So what do you expect to find in a play written hundreds of years ago but is still read with unrelenting enthusiasm and interest as never before? What is that make this possible? Can you really tell the best way of presenting a play in which a character, cheered by his over ambitious wife, kills people mercilessly in order to gain power and safeguard it? These are some of the questions that you get answered as you read Macbeth, a Shakespeare’s play .In my analysis of this play, I am going to discuss some major characters ,themes and stylistic devices that I consider the main ones. Shakespeare managed to canonize Macbeth through proper choice of characters and literary techniques to present his themes.
1 .Major Character Analysis
We cannot help but have an impression of Macbeth as a strong, brave and fearless fighter when we first of hear about him from the wounded captain. However, when we see Macbeth meeting the three witches we start to feel that Macbeth’s physical strength is laced with self-damaging ambition and a sense of self doubt. He is doubtful whether the kingship will bring him
joy or suffering. Macbeths8 used by Shakespeare to show the devastating effects of unchecked ambition and guilt on individuals who lack strength of character.
Macbeth is shown as weak as he is not able to conquer guilt and self –doubt that plague his life. Before killing Duncan, Macbeth is suffering from a lot worry and almost abandons his plan to kill the king. His indecisiveness prompts Lady Macbeth to push him into the act. After the murder,
After the murder, Macbeth start to disintegrate hence rendering Macbeth increasingly alone. He fluctuates between frequent fits of anger and fevered action. During this time Macbeth is plots murders top safeguard his hold on power. He also experiences horrible guilt as he has to fight off Banquo’s ghost and pessimism that fools his wife’s death.
Macbeth, unlike many other tragic heroes in Shakespeare’s plays, does not contemplate suicide in the face of self-salvation that he has to get. He asks: ‘Why should I play the Roman fool?’, ‘and die/On my own sword?’’(5.10.1-2).Instead, Macbeth fights till he is killed.
These emotional fluctuations which Macbeth experiences are reflecting tragic tension that Macbeth has to wrestle with within himself. He is too ambitious to stop his conscience from murdering people on his way to the throne. Macbeth also comes out as a very gullible character. He is blinded by the witches’ prophecies, and ends up displaying careless bravado when he is cornered by his enemies. The prophecy that no one born of a woman would kill him is soon smashed when he is killed.
I consider Macbeth a victim of the circumstances. His murderous tendencies are driven by forces beyond his control put the blame squarely on the witches and Lady Macbeth. The witches lead Macbeth into believing in the divine power, their prophecy. Lady Macbeth is to blame as she after realizing that her husband loves her so much and will do anything for takes the opportunity to blackmail him into killing mercilessly.
Shakespeare presents Macbeth as a very frightening female character in the play. She is introduced to us in the play when she plotting for King Duncan’s murder. She is more ambitious and ruthless compared to her husband. Knowing that Macbeth will be reluctant to kill Duncan so that they take over power, she embarks on blackmail tactics so as to push him to murder him. This includes her questioning Macbeth’s manhood. To her a man has to be violent and murderous. Here she serves as a link between the themes of violence and masculinity. She is also used to develop the themes of ambition and feminism. She is presented as the most ambitious character in the play. Much of the ambition that Macbeth acquires in the play can also be attributed to her. She is the main force behind Macbeth’s new found ambition.
Lady Macbeth’s depiction as a strong ,determined and fearless lady can be used to develop the theme o f feminism .She longs for her to be’ unsexed’ in order to act like a man .
Her fearlessness makes her to push Macbeth hard to murder Duncan. She is also determined to safeguard their hold on power .This makes her to support Macbeth senseless murders. To me, Lady Macbeth here is pointing at some admirable qualities in a woman, as being fearless, strong and determined. She succeeds in doing what many women are not able to do; she effectively controls her husband, although by employing dirty tricks .Still, she succeeds.
When the play is ending, she is again used by Shakespeare to warn against uncontrolled ambitions. The once mighty lady is reduced to a sleepwalker after being weighed down by terrible guilt that is eating deep into her. Guilt of senses murders that she participates in. Her sins eventually payoff when she dies.
