Legend has it that Macbeth was written in 1606 and performed at Hampton court for King James I; although some historians argue that it was in fact premiered at The Globe theatre, as were most of Shakespeare's productions. Irrespective of this polemic, the play is littered with aspects, issues and ideas that would undoubtedly suggest that the play was indeed written to please King James, who was at the time, patron of Shakespeare's theatre group. One of these themes deals with witches who James was quite unashamedly interested in; so captivated by the supernatural in fact, he wrote a book on the subject; D menology. Macbeth begins by launching us into a meeting with the three witches. In terms of pure storytelling, this scene is unnecessary - it is only until scene three that we discover the true nature and role of the witches in this play. If one were to miss the first scene, one could follow the narrative still, without any difficulty.
I felt that the logic behind the placement of the scene is twofold; to draw the crowd (especially James) in from the outset, and it also underlines the importance of the witches and the theme of darkness to the audience, as the first thing that the crowd see on stage will often be the most memorable. Witches were very much the scapegoat of the time, and much of the problems were blamed on them, and even in this play, all the problems can be traced back to the witches. The following scene is where the story truly commences. It is the first time that the audience have the opportunity to learn about the man who shares his name with the play, Macbeth, as the captain gives his report to the King Duncan.
The Captain's words paint a very positive picture of Macbeth. After Macbeth single handily saved the Scots by killing the enemy Macdonald by "un seaming him from the nave to the chaps" a fresh assault came. Note that in the Captain's speech, he calls Macbeth "Brave,"Valour's Minion," and says that Macbeth scorns fortune and takes matters into his own hands when he says that Macbeth was "Disdaining Fortune, with brandished steel." All these points help to build the vision of a man who is a military genius and an efficient killer. Yet even with all this information bowing at Duncan's feet, Duncan is still forced to ask the question "Dismayed this not Our captains, Macbeth and Banquo" The Captain gives an ironic response, saying that they feared "As sparrows eagles, or hare the lion." This shows the courage and the loyalty of Macbeth, and the fact that the captain uses irony shows how obvious this is. So if Duncan, even for a second, felt that Macbeth had been put in a position where he might forsake the king, imagine what he would have thought about the ordinary soldier, working solely for money and with no genuine heartfelt loyalty. Duncan's doubt in Macbeth may have been incorrect, but his sceptical view in the average soldier would inevitably be accurate.
These men would be under the command of Macbeth, so to keep these men, who feared for their lives with this new line of attack, in total control and order would be a great feat. The audience would pick up that he needs to command a great deal of respect over these men, and he is an example to them when he "Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe." More so in the 1600's when the play was performed to Shakespeare's own audience, the visitor to the theatre would perhaps speculate that God was on Duncan's, and therefore Macbeth's side, as Macbeth had won this battle against astounding odds. This most certainly would have delighted King James I, as this ties in with the theme of the Divine Right of Kings doctrine by which James ruled. The single line that encapsulates Macbeth's personality on the battlefield and the audience's perception of Macbeth is "Till he unsealed him from the nave to the chaps And fixed his head upon our battlements." The first part of this line ("Till Chaps") would suggest Macbeth's superiority as a soldier, his courage and that he is a model for all men under his command. The second part of the line ("And battlements") shows that he is loyal to the king and punishes traitors. Ironically, it will be Macbeth who becomes the biggest traitor of all, and it is his head that is pierced onto the battlements.
The material for the play was drawn from Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, although in Shakespeare's story there are many fabrications and manipulations of characters and events. One aspect of the story that Shakespeare, surprisingly, did not create is the part played by the witches; Holinshed's account also contains the witches. Macbeth meets these witches upon the heath with his friend Banquo. Banquo's initial reaction to the witches is confusion about their strange appearance and to some extent mocks them with his speech by asking them if they are beings of the earth. This questioning of the witches also shows that he is doubtful of their authenticity. The witches immediately intrigue Macbeth and he is the one who summon them to "Speak, if you can." The rhythm of the language also indicates that Macbeth is getting to be very restless with Banquo " os questioning of the witches because he interrupts Banquo's iambic pentameter: Banquo And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are so Macbeth Speak if you can: - what are you The first line of Banquo's that I have quoted has the full ten beats, which proves that the second line is unfinished.
