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Studying Macbeth This PowerPoint has a lot of analysis on various aspects of the play. The play is such a rich piece that there is no way that we could fit everything to say into one PowerPoint. Make sure that you study your notes in great detail and that you develop all points as fully as possible.
Key Characters Macbeth Lady Macbeth The Witches Banquo
Key Relationships Macbeth and Lady Macbeth Macbeth and Duncan Macbeth and Banquo Macbeth and the Witches
Macbeth’s Journey Macbeth goes on a great journey over the course of the play in a number of respects. There are two aspects of his character that you should consider. The first is the way in which Macbeth is initially described –“noble Macbeth – and how he is described by the end of the play – “black Macbeth” - you should consider the horrors he has committed in order to go from being held in such a high regard to someone that is universally despised. The second are would be the fact that we are introduced to Macbeth as a warrior. How is he described by others on the battlefield? You should then consider that he is not longer a warrior as he climbes the ladder of power as he gets others to do his dirty work, can you think of any examples? Yet by the end of the play, during his final stand, he practically reverts back to the warrior Macbeth that he was at the start of the play. Why does Shakespeare do this? Does it redeem Macbeth in any way?
Macbeth’s Relationships Macbeth has many key relationships in the play. The four were previously listed. You should make sure that you find and learn quotes in order to support your analysis of these relationships. Macbeth and Banquo have a very interesting relationship. Shakespeare paints them as a real friendship and that Banquo is a good influence on Macbeth, almost his conscious. This makes his murder on Macbeth’s orders all the more tragic and really highlights just how dark Macbeth has become. Macbeth and Duncan also have a very significant relationship because Duncan clearly has a lot of respect for Macbeth – there are many quotes to back this up – and it’s almost a tragedy for Macbeth that he ends up killing the person that could have given him so much, he was very quick to promote him to the Thane of Cawdor. The fact that Macbeth kills him shows how clouded Macbeth has become due to his ambition. His bloody tyranny could never be sustained but his life under Duncan could have been.
Macbeth and Macbeth “…look like the innocent flower But be the serpent under’t.” Macbeth is very interesting as character because of his duality. This is at the suggestion of his wife that he consciously decides to disguise his real motives until he gains power. Duncan and Banquo both initially fall under his spell. The witches too clearly suggest that the key to his rise to power is deception – fair and foul – and the audience is able to see that Macbeth is a deeply interesting yet flawed character. Many of his actions can be described as foul and other can be described as fair. Macbeth’s duality is what makes him such a fascinating villain because he is not solely villainous, he has very good qualities. Below are some suggestions for things you should be looking at: Examples of his fair/foul behaviour How Macbeth is described initially and then towards the end of the play Examples of Macbeth being torn between what is right and wrong
Lady Macbeth The character of Lady Macbeth is a very interesting character and a real gift for writing about in essays. Lady Macbeth is a very dark and manipulative character. She is clearly very ambitious and she sees a chance to gain power after her husband mentions what the witches have suggested about his future. Her opening speech is incredibly dark with mentions of symbols linked with death – the raven – and her call for her to be unsexed. She clearly wants to get her hands dirty and sees the fact she is a woman as a weakness, this would have been very shocking in Elizabethan times. The interesting point is that she is uses her feminine wiles to seduce her husband into killing Duncan and she also uses her role as mother to taunt and horrify him, she also mocks his masculinity. Once Duncan has been killed, she shows her strength when she is quite literally willing to get her hands dirty and smear the guards in Duncan’s blood. This shows just how determined she is to gain power and that she is well aware that her husband is nervous and feeling remorseful and guilty. She really is the driving force behind the murder. She clearly relishes the fact that she is her husband’s rock.
Lady Macbeth The fact that lady Macbeth is painted as such a cold hearted individual is significant because it means that her fall is even greater. After her final supporting of her husband during the banquet scene, she is no longer the rock that she clearly enjoys being. Macbeth actually becomes the tyrant that she had longed for him to be and the irony is that when he becomes the man she longed for him to be, he no longer needs her. This development leaves her a shattered woman and she is then consumed by her guilt at what she has done. Her own guilt drives her mad and results in her death. There are a lot of really interesting quotes that you should look at and learn. Shakespeare cleverly foreshadows Lady Macbeth’s downfall and some of her other quotes really highlight her pure evil nature which link with the play’s thematic concerns.
