Kingship Heaven and Hell
Sight, Light, Darkness, and Blindness Ambition
Babies and children Fate and Free Will Appearance and Reality
Sleep Visions
Birds Desire for Power Use/Misuse of Power

Themes and Motifs in Macbeth
SO, where are we exactly???
Scotland in Medieval times (1000), when he SET the play
Not too shabby, huh?
Full transcript