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Literature & Language
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Book Review
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English (U.K.)
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Literature Assignment: Macbeth. A Tragedy By Shakespeare (Book Review Sample)

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MACBETH

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Macbeth
Macbeth is a tragedy by Shakespeare and divided into several acts, illustrating the consequences of evil, which are guilt and madness. The story revolves around Macbeth, his ascendance to glory and his consequent fall and the contribution of several other characters such as his wife Lady Macbeth, his accomplice Banquo, and his boss king Duncan among others. In the midst of the plot are three witches too. Macbeth is a great play which has incorporated a variety of techniques such as imagery and contrast to cover a variety of themes and attract the attention of the reader. The play carries issues such as the theme of horror which begins in scene one whereby three witches make arrangements to meet Macbeth. This article takes a critical analysis of the themes in Macbeth, addressing such issues as the nature of Macbeth’s character and its development, the role of Lady Macbeth and the various phenomena such as supernatural and witches.
Macbeth is the main character of the play and undergoes development and changes as the play grows. Macbeth’s degrades from a hero to a villain. In the beginning, Macbeth is presented as a courageous and loyal soldier, at ease with the way he led his life as depicted by the sergeant’s description of him in the scene below.
"For brave Macbeth — well he deserves that name —
Disdaining Fortune, with his brandish'd steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valor's minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave." (1.2.16-20).
Macbeth’s kindness, in the beginning, is enviable. Lady Macbeth describes her husband with so much enthusiasm and passion, explaining:
"Yet I do fear thy nature;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness,
To catch the nearest way." (1.5.14-16).
The kindness begins to dissipate after the witches reveal the future to him.
Macbeth also harbors evil plans within him which would explain his reaction after the witches expound to him what the future holds much to the astonishment of his companion Banquo.
"Good sir, why do you start: and seem to fear
Things that do sound so fair?" (1.3.50-52).
The man is disconcerted since he fears Banquo would be wise enough to read into the expected events and betray or attempt to prevent him from realizing his dreams.
Why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair,
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,
Against the use of nature?" (1.3.134-137).
The soliloquy above indicates the guilt which grabbed him. This feeling shows that his character had changed for had he been an evil person right from the start, he would not have harbored any guilt feelings. The idea of betraying his king to whom he had been a dedicated servant for many years had not augured well with him at first, even tempting him to abandon the mission altogether. However, Lady Macbeth exploits her husband’s weaknesses, of which she is well aware, and convinces him to proceed with his plans.
"My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,
Shakes so my single state of man that function
Is smother'd in surmise." (1.3.139-141).
Initially, Macbeth is not bold enough to take away human life. However, as the play develops, Macbeth becomes a sadistic killer and does not rely on his wife to incite him, having learned to act boldly and confidently in his evil endeavors.
"I will advise you where to plant yourselves;
Acquaint you with the perfect spy o' the time,
The moment on't; for 't must be done to-night." (3.1.129-131).
For an individual who was scared at the thought of killing Duncan, the newly-acquired audacity denotes a drastic change of character.
Shakespeare also makes use of contrast in a variety of scenes to show the character of Macbeth, e.g., when the witches disclose their prophecies, Macbeth is shocked by their revelations yet Banquo remains unmoved, wondering why his companion seems uneasy. The comparison between Macbeth and Banquo provides further revelations on the character of the main player. The scene indicates that Macbeth is suspicious and anxious because he knows what the predictions entail. Banquo is an innocent and somehow ignorant individual as opposed to the knowledgeable Macbeth who seems to calculate his moves well before delivering informed decisions. Banquo, owing to the nervousness and the tension in him, is unsure of whether the encounter with the witches was real or it was just an imagination. Macbeth assures his companion that the meeting was real since he is composed and does not suffer bouts of unnecessary nervousness. In the beginning, Banquo does not believe the prophecies of the witches until Macbeth intervenes and reassures him of the possibilities.
Do you not hope your children shall be kings? (1.3.119)
Banquo is also a jolly and talkative person whereas Macbeth prefers to remain tranquil and only speaks in a few words.
