Wednesday, October 23, 2019

‘Macbeth’ was one of the first plays written during the reign of James I Essay

‘Macbeth’ was one of the first plays written during the reign of James I. Shakespeare intended to honour the King by glorifying Banquo, the legendary founder of the Stuart line. Hence the play also serves as a mirror for magistrates, a dramatization of the theme of kingship. James I strongly believed in the Divine Right of kings. He believed that the lord of the heavens had placed kings to rule over people in the world, thus Kings had a god-given right to rule and treachery was like turning away from God and not only the king. In actually fact, if you went against your own king, you were indeed challenging God. James I had ruled the Scottish Parliament more or less how he liked using the concept of Divine Right but when he came to rule over England, he found the English parliament far less easy to handle, insisting that the king could only rule by its consent. In ‘Macbeth’ the common theme is based on the natural order of things. Macbeth’s lawless act destroys all law: it occasions confusion and disorder in the world of men and animals as well as in the heavens above. Everywhere there is upheaval: on the night when the murder is done, chimneys are blown down, lamentations and strange screams of death are heard in the air, and some say the earth was â€Å"feverous and did shake† (2,3,53-59). All this confirms the interdependency of man and nature. The natural elements, following the death of Duncan, are in strange disorder and there is the further recounting of other amazing violations of nature, the unnatural behaviour of animals no longer acting according to their ways. ‘A falcon towering in her pride of place was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed’ (2,4,13). As you can probably guess the owl is supposed to represent King Duncan, on top of the chain, and mousing owl is supposed to be Macbeth, the person who broke this chain and disordered everything, to the tiniest atom. ‘Macbeth,’ at the time would have been exceptionally, politically advantageous to James because it would have greatly increased the public’s view that James I was God’s so-called Sergeant on earth, and so had the right to do or change whatever he pleased. The easiest way to attack a political rival was to accuse him of treachery and the easiest way to prove his treachery was to link him with one of the proscribed religious groups. In 1605 James dealt with some troublesome rivals by claiming to have detected a Catholic plot to blow up the parliament. In Scotland, even more than in England at the time, political troublemakers were accused of witchcraft and heresy. James himself was an authority on witchcraft and the London edition of his Demonology was published in 1603, the year of his accession to the throne of Great Britain. Certainly most people believed in the existence and power of witches, devils and ghosts and the religiously orthodox stressed that the devil could take many shapes. According to the teaching of the Church, Heaven and Hell were actual places and the central teaching of Christianity was the sinful (fallen) nature of man and the necessity of a sense of guilt to bring the sinner to accept the salvation from sinfulness offered by Christ. The reason of man was not foolproof and the Church urged the faithful to be on their guard against any suggestion of communication with the Devil. In Act I, Scene 3 of ‘Macbeth’ Baquo expresses similar fears concerning the witches: Were such things here as we do speak about? Or have we eaten on the insane root That takes the reason prisoner? (Lines 82-84) And And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths; Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s In deepest consequence (Lines 122-125 At the start of the play there surrounds two conflicting views of the hero, Macbeth. In scene 1, when the audience have already found out that the witches have met in order to meet Macbeth, a big question mark surrounds Macbeth. The audience is forced to ask themselves who is this Macbeth and what business does he have with these foul witches. In scene 2 the audience finds out the true identity of Macbeth. He is indeed a Hero! We learn that a battle between King Duncan’s army and the rebels is raging nearby. The scene starts of with King Duncan being given the latest news of the rebellion by the sergeant. The sergeant reports, with great enthusiasm, how the battle was at first, in balance. That is until, gallant and brave Macbeth, ignoring all the odds, slashing in and out with his bloody sword reached the traitor Macdowald and with no pity, ripped the traitor from head to toe. After hearing how the battle went, King Duncan has nothing but praise for the heroic deed of Macbeth and announces that Macbeth is to be given the title of Thane of Cawdor and the treacherous Cawdor is to be executed immediately. The battle is given a size and importance that magnify the qualities of Macbeth and our curiosity and anticipation are aroused to meet this might champion so praised by all who have seen him. But our memories still hold the mention of his name by the witches and the finale line of the scene (‘What he hath lost noble Macbeth hath won’) reminds us of line 4 in scene 1 (‘When the battle’s lost and one’) and this connexion is consolidated in Scene 3. Macbeth’s first words echo the witches ‘so foul is fair a day I have not seen.’ This suggests Macbeth is already in tune with the way the witches think. Banquo believes that these witches are in league with the devil and thus should not be trusted, ‘Can the devil speak truth?’ However Macbeth wants to hear more of this ‘strange intelligence’, ‘upon this blasted heath you stop our way with such prophetic greeting? Speak, I charge you.’ The witches predict two things:- that Macbeth will become the thane of Cawdor, and the king hereafter. They also predict two things for Banquo that he will be lesser than Macbeth, and his children will be the kings after Macbeth. The witches second prediction of Macbeth (‘All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter’) is exactly what Macbeth wants to hear because it is his greatest ambition to be king, the ultimate prize is his for grabs. The soliloquy beginning ‘Two truths are told’ which shows that the witches second prediction has come true about Mabeth earning the title of Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth then begins thinking about the witches’ third prophecy ‘the greatest is behind’ and what he needs to do now to become king. It is at this point that he starts to consider murder but he feels very uneasy about the word even though he is renown around Scotland as a ruthless soldier, ‘why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs’ (1,3,134-136). Macbeth is confused but still very ambitious. Macbeth shows signs of having a good heart and good intentions, but he also shows that he has a weak mind that ignores and disobeys what he knows is right. You can straight away see that Macbeth has got a powerful conscious when Lady Macbeth has a torrid time trying to convince him to kill King Duncan. At first he absolutely refuses to do such a horrible deed to such a noble person. He knows in his heart that to kill Duncan is wrong and deceitful. The reader can tell that Macbeth is trying is utmost best to resist the misgivings of his wife. ‘We will proceed no further. He hath honoured me of late, and I have bought Golden opinions from all sorts of people, Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, Not cast aside so soon’ (1,7,31-35). Although he knows that this deed will have profound consequences he allows Lady Macbeth to persuade him into doing what he knows is wrong. Macbeth knows he has chosen the wrong path when he says, ‘I’ll go no more. I am afraid to think what I have done; Look on’t again, I dare not’ (2,3,46-48). Therefore Macbeth is disobeying what his own heart is telling him. In fact, Macbeth speaks of the distrust he has for his own heart when he says ‘False face must hide what the false heart doth know.’ Lady Macbeth persuades her husband to do the murder by telling him that, all he is doing, is fulfilling his own lofty ambition and that surely he is not a coward. If he is a man, he should act like one. The fact that Macbeth is so easily persuaded to kill a man, proves that he must have considered murder before. It is also the sign of a person who has a weak mind and who does not stand up for himself. Lady Macbeth feeds on this weakness. Macbeth is tempted to do evil and Lady Macbeth is the key human agent – the one Macbeth trusts and loves- who ensures his temptation is through and complete. Lady Macbeth, when we first encounter her is, dominant, determined, powerful, and even perhaps frightening in the intensity of her uncompromising desire for her husband to ascend the throne. Be it, the price of murder. We understand that Macbeth has his own ‘deep desires,’ but this seems tame compared with Lady Macbeth’s unquenchable aspirations (she summons evil itself into her body and soul to unsex her and remove any doubts she might have). Further, we see in her actions, a cool, self-assured person, unlike her husband. When Macbeth falters, she is there and she also has the courage to return the daggers and to faint at the news of King Duncan’s murder, and so distract any attention from her husband. She plans the details of the murder; she has the future worked out. She is also pre-eminently cunning and shows no fear of the supernatural and death itself. That is why she can say, ‘a little water clears us of this deed’ (2,2,67), because there is nothing to fear from God and old-fashioned ideas of retribution. She can happily envisage hypocrisy and falsehood. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth fates are inextricably joined, but her role and character support Macbeth’s destiny. However like Macbeth, Lady Macbeth shows moments of humanity – she would have killed Duncan herself only he reminded her of her own father. It is these small details that perhaps indicate that she is not as cold and inhuman as she makes herself to be. It could actual, all be an act just to persuade Macbeth to do the final deed. This of course makes her breakdown seem the more inevitable as she is bound to blame herself in some way for the murder. Ultimately she finds out that water will not wash away the stain of blood. It is then ironic that Macduff on first meeting Lady Macbeth refers to her as ‘gentle lady’ and one too sensitive to even hear the word ‘murder.’ By the end of the play she is recognized for what she is, a ‘fiend-like queen’ (5,6,108). Macbeth, in the final analysis, is too preoccupied with his own role to give support to her. Once he has done his first major murder he needs no help from her to do the others†¦Ã¢â‚¬ ¦Ã ¢â‚¬ ¦. Macbeth is a man of action: the play proves this in more ways then others. He is a fearless warrior – and an important lord – who defends his king against treachery. However, ambition is his finale weakness. He allows, first the witches’ prophesy and then his wife’s ambition for him, to undermine his integrity. It is clear that he is not easily won over to evil. His conscience is strong and throws up many objections to his doing the deed. However, he is also too easily influenced in the direction that he secretly desires to go. Once he has decided, he does not deviate, and each step subsequently reaffirms his initial choice. Macbeth, then, is determined, and with this determination turns to a violent and ruthless path, full of chaos. So how does Macbeth ‘a peerless kinsman,’ develops into King Duncan’s murderer? Is Macbeth’s mistake in killing ‘gracious’ king Duncan, his entire fault? Is he to blame for his own doing or were they any other factors that bade him to do this terrible deed? Is Macbeth still the hero at the end of this play and does he deserve what he gets? For these Questions to be answered we need to look at the fundamental theme of the play, Ambition. Partly because it is the driving force of Macbeth’s life. ‘Macbeth’ is a deep sentimental tragedy. ‘Tragedy,’ in Shakespeare usually concerns a great person, the hero, who through some weakness of his character falls from grace, endures intense sufferings (which fascinate the audience), and who inevitable dies a tragic death. In fact, who must die as a consequence of their weakness. Thus if you look at ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’, we find all these ingredients; and if we consider what is the hero’s weakness, it must and can only be ambition. Macbeth says this specifically when he is attempting to resist the murder of Duncan: ‘I have no spur†¦.but only/Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself’ (1,7,25-7).This acknowledgement comes after he has considered all the good reasons for not murdering Duncan. Only ambition is left to overrule his troubled conscience. Furthermore, whilst the influence of both Lady Macbeth and the witches is strong, their power over Macbeth is only possible because the ambition is already there. Macbeth ,then, is a hero but one who is fatally undermined by his ambition, that are the fabric of the play. Put in another way: it is his ambition that leads Macbeth to murder, treason, hypocrisy, corruption and deepest evil.

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