The Witches “Fair is foul, and foul is fair…” The witches are also key to the play. Many would believe they are examples of true evil, the supernatural monsters that push poor Macbeth towards tyranny. They are more specifically troublemakers who enjoy manipulating Macbeth and begin to push him towards committing dark acts. They convince him that to gain power – which he and his wife clearly seek – that he must kill the king, kill Banquo, the MacDuff family and to believe in his own immortality which in turn leads to his downfall. Macbeth is nothing but sport to the “weird sisters” and they do not actually commit any sort of cruel or evil act by themselves, they just toy with Macbeth’s weakness. Shakespeare purposely keeps them as mysterious characters, we find out very little about them other than they are under the command of Hecate. This is a very effective decision as something that is mysterious is always more frightening. You should also note that the witches, in their first scene, mention the above quote. They are able to see to the very root of Macbeth’s character and this is perhaps why their manipulation of him is so effective.
Banquo So why is Banquo a significant character? The clever thing on Shakespeare’s part is that he is not just some token friend for Macbeth to love then kill, he is in fact the opposite of Macbeth. Macbeth is seduced by the witches lure of a glorious future but Banquo sees them for what they are and refuses to be consumed by their tease – “Or have we eaten on the insane root, That takes the reason prisoner” – while Macbeth is obsessed with thinking about the future titles that he will have bestowed upon him. While Macbeth wanders down the path to tyranny, Banquo remains both loyal and noble and does not allow the “weird sisters” to manipulate him like they poison the minds of Macbeth and then his wife. Banquo is a great character to mention when looking at Macbeth’s downfall, if he had only followed his friends advice and showed the same strength and conviction then maybe he would not have been manipulated by his wife.
Key Scenes Act 1, Scene 7 The Decision to Kill Duncan Act 3, Scene 4 The Banquet Scene Act 4, Scene 1 The Witches’ prophecies
Act 1, Scene 7 This scene is the key scene when looking at the play as a whole mainly because Macbeth’s soliloquy gives us an insight into his genuine thoughts and emotions, this is a very effective dramatic technique on Shakespeare’s part. “We will proceed no further in this business” Here Macbeth makes it clear that he will not kill Duncan, he even tells his wife so. However we watch as Lady Macbeth manipulates him and taunts him as she attacks his masculinity in a desperate attempt to convince him to follow through with the plan. The vital aspect of this scene is that the audience gets to see both sides of Macbeth – fair and foul – in this scene. He speaks fondly of Duncan and clearly has a lot of respect for him yet we see him ignore these feelings in order to appease his wife and take the first step to achieving the glory that the witches has suggested lies in his future. So in summation why is it a key scene? This is the turning point for Macbeth, he fails to resist the taunting of Lady Macbeth, he lets his own ambition for power outweigh what he knows it right before taking his first step towards becoming a tyrant. Act One, Scene Seven is a gift for essays, when looking at any aspect of the play but especially character.
Act 3, Scene 4 This is often called the “Banquet Scene” and is where Macbeth is confronted by the ghost of the recently murderer Banquo. It is a key scene for a number of reasons. Firstly, we see that Macbeth is not a clichéd villain and is in fact feeling some level of guilt over his horrific actions. He is showing some signs that he still has aspects of the “noble Macbeth” we met at the start of the play. Shakespeare wants him to be a character that the audience can believe so the fact that he is not simply a villain who commits a dreadful act and moves on without thinking about it, he actually feels guilt, he feels remorse and he struggles to deal with the aftermath of the killing. He is struggling to be the flower rather than the serpent. It is a key scene for another reason, this is the last time we see Lady Macbeth support her husband and cover his weaknesses. After this point, he becomes a true tyrant and with this, he no longer needs the support and guidance that he relied on his wife for. This is a key moment in their relationship because after this scene, their reversal of roles is complete.
Act 4, Scene 1 This is a very important scene as if features the witches’ prophesies which come at important moment for Macbeth. He is become near enough independent from his wife and has already taken some very dark decisions to kill Banquo for example. The witches three prophesies mean that he is able to become more secure in his position. He believes that there is no way in which these three things could possibly come true, he feels safe and protected in his position and that seems to vilify his choices and decisions. The fact that Macbeth actually returns to seek the wisdom of the witches shows just how ambitious Macbeth is and that he likes what her hears from the witches. This is a key scene because it moves the play towards it’s climax. Shakespeare includes the prophesies to make Macbeth think that he is untouchable and this ultimately leads to his downfall.
Themes Below are just some of the key themes that you should consider: Ambition Evil Love
Ambition “Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor the greatest is behind.” Ambition is a key theme because here Macbeth is making it clear that he is never happy with what he has, he is always looking for more power. Lady Macbeth obviously manipulates and encourages his ambition because she is an ambitious person herself. Shakespeare is clearly making a comment about the destructive nature of ambition and the effect it can have on people. “...brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name...” Macbeth had so much, a great title, the respect and loyalty of the King and a wife who is clearly well thought of, but he throws it away because he wants more. The irony is that he ends up losing all these things due to his ambitious pursuit; his respect – “black Macbeth” – the King he clearly adores – “his virtues will plead like angels, trumpet- tongued against the deep damnation of his taking-off” – and the wife he adores – “She should have died hereafter; there would have been time for such a word.” Because of his ambition, Macbeth and to an extent Lady Macbeth are left with nothing. This is how Shakespeare highlights the thematic concern of ambition. He shows how ambition can push someone too far and in the end rob them of everything they hold dear.
