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Final Macbeth Review FeracoSFHP 20 January 2009. Action/Reaction Macbeth’s personality – suited to rule? Macbeth’s personality – suited to rule? The Pong.

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Presentation on theme: "Final Macbeth Review FeracoSFHP 20 January 2009. Action/Reaction Macbeth’s personality – suited to rule? Macbeth’s personality – suited to rule? The Pong."— Presentation transcript:

1 Final Macbeth Review FeracoSFHP 20 January 2009

2 Action/Reaction Macbeth’s personality – suited to rule? Macbeth’s personality – suited to rule? The Pong ball The Pong ball –Redirected by people, prophecies, or circumstances instead of choosing his own course Macbeth often does something based only on what someone tells him Macbeth often does something based only on what someone tells him –Exceptions: His murder of Macduff’s family, his attempted murder of Fleance –Are these exceptions? Think about the prophecies

3 Action/Reaction Malcolm is independent Malcolm is independent Does he make the right decision by heading to England? Does he make the right decision by heading to England? He does eventually avenge Duncan’s death, although one could argue Macduff did it for him He does eventually avenge Duncan’s death, although one could argue Macduff did it for him He also buys himself time that he wouldn’t have had if he had stayed in Scotland He also buys himself time that he wouldn’t have had if he had stayed in Scotland –We know from I.iv that Macbeth had already seen him as a threat –Considering how Macbeth deals with threats, he likely would have killed both of Duncan’s sons – or somehow marginalized them –It would have taken time…it’s the only part of Lady Macbeth’s plan that isn’t clear Now that we’ve killed the king…what do we do with his successors without getting caught? Now that we’ve killed the king…what do we do with his successors without getting caught?

4 Action/Reaction Macduff is also independent Macduff is also independent Does he make the right choice by going to England? Does he make the right choice by going to England? Without him, Macbeth doesn’t die – and without the visit to England, Macduff’s family survives (removing his need for vengeance) Without him, Macbeth doesn’t die – and without the visit to England, Macduff’s family survives (removing his need for vengeance) Is Macduff’s family a necessary sacrifice? Is Macduff’s family a necessary sacrifice?

5 Loyalty and Trust Malcolm’s loyalty test isn’t really a test of Macduff’s allegiance to him Malcolm’s loyalty test isn’t really a test of Macduff’s allegiance to him Interesting, because so much of Macbeth is about personal betrayal (for even the professional betrayals are – or feel – personal…witness Duncan’s reaction to the Thane of Cawdor’s treason) Interesting, because so much of Macbeth is about personal betrayal (for even the professional betrayals are – or feel – personal…witness Duncan’s reaction to the Thane of Cawdor’s treason) Yet the test does something else interesting; it colors our perception of Malcolm, whom we know little about, and makes it harder for us to accept him as a better alternative to Macbeth Yet the test does something else interesting; it colors our perception of Malcolm, whom we know little about, and makes it harder for us to accept him as a better alternative to Macbeth –Puzzle pieces – you still see the seams

6 Loyalty and Trust Macbeth knows – or believes – that he shouldn’t allow anyone to get too close to him Macbeth knows – or believes – that he shouldn’t allow anyone to get too close to him –He knows the dangers of trusting someone you shouldn’t all too well This hyper-awareness of the differences between our public appearances and our private selves makes Macbeth paranoid, and serves to isolate him This hyper-awareness of the differences between our public appearances and our private selves makes Macbeth paranoid, and serves to isolate him –As time passes, Macbeth isolates himself further and further – weakening himself in the name of not weakening himself!

7 Loyalty and Trust Finally, we get to the question many of you have been asking: Can the witches really see the future? Finally, we get to the question many of you have been asking: Can the witches really see the future? If they can, is Macbeth still responsible for his actions? If they can, is Macbeth still responsible for his actions? If they cannot, how is Macbeth able to make events play out in ways that make their words come true? If they cannot, how is Macbeth able to make events play out in ways that make their words come true? In any case, should the witches be trusted? In any case, should the witches be trusted? Do they have Macbeth’s (and Banquo’s) best interests in mind? (Keep in mind that they originally didn’t tell Banquo his son would be king.) Do they have Macbeth’s (and Banquo’s) best interests in mind? (Keep in mind that they originally didn’t tell Banquo his son would be king.) Can Macbeth even resist their prophecies? (Think about what happens to Macbeth when he starts “acting on his own.”) Can Macbeth even resist their prophecies? (Think about what happens to Macbeth when he starts “acting on his own.”)

