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Historical Context of Macbeth

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1 Historical Context of Macbeth

2 Facts There was no Tudor successor to the throne of England. Therefore, Elizabeth I chose James VI of Scotland to succeed her. After her death in 1603, James VI of Scotland became James I of England. Shakespeare wrote the play for James I, England's new king, who had been king of Scotland in 1606 The play is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy, probably because King James often fell asleep during performances. Shakespeare's source for the story of Macbeth was The History and Chronicles of Scotland (1526),

3 Facts cont. The appointment of James I was a good political move, unifying England and Scotland under one King. King James was a devout advocate of the “Divine Right of Kings.” Banquo was an “ancestor” of James and is shown in the play to be a virtuous person. James believed himself to be an expert on witchcraft.

4 Appealed to Elizabethans’ Interests
Shakespeare demonstrated the Elizabethan belief that the country is stable only if the King is good and virtuous. Elizabethans believed that evil occurs in darkness, which is a recurring theme in Macbeth. Shakespeare included a lot of blood and murder, which the Elizabethans expected to see in a play. The play was considered a thriller – a threat to an anointed King and the perceived evil behind the threat. It is also considered Shakespeare’s darkest work.

5 Elizabethan Age Queen Elizabeth was very fond of the theatre and made it popular in Britain. They would attend shows at the globe theatre.

6 Drama where the central character(s) suffer disaster/great misfortune
Tragedy Drama where the central character(s) suffer disaster/great misfortune

7 Definition: A drama in which a character (usually a good and noble person of high rank) is brought to a disastrous end in his or her confrontation with a superior force (fortune, the gods, social forces, universal values), but also comes to understand the meaning of his or her deeds and to accept an appropriate punishment.

8 Shakespearean Tragic Plot
Act I: Exposition This is where the setting, characters, and conflicts are introduced. Act II: Rising Action Act III: Turning Point (Climax) This is where the reversal of fortune occurs and it all starts to go badly for the tragic hero. Act IV: Falling Action Act V: Catastrophe/Resolution The conflicts are resolved; chaos returns to order.

9 Tragic Hero The tragic hero is a man of noble stature.
“high position” usually means a king, duke, prince, company owner, etc. He is not an ordinary man, but a man with outstanding quality and greatness about him. He is good—but not “too good”—so the audience can identify with him.

10 Tragic Hero His own destruction is for a greater cause or principle—it proves a point. It should be noted that the hero's downfall is his own fault as a result of his own free choice, but his misfortune is not wholly deserved. Usually his death is seen as a waste of human potential.

11 Characteristics of a Tragic Hero
According to Aristotle: Usually of noble birth Hamartia – a.k.a. the tragic flaw that eventually leads to his downfall; often this leads to a mistake in judgment. Peripeteia – a reversal of fortune brought about by the hero’s tragic flaw; this is often also influenced by “fate” or the gods. His actions result in an increase of self- awareness and self-knowledge…though he may not choose to act on this! The audience must feel pity and fear for this character.

12 The “tragic flaw” The “flaw” in the character is a defect which keeps him/her from being aware of the situation around him/her. The character does not understand (for much of the story) his/her part of creating the situation. Ex: Pride (“Hubris”) Skywalker thinks he is so good, he can take on an experienced Jedi all by himself.

13 Examples of Flaws Greed Obsession with one thing Mistrust Uncertainty
Lack of patience Easily influenced Hesitation Selfishness Ambition

14 The Hero’s Understanding
Aristotle: "A man cannot become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall.” The tragic hero has a “moment of enlightenment” near the end of the story. He/she finally understands what he/she has done wrong—how he/she contributed to the tragic situation. The story often ends with the death of the tragic hero. His death usually is not a pure loss, because it results in greater knowledge and awareness.

15 It’s Like She Read the Classics…
In the Harry Potter series, Sirius Black could be considered a tragic hero! Sirius Black of the Harry Potter Series, actually suffers from his fatal flaws several times. His hot headiness is what got him framed for murdering his best friend, causing him to serve several years in Azkaban.

16 Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes
Macbeth is an example of a principal Shakespeare character who is regarded as a tragic hero. Macbeth's fatal flaw, as seen by Aristotle, would be his lust for power (ambition).

17 Macbeth Unlike classical tragic heroes, however, Macbeth is well aware of his fatal flaw from the beginning - he constantly questions himself on why he continues to delay the fulfillment of his desires. This is slightly different from the Aristotliean classical tragedies where the hero is not aware of his flaw until the very end.

18 Shakespeare’s Quirks Shakespeare often represents abnormal conditions of mind: insanity, somnambulism, hallucinations (like, perhaps, Macbeth) Shakespeare also introduces the supernatural: ghosts, witches, etc. who have supernatural knowledge Shakespeare, in most of the tragedies, allows "chance" in some form to influence some of the action. For example:the timing in Romeo and Juliet

19 Themes/ Motifs to Trace in Macbeth
A motif is an object/ idea that constantly repeats throughout a literary work Ambition Appearance vs. reality Blurring of Good and Evil Light vs. Darkness Blood Sleep/Sleeplessness

20 Mood in Macbeth Mood- the atmosphere of a work. It intends to evoke a certain emotion from the audience

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