Therefore, Macbeth's intervention of Banquo's line is deliberately crafted by Shakespeare to give Macbeth the air of impatience, and eagerness to know what the witches have to say; and possibly an annoyance with Banquo's disbelief. Banquo tends to ask direct questions to them, which indicates to the audience that he has less respect for the witches than Macbeth, who speaks to them in minimal proportions. Macbeth is very startled by the word sisters' famous three "All Hails." The line "Good sir, why do you start." is effectively a stage direction. Macbeth is instantly entranced and "rapt withal" by the witches; because he believes them.
In contrast, Banquo doubts them very much on introduction and tells them that he "neither beg nor fear Your favours nor you hate." Banquo has no reason to believe in them, and nor does Macbeth. However, it is made clear to the audience that Macbeth is not incredulous about their information, especially when he begs or orders (depending on how the line is played) them to "Speak, I charge you," and is most disappointed when the disappear, and utters "would that they had stayed" This would indicate that perhaps Macbeth has thought about being crowned before this incident, and this is the first step towards his dreams being realized. The audience will be able to sense Macbeth's curiosity, because almost certainly everyone has had a point in their life where someone seems to know something about them or their nature, and the audience will want to know exactly how much they know; Shakespeare understood this to be a human characteristic. The second step towards his dreams being realized comes with the title, Thane of Candor, as the witches had prophesied.
As soon as the news of this title comes into Macbeth's knowledge, he whispers aside "The greatest is behind," which can be interpreted as Macbeth saying that two of the three prognoses have been fulfilled, and only one is left to be accomplished. At this point, the audience will be shocked by the twist in the storyline, and this will certainly intrigue them as much as it intrigued Macbeth. Somehow, Banquo remains pessimistic and warns Macbeth that often "The instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray's in deepest consequence," and of course, this is what exactly the witches are doing! Macbeth ignores this advice (in his glee of finally being told he will be king) and moves onto his soliloquy. He cogitates thoroughly and indicates to the audience that he is already thinking of killing Duncan "Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair whose murder is yet but fantastical," which should surprise the audience, as so far they have only seen Macbeth to be a loyal subject of the king. Even though he follows this with the flipside to the argument "Chance may crown me, without my stirring," the audience will not redeem him for the earlier thought. So very early in the play he is in two minds about killing the king, without Lady Macbeth even appearing on the stage.
This vacillation of Macbeth is an aspect of him that is present throughout the entire play. For example, just after he has talked himself out of killing Duncan, another vision of killing comes to him when Malcolm is named heir to the throne. The audience know this because Macbeth says, "This is a step on which I must fall down or else o'erleap," referring to Malcolm. This will confirm to the audience about what Macbeth is capable of in terms of treachery, though I can imagine the audience trying to scream at him "Calm Down Macbeth, Murder isn't the right course of action!" There is an interaction between the audience and Macbeth, and hopefully by now the audience will realise that Macbeth's ambition is the flaw in his character.
The first time the meet Lady Macbeth, she is reading the letter that Macbeth has written to her about the predictions of the witches. The letter itself it tells us something about Macbeth when he says "I have learnt by the perfect " st report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge," which means that he has conducted some type of research into the validity of the witches predictions, and what he has found out would suggest that the witches are telling the truth. This has confirmed for him his initial thoughts of his future role in the country, giving him stronger faith in the witches and his destiny, and also may have acted as more firewood for his already blazing ambition. This is why later on in the play, there is no question or doubt in either Macbeth's or Lady Macbeth's mind that the witches may have been lying. Before Lady Macbeth has finished reading the letter, I think the audience may hope that she will see through the deceit of the witches, and will be disappointed that she believes the witches too, and thoroughly disheartened to find out that she will be the one to drive Macbeth to kill the king.