8 Independence in a Lonely World Watch the ways in which morals shift in response to the prophecy Watch the ways in which morals shift in response to the prophecy In many ways, Macbeth’s morals are stronger when he is less aware of fate’s imperatives – which then become his needs In many ways, Macbeth’s morals are stronger when he is less aware of fate’s imperatives – which then become his needs –When he’s “on his own” (pre-prophecy), he doesn’t need power, at least not Duncan’s –When he’s acting in “accordance” with the prophecies, he becomes much more amoral – and ruthless –It’s an interesting spin on the question of whether morality can exist without faith; in this case, Macbeth’s faith in the path that has been laid out for him causes his morals to degenerate

9 Independence in a Lonely World The bloodstains that Lady Macbeth cannot wash from her hands are a symbol of guilt, as well as a “physical” representation of the cost of her ambition The bloodstains that Lady Macbeth cannot wash from her hands are a symbol of guilt, as well as a “physical” representation of the cost of her ambition –It cannot be washed out because their actions cannot be undone; we see that both Macbeths are haunted (to different degrees) by their actions The blood dripping from the dagger Macbeth sees in II.i is both cautionary and seductive – for if Macbeth’s fate is already written, if the dagger is already dripping in blood, if Nature and Fate have decided that Duncan must die…why wouldn’t you kill the king? The blood dripping from the dagger Macbeth sees in II.i is both cautionary and seductive – for if Macbeth’s fate is already written, if the dagger is already dripping in blood, if Nature and Fate have decided that Duncan must die…why wouldn’t you kill the king? Blood keeps flowing, and flowing, and flowing…and once you spill blood, it’s difficult to stop doing it in the name of preserving what you’ve won Blood keeps flowing, and flowing, and flowing…and once you spill blood, it’s difficult to stop doing it in the name of preserving what you’ve won

10 Independence in a Lonely World The crown rests uneasily on Macbeth’s head; was it ever supposed to be there? The crown rests uneasily on Macbeth’s head; was it ever supposed to be there? He wins the crown through illicit action (although you could argue he was fated to do so) He wins the crown through illicit action (although you could argue he was fated to do so) He is plagued by what he fears – and what he sees He is plagued by what he fears – and what he sees –Banquo’s ghost –The threats that seem to pop up like moles –The prophecies that serve to reinforce his fears

11 Same in the End The final battle between Macduff and Macbeth is somewhat frustrating for audiences because it (like many of the play’s important scenes) takes place offstage The final battle between Macduff and Macbeth is somewhat frustrating for audiences because it (like many of the play’s important scenes) takes place offstage Macbeth initially hesitates for the oddest reason – because he has already killed Macduff’s entire family! Macbeth initially hesitates for the oddest reason – because he has already killed Macduff’s entire family! –After an entire play of essentially going “all in” when it comes to murdering people, Macbeth is going to hesitate? –Perhaps Lady Macbeth’s recent death has changed him a bit…or perhaps his hubris has finally gotten the best of him –After all, we see him switch from arrogant to fearful once he discovers Macduff was delivered via caesarean section

12 Same in the End There’s almost a sense of inevitability to Macbeth’s final defeat, for a number of reasons There’s almost a sense of inevitability to Macbeth’s final defeat, for a number of reasons Firstly, we have the prophecies that scream warnings to us (warnings Macbeth misinterprets) Firstly, we have the prophecies that scream warnings to us (warnings Macbeth misinterprets) –We can sense Macbeth’s doom before he does We have Macbeth isolated and desperate, having abandoned the throne he spilled so much blood to win We have Macbeth isolated and desperate, having abandoned the throne he spilled so much blood to win Finally, we see vengeance wreaking what vengeance often does – spilled blood leads to spilled blood Finally, we see vengeance wreaking what vengeance often does – spilled blood leads to spilled blood –For someone who killed as many – and as ruthlessly – as Macbeth, could there have been any other fate?