Themes are the important and often universal ideas explored by literary artists in their literary works. In the Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare, there are many themes we are presented to. They include themes such as ambition, violence, feminism, nature and the unnatural, hypocrisy, fair and foul, treason, cruelty, masculinity. I am going to look at the themes that I consider being the main ones in the play. They are: ambition, feminism, nature and the unnatural.
The theme of ambition presents itself as the most prominent them e in this tragic play. It is depicted well through the play‘s two main characters: Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth. Macbeth is initially presented to the readers or the audience as a loyal Scottish soldier. But as
the play progresses, his personality changes .He turns into an over ambitious character. His ambition leads him to murder king Duncan so as to take over the Kingdom. Macbeth is initially reluctant to carry out this murder but when put under pressure to prove his manhood, and to become king, he obliges. According to me, this is the height of ambition. Macbeth commits murder for the sheer lust for power. Lady Macbeth blackmails Macbeth to kill just to become queen.
The second major theme is relationship between masculinity and cruelty .Many characters say something about masculinity in almost every single act. For example, there is an argument of Masculinity when Lady Macbeth challenges Macbeth to prove that he is a man by killing king Duncan. She says to him “When you first do it, then you were a man.’’(Act 1.Scene7 line 49-51).In this play, man has to be a hero to both to his family, and society. Many characters in the play dwell a great deal on the gender related issues .Lady Macbeth cunningly blackmails her husband to kill King Duncan by questioning his manhood. She also wishes that she could be ‘unsexed’. This wish of hers indicates that she longs to be to be a man so as to engage in what she considers manly activities such as murder. Lady Macbeth seems to agree with Macbeth that a woman of her class should only give birth to boys. This is because when Macbeth says so she does not contradict him. Macbeth later on also provokes the murders he hires by asking them to prove their manhood by killing Banquo .These points presents manhood as having associative meanings of violent, murderous, and fearless.
The Use of Figurative Language
Figurative language is a kind of language used in a very special way so as to create a special effect on the readers. There are numerous examples of figurative language that have been employed by Shakespeare in this play. Examples are:
Symbols are basically, characters, figures, objects, and even colors employed to represent abstract concepts or ideas .The use of symbols or symbolism has been employed extensively in the play. Symbols here include.
Blood is almost everywhere in the play. The play begins with the battle between the Norwegian invaders and the Scottish army. This battle is described by a wounded soldier in Act 1, Scene 2 in a very horrific manner. The murderous journey that Macbeth and his wife embark on afterwards presents blood to be a symbol of guilt. The couple feels that their murder crimes have stained them so much that they cannot be cleansed in anyway. Macbeth cries after killing Duncan thus; ’Will all great Neptune’s Ocean wash this blood from my hand?’’ Macbeth also comes to experience the horror the irremovable blood stain on her hands .he laments,” Out, damned spot; out ,I saywho would have thought the old man to have much blood in him?’’Blood is basically symbolizing the guilt that is like irremovable stain the conscience of Macbeth and his wife. This guilt hounds them to their graves.
The horrific murder spree that Macbeth and his wife involve in is accompanied by some very unnatural weather conditions. The play starts with frightening thunder and lightning that accompany the appearance of the witches. It continues with very terrible and horrific storms that pierce the darkness of the night of Duncan’s murder. These unnatural weather conditions reflect moral decay and corruption in this society which interferes with the normal societal order.
The image of darkness is used several times in the play. This image is used to show and at the sometimes to cover evil deeds. It is a symbol of evil. The witches re said to be creatures of darkness. This means that they are evil. No wonder they drive Macbeth to his senseless killings and eventual death by their false prophesies. Another instance when this image of darkness used is when Lady Macbeth becomes mad, she always wants to have some kind of light. Here, it is like she wants the light to protect her from evil forces in the form of darkness.
In conclusion, Shakespeare has managed to present his tragic play to the readers and the audience in the best way possible. He does this by his excellent use of carefully developed characters and good stylistic techniques to present his issues of concern. These enable this play, Macbeth to be regarded as a literary canon. It remains a good read although it was written hundreds of years ago.
Shakespeare, William: Complete Works .New York: Penguin, 1969
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth .New York.
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(2013, 05). Lady Macbeth Essay. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 5, 2013, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/Lady-Macbeth-Essay-885354.html