The rest of the letter is a brief summary of the past events that have happened to Macbeth, and Shakespeare probably intended this letter to be useful to the latecomers amongst the audience. Lady Macbeth, like Macbeth himself, instantaneously thinks of killing, or getting Macbeth to kill Duncan, though she exclaims that Macbeth "is too full o' the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way." Unlike Macbeth, she doesn't have soliloquies contemplating the consequences of the murder of Duncan, so the audience will perceive her as a very impulsive woman who doesn't think things through well enough. She gives the audience a description of Macbeth as she seems him, and this will change the audience's perception of Macbeth accordingly. In her opinion, Macbeth knows that if he is to be king, then the king must die. Macbeth doesn't want to kill the king himself, though he would be happy for the king to be murdered and wants the king to be murdered, just as long as it is not he who does the deed; "what thou wouldst highly, That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false, And yet wouldst wrongly win," as Lady Macbeth puts it.
Suddenly, the audience doesn't have the perception of an honourable, loyal and brave subject of the king; but a man with burning ambition but thinks too much of the repercussions. His wife says "hie thee hither, That I may pour my spirits into thine ear," which means that she has already made the intention of persuading Macbeth into killing the king, just moments after reading the letter. I think that it is this speech that makes the audience pity Macbeth at this point of the play, rather than hating him for his cruel intentions. This is because we know that when he returns weary to his castle, his wife will be there to greet him and ready to manipulate him. Also, this quote tells the audience what Lady Macbeth thinks of herself in that she assumes that she is stronger than Macbeth and she can persuade him to kill the king, regardless of the fact that he is too full of the "milk of human kindness." However, I do not think Lady Macbeth wanting to kill the king is purely selfish, and I do think that there is love between them. In the letter, Macbeth calls her his "dearest partner in greatness," and when she considers Macbeth's character after reading the letter, she does not say that Macbeth stops her from greatness, but he stops himself.
If she was as egoistic as some scholars would have you believe, I feel that she would have mentioned that Macbeth is stopping her from rising to power, instead of things like "All that impedes thee from the golden round." Another example is when Lady Macbeth orders the messenger who comes to her with news of Duncan's arrival to "give him tending." When the messenger arrives, he comes with the news "The king arrives here tonight," Lady Macbeth, in a moment of confusion thinks that the envoy is referring to Macbeth, bursting out with the words "Thou " rt mad to say it." This is another instance where Shakespeare divides the iambic pentameter to create an atmosphere of urgency, hurriedness and in this case, surprise. Freud would analyse this slip of the tongue by saying that it shows the deepest emotions, thoughts and desires of the Lady Macbeth at the time, who therefore must already envisage Macbeth crowned. In between the time the messenger leaves and Macbeth arrives she does something quite unexpected. Although there is never any indication of her being a witch, she tries to cast a spell upon herself to make herself a more cruel person.
She asks the "spirits That tend on mortal thoughts fill me top full Of direst cruelty" and makes some other morbid demands, such as "take my milk for gall," which means that she is asking to become bitter and poisonous. Another request that she makes is for the "murdering ministers" to "unsex me here." This brings about the notion that only men can commit sin or atrocities, which even today is still partly true (if you look at government statistics, males commit a much higher proportion of crimes in virtually all countries). But why does she feel the need to chant all these disturbing incantations Women aren't really associated with cold-blooded murder, and are often associated with the maternal mercy and love. Her chants would indicate that she will actually commit the murder herself when she says "That my keen knife see not the wound it makes," and until only moments before the King is slayed, the audience are led to believe that Lady Macbeth will carry out the crime. Her rather pathetic excuse for not killing the king with her own hands is that he had "resembled My father as he slept," and she couldn't murder him. I think that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are similar in the respect that they always need a "honourable" excuse to murder, to "validate" their crime.
For example, Macbeth is always happy to cut someone from the "knave to the chaps" on a war field, though he cannot kill a sleeping man without a legitimate justification. Similarly, Lady Macbeth is trying to clear her conscience for the murder that she intends to do by persuading herself to believe that she wouldn't have been able to have done it without the evil spirits filling her. Also, when she is attempting to put Macbeth under her influence when they are hotly debating about the killing of the king, she uses some horrifying blackmail techniques to manipulate Macbeth; another sin that she can blame on the evil spirits. Although there is a theme of the supernatural within this play, there are no indications that any witches or demons responded to her call, although it is up to the director if there should be a suggestion that Lady Macbeth has any powers or not.