Evil The theme of evil is key to the play and it can actually be a challenge to pinpoint who is in fact the character who can be best described as the “evil” character. Many believe that the witches are in fact evil but what act do they commit that is actually evil? They simply encourage and manipulate the evil that already lurked in Macbeth. To be capable of the acts he commits, he must have always been capable of such evil, he just never had the chance or the reason to show it. Macbeth himself commits evil acts – the murders of Banquo and MacDuff's family – however he has found himself manipulated by others. Firstly the witches who plant the seed of what Macbeth could become and also provide him with the prophecies to shield him from his own self doubt then there is his wife. Lady Macbeth could be considered evil. The key moment for the character is during the first act where she learns of Duncan’s impending arrival and when she tries to manipulate her husband to kill Duncan. It is very difficult to pin down a character as purely evil, but it is easiest to select Lady Macbeth. Shakespeare is perhaps making a moral comment on evil characters, she is left with nothing at the end of the play, she loses her sanity, her husband’s reliance on her and eventually her life. Is this punishment for her dark and evil nature?
Evil Lady Macbeth’s evil qualities: “The raven himself if hoarse that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan...” “...unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe topfull of direst cruelty...” “Stop up th’access and passage to remorse...” “How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums and dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn...” All these quotes show that Lady Macbeth looks to instantly commit dark acts, she will stop at nothing to convince Macbeth to kill Duncan. She knows what she wants and is willing to manipulate the weaknesses of her husband. If Macbeth is the weak character – he actually commits the dreadful acts – but Lady Macbeth is the true evil behind the plot to kill Duncan.
Love The thematic concern of love is really important in the play and is something that is not so readily obvious to the audience. There are three relationships which really highlight that love plays a significant. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth Macbeth and Duncan Macbeth and Banquo There is a more detailed analysis of these relationships elsewhere in the PowerPoint. However, let’s think about why love is important. Love is what drives people to do crazy things, you could say that Macbeth’s love for his wife was one of the key factors in taking the first steps down his dark path towards tyranny. Shakespeare also shows how the love between Macbeth and Banquo and Macbeth and Duncan is destroyed by ambition and tyranny. Shakespeare is suggesting that love is a powerful toxin, it can blind people to what is true and good. Macbeth is the perfect example of this.
The Bloody Hands The symbol of the bloody hands is key to understanding Macbeth and the way in which the characters develop. The symbol is vital to understanding the guilt experienced by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and the shift in the balance of their relationship. After the Murder of Duncan “A little water clears us of this deed” is Lady Macbeth’s reaction, it shows that she feels that she can wipe the blood from her hands without any consequence or remorse. This shows how cold hearted she can be and also how focused and determined she is to ensure the plan succeeds. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hands?” is Macbeth showing that he is guilt ridden over his actions. The blood stained hands are a symbol of his guilt and self-loathing and his horror at seeing them shows that he instantly regrets his actions.
The Bloody Hands Later in the Play Macbeth no longer references his “bloody hands” despite the fact that he has killed more people. This shows that he has come to terms with his guilt because it has been out-weighed by his thirst for power and his desire to hold on to the power he has gained. He does say “...I am in blood, stepped in so far...” The key word here is SO, because if he still regretted his horrific actions, would he not say TOO? Macbeth has shaken his guilt and remorse and become the tyrant. Lady Macbeth references the “bloody hands” again in Act Five: “...all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” These comments come despite her hands being literally clean, her guilt and remorse at their horrific actions have overwhelmed her and now all she sees is the blood on her hands as a constant reminder of her dark deeds. Lady Macbeth who was once the power in the relationship has now shattered and is a shadow of her former self.
The Dagger “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?” The Dagger is very important in Act 2, Scene 1. It is the representation of Macbeth’s guilt and angst as he prepares to kill Duncan. The fact he sees a metaphorical dagger tells the audience that even though Lady Macbeth pushed him to kill Duncan, there must be some part of his psyche that WANTS to kill Duncan. It is he that is projecting the image of the dagger in front of him, so the darkness that eventually erupts and makes him a tyrant was lurking underneath all along.
Useful Link There are a lot of useful websites and resources online but a great one is the Sparknotes Website. You should take a look: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/ macbeth/
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