‘It'll be my pleasure,’ said Macbeth. ‘I'll be the messenger myself and take the joyful news to my wife. I beg leave to go now. (1.4.39-40).
Moreover, when the two acquaintances join the king, Banquo cannot contain his excitement. Macbeth maintains his calm demeanor and does not dwell at the king’s residence for long. Banquo is left to relate Macbeth’s achievements and escapades in the battle (1.4.50-52).
Macbeth laughed nervously. Banquo stared at the women. ‘All hail Macbeth!’ cooed the third witch. ‘That shalt be king hereafter!’ ‘Good Sir,’ said Banquo as Macbeth recoiled.
‘Why do you start and seem to be afraid of things that sound so favorable?’ (1.3.62).
However, the positive attributes change for the worse changes as the play advances majorly due to a series of events in his life, the strong will of his wife and the encounter of the three witches that corrupts his mind. Lady Macbeth can easily influence her husband hence capable of manipulating him and his actions. The man’s innocence changes as he becomes more hostile and murderous, instigating the killings of his close all Banquo and facilitating the elimination of Lady Macduff and her children. Macbeth commits these heinous deeds due to the insecurities that were consuming his personality. Macbeth also murders Duncan in an attempt to ensure that the witches’ prophecy would come to pass since the king had divulged to him that he intended to pass on the kingship to his son Malcolm. Macbeth then kills the king’s security personnel to conceal his sin, illustrating his development into a dishonest man who lies to the rest of the people that the king had died at the hands of his guards.
As the scene develops, Macbeth chances upon the witches who divulge a veiled prediction of the future events in the life of Macbeth, hinting that he would become the king hence play a role in the execution of Duncan. Imagery is employed when the author uses the darkness on most of the scenes. Evil and heinous deeds are propagated at night when most of the people are asleep. Conquerors usually work at night. The night is a dreaded phenomenon. Only the bravest individuals can muster enough courage to conquer the dominant blackness which signifies horror and repulses the fearful. The majority of the scenes take place in the dark including the separate killings of Banquo and Duncan, the first conversation of the witches takes place amid a fierce thunderstorm, and welcome Macbeth in similar dull conditions (Bradley 44). The book describes the night as a time dominated by evil, saying that black agents rouse their prey at these hours and the owls begin to howl. ‘I heard the owl scream, and the crickets cry.
Didn't you say something?’ (2.2.17).
Macbeth wore a white robe and soft slippers. 'Good morning to you both,’ he
said.
‘Is the King up?’
‘Not yet.’
‘He told me to call for him very early. I'm almost late.’…
There was a sudden commotion, a great clatter and banging.
‘Oh horror!’ It was Macduff's voice - screaming. ‘Horror! horror!
Macbeth and Lennox rushed to the entrance. ‘What?’ ‘What's the matter?’
Macduff stumbled out. ‘Chaos has broken out!’ he cried. ‘Someone's stolen
the life from the Lord's anointed temple!’
(2.3.27-50).
How does the theme of “Fair is Foul, Foul is Fair” echo throughout the play?
The theme that “fair is foul, foul is fair” is recurrent throughout the play and is portrayed by a variety of instances. This concept implies the deceptive nature of things, people or scenarios which can cause one to deduce the wrong conclusions or opinions. The witches make the remarks “fair is foul, foul is fair” in scene one and set the tone for the rest of the play.
‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air. (1.1.10-11).
After hearing the recommendations of the witches, Macbeth is convinced that their motives are fair and does not see the underlying atrocities in the arrangement. The witches refer to Macbeth in flattering titles whose attainment come as a result of the deaths of his father, thane of Cawdor and King Duncan.
King Duncan also has a false impression of who Macbeth is, describing him as dedicated soldier and servant, oblivious of the plot by the latter to kill and dethrone him.
‘Hearing about his valor is like a banquet to me,’ said Duncan. ‘Let's follow him. He's so diligent that he's sped off ahead of us to prepare a royal welcome. He's a cousin without equal!’ (1.4.50-52).
One may also be misled to believe that Lady Macbeth is a hospitable woman full of grace and humility yet on a further probe, one discovers that she is a hostile individual with a devious attitude. She is involved in planning and...
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