My opinion is that she hasn't, and that she is just trying to make lawful in her own eye what is unlawful to the rest of the world. So what were the kinds of things that Lady Macbeth did, how did she persuade Macbeth to kill the king - or did Macbeth want to kill the king in the first place enough to do the deed himself The audience have seen that there is a part of Macbeth with a desire to kill the king, and also have seen a part that feels that if it is his destiny, then the crowning will happen by its own accord. The audience have seen the loyal, strong Macbeth and they have also seen the plotting, treacherous Macbeth. In the next section of this play, the audience will see the conflicts that Macbeth faces with his wife and his own self, and delve into the subject of how Macbeth was persuaded to kill the King Duncan. The instant Macbeth returns to his home, Lady Macbeth rushes out to welcome her beloved husband, and the words she uses to greet him implies that she assumes Macbeth will kill Duncan. She does this by calling him the greatest by "the all hail hereafter," and she declares that "the future is instant," by the death of the king.
However, only moments before she claims that Macbeth will never "catch the nearest way" by killing Duncan. So why does she seem to assume that Macbeth will do the murder An audience will see that Lady Macbeth is already trying to influence Macbeth by making this statement, knowing full well that he does not want to commit this murder, and the audience will see the self-conflict that Macbeth is going through. Here we see another instance of distribution of the ten beats when Lady Macbeth says, "The future is instant." And Macbeth immediately follows this up with "My dearest love," to complete the ten syllables. This shows Macbeth trying to cut off Lady Macbeth from her speech in which she is trying to persuade him. Further evidence of Macbeth not really wanting to listen to his wife in case she may persuade him in the same conversation is when Macbeth says "We will speak further," which means he is trying to say 'we " ll talk about it later', and trying to put the subject off. However, what Lady Macbeth does say in this conversation is "Leave the rest to me," which does imply that she will assassinate the king with her own hands.
In this same dialogue, she also says "you shall putinto my despatch," which furthermore proves that she is leading Macbeth into believing that he will have no physical role in the murder of the king. Lady Macbeth thinks this strategy will work because she describes Macbeth as a man who "wouldst not play false, And yet would wrongly win;" Another theme that arises in this discussion between husband and wife is the notion of two-faced ness, and Lady Macbeth gives Macbeth advice on an act he has not agreed to do; "look like the innocent flower But be the serpent under't," she tells him. This whole dialogue gives the audience the feeling that Lady Macbeth is forcing Macbeth into agreement of killing the king, and she is perceived as the dominant figure in the relationship at this moment in time. Also, this quote will remind Shakespeare's audience about the gunpowder plot, which failed and the conspirator, Guy Fawkes, who was burnt alive.
A coin was made to commemorate this, which had a flower on one side and a serpent on the other; this is what Shakespeare makes a direct reference to. A feeling of foreboding will be predominant throughout the audience as they make the connection between Guy Fawkes and Macbeth, and predict that Macbeth will receive a similar punishment. This also tries to draw pity away from Macbeth's character, which does seem to build up during the play; King James would not have been happy with everyone having Macbeth down as a lovable but flawed character. In his eyes, Macbeth is the enemy and this play is designed to be a deterrent for anyone attempting to murder the king, as a severe castigation will follow.
When King Duncan does arrive in the castle, Lady Macbeth acts the perfect host that is to be expected of her. While this is happening, Macbeth is thinking about the talk he has had with his wife about the murder, and begins his famous soliloquy "If it were done." In his train of thoughts, Macbeth is much more biased towards letting Duncan live. The only real argument for killing the king is pretty weak, and this is "if the assassination Could trammel up the consequence Might be the be-all and end-all here," he would kill the king. But Macbeth knows that there is no way he can avoid punishment. Macbeth reveals something very interesting that indicates that maybe he is religious when he declares that, "We'd jump the life to come," meaning that he would risk punishment in the afterlife. Even if there is no life after death, Macbeth also knows that there is some type of natural justice on this world and "We still have judgement here." Macbeth believes that "bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague th " inventor," so he feels that this murder is a