13 Same in the End At the end, Macbeth’s head rests on a pike, and Malcolm has been crowned as the new king of Scotland At the end, Macbeth’s head rests on a pike, and Malcolm has been crowned as the new king of Scotland Yet no one feels particularly happy or relieved when the curtain finally falls Yet no one feels particularly happy or relieved when the curtain finally falls –Not only do we still have a fresh memory of Malcolm’s self-denigration from IV.iii, but we see him doing what his father did – assigning new titles to the people who seem most loyal to him, and to those who played the largest roles in helping him win the battle –It was these promotions that exposed Duncan to treachery – and we worry that Malcolm may be following in his father’s footsteps

14 A Final Word “To thine own self be true” “To thine own self be true” Macbeth is about pursuing greatness – and all of the ways that an indiscriminate pursuit can be harmful Macbeth is about pursuing greatness – and all of the ways that an indiscriminate pursuit can be harmful –We see concerns about identity, independence, security, and even love perverted –We see a world where a lack of enlightenment and perception is fatal – both on the part of the tyrant and his victims Macbeth wishes so desperately to hang onto what he has that he loses everything he has – and everything he is Macbeth wishes so desperately to hang onto what he has that he loses everything he has – and everything he is –It’s the mirror image of Siddhartha, where love sets us free; in Macbeth, love helps to entrap Macbeth and seal his fate In one, a man seeks enlightenment in order to find spiritual perfection – and while his search is difficult, he reaches his goal In one, a man seeks enlightenment in order to find spiritual perfection – and while his search is difficult, he reaches his goal In the other, a man’s misunderstanding drives him to seek earthly perfection (power, after all, is control) – and he falls terribly, terribly short In the other, a man’s misunderstanding drives him to seek earthly perfection (power, after all, is control) – and he falls terribly, terribly short

15 Extras and Miscellany Disorder: The natural order (of succession) has been disturbed Disorder: The natural order (of succession) has been disturbed –The friendships we rely upon as a source of strength cannot be trusted –The weather is odd; constant darkness and storms provide the impression that things have gone horribly wrong Are the gods angry? Are the gods angry? –Consult the omens in II.iv

16 Extras and Miscellany Truth: The hallucinations we see often reveal deeper truths Truth: The hallucinations we see often reveal deeper truths It’s an odd move on Shakespeare’s part – using the unreal to reveal the real – but it also functions symbolically It’s an odd move on Shakespeare’s part – using the unreal to reveal the real – but it also functions symbolically –These peoples’ dreams drive them to do in secret what they could never do in the light –Why wouldn’t visions of a different sort reveal just as much about them?

17 Extras and Miscellany Darkness: Besides the pervading darkness of the skies over Scotland, it’s worth noting that most of the murders (Banquo’s, Duncan’s) take place at night Darkness: Besides the pervading darkness of the skies over Scotland, it’s worth noting that most of the murders (Banquo’s, Duncan’s) take place at night Perhaps this reflects the darkness of Macbeth’s soul! Perhaps this reflects the darkness of Macbeth’s soul! Also, pay attention to how much of the important action takes place offscreen – unseen and unheard (Macbeth’s death, Duncan’s murder, etc.). Also, pay attention to how much of the important action takes place offscreen – unseen and unheard (Macbeth’s death, Duncan’s murder, etc.).

18 Extras and Miscellany Desperation: Think about the murderers, men who have nothing left to lose Desperation: Think about the murderers, men who have nothing left to lose Contrast them with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, who one could argue are equally desperate Contrast them with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, who one could argue are equally desperate What does desperation reveal about human nature? What does desperation reveal about human nature?

19 That’s It! If you have any questions, please contact me via or the blog. If you have any questions, please contact me via or the blog. Online Study Session from 5-8pm on Thursday, January 22 nd. Online Study Session from 5-8pm on Thursday, January 22 nd.


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