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Transcript of MacBeth
“The Scottish Play”
Macbeth is often called the
, a reference to its Scottish setting.
According to a theatrical superstition, called the
, speaking the name Macbeth inside of a theatre will cause disaster.
Dating as far back as the premier of the play, productions of Macbeth are said to have been plagued with accidents, many ending in death.
is usually considered one of Shakespeare’s mature tragedies....
It was written late in his career
It has a concise plot which moves relentlessly from exposition through climax to resolution
By definition, that means it is a
ending in the death of
of the major characters.
is a Shakespearean tragedy.
Shakespeare’s most theatrical play
ghosts and witches
, Shakespeare appeals to the Elizabethan fascination with the
supernatural powers of darkness
The Plot of
About the Play:
It is clear from the beginning that the play focuses on Macbeth’s struggle of conscience, his decision to choose
His decision – to choose evil rather than good –
is stoked by the fires of
, the quality in
character that many call his
is fanned by ...
Shakespeare’s use of contradiction
“fair is foul, and foul is fair”
verbalizes the internal struggle of Macbeth.
Character motivation is
a character acts in the way he/she does.
A character may be motivated by both inside and outside forces.
Macbeth’s Character Motivation
Ambition (Macbeth’s fatal flaw)
The witches; Lady Macbeth
Deals with the forces that are fighting within the main character (
) for control – good vs. evil
He is basically a good man who happens to have ambitions. These ambitions eventually cause him to murder his king (
) and choose evil over good.
’s struggle to obtain the throne of Scotland and keep it for himself and his heirs.
Macbeth tries to assure himself of his goal by murdering
. Once he is king, he tries to secure his position by committing more murders.
raises an army and Macbeth is defeated. There is triumph for Malcolm and Macduff.
Stages in the Tragedy
Macbeth’s movement throughout the play
The first stage is that of a
, a man seemingly without faults.
It is necessary to keep in mind that
Macbeth was a good man
; had he been a villain to begin with, there would be no tragedy
This is the
After a great internal conflict, he chooses
This stage describes him as “
deep in gore
” – too deep to return.
He is consulting with the
and his ways are those of a desperate man.
This stage shows the completeness of the tragedy:
When he hears of his wife’s death, not when he is killed by
His death comes as a
to Macbeth himself – and to the audience.
He is completely bankrupt: no love for his wife, no respect for himself, no values in life
(Act 5, Scene 5)
such has been his rapid descent
Different conditions may have led to a different outcome.
he had not been tempted….
his wife had been different…. etc.
he might have lived his life as a good man without any serious testing of his ambition or moral cowardice.
Such is the nature of tragedy!
Shakespearean Tragic Hero
(includes exceptional beings / high birth or office / military leaders)
Heroes cause their own downfall; their downfall is because of the
hero’s own actions
, not fate.
(an inclination towards one particular action; the tragic flaw ultimately results in the hero’s death)
Their downfall affects many people.
’s tragic flaw:
The witches do not
Remember the Aristotelian definition of a tragic hero?
Of high (noble) birth
Has a tragic flaw
The use of various sounds – the
– to set the tone of the action, attests to Shakespeare’s awareness of audience
the goading of
the prophecies of the
It can be said that he gains some knowledge.
we see that he acknowledges the consequences of his actions.
Life no longer has any meaning for him.
Macbeth gives some indication that he actually
the murder of Macduff’s family.
In his confrontation with Macduff he realizes that by trusting the witches he has thrown away his honor, his dignity, his life, and his soul!
So... does Macbeth gain knowledge through his suffering?
“Out, out, brief candle
Life’s but a walking shadow”
In Macbeth, the atmosphere is of
. There is a dark, gloomy atmosphere of great evil.
The following details help to develop this atmosphere:
the most memorable scenes take place at night or in some dark spot; the darkness of night becomes a thing of fear and horror
: violent images of battle; even nature is full of violence, with numerous storms that are quite destructive
many references to blood in both the violent battles mentioned above and in other events.
: add the element of the supernatural; their appearance, words, and charms are ugly and sickening
All of these elements combine to make the atmosphere of Macbeth a
chilly and foreboding
dark and violent
– just the sort of environment for
, and for the man who chooses
It is a dark play
Duncan is killed at night
The sun does not shine after Duncan’s death, show that his death is related to evil
We see Duncan in the daytime
There is an absence of light (sun) after Duncan is killed, showing that goodness and light has been destroyed.
Note: sleep is also symbolic of goodness and peace of mind.
They are evil from the beginning of the play
They are the ones who seem to be able
to predict the future
They are the ones who
Lady Macbeth’s disease
(a mental condition)
shows her guilt about the sins that she has helped commit
is always closely linked to violence, but it comes to symbolize guilt
Death and killing happen in an instant
At the times they feel most guilty, both
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth fear they will never be able to wash the blood (Guilt) from their hands.
Ambition (corrupting influence)
Good vs. Evil
Appearance vs. Reality
Honor and Loyalty
Fate and Destiny
also has ambition for her husband.
for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment
This play explores the corrupting power of unchecked ambition:
’s downfall is caused by his ambition.
Because of his desire to become king,
is willing to turn his back on what he knows to be right.
Unlike the Macbeth’s, Banquo will not compromise his honour for anything
(ex. The exchange between Macbeth and Banquo 2.1)
Good vs. Evil
We are left with the feeling that overall good triumphs
though individuals are susceptible to evil
Macbeth begins the play as a noble and courageous man who falls under the force of evil (the witches) and is destroyed by it
It is evident that evil has taken hold of him by his murder of Duncan and the series of cruel acts that follow.
While evil defeats any good that existed in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, it does not triumph. Malcolm (representing the force of good) triumphs over the evil of Macbeth by claiming his rightful title of King of Scotland
to use equivocal language (language that is subject to two or more interpretations) with the intent to deceive
This double-dealing is evident in the witches prophecies at the beginning of the play and in the prophecies of the apparitions
Appearance vs. Reality
Ex. The witches’ predictions sound like good news; actually they lead to death and destruction
Ex. Macbeth and his wife seem like gracious hosts; actually they are plotting murder.
Practically nothing in this play is what it appears
Honour and Loyalty
Men of honor obey certain rules.
When honor is lost (ex.
turmoil is the result(ex. turmoil in Scotland once Duncan is murdered).
In Act 5, it is made clear that the few followers that Macbeth has left are being forced to stay with him. They feel no sense of
When it comes time to fight, they will give up.
Fate and Destiny
The play seems to suggest that you should trust in
Taking fate into your own hands brings our title character nothing but
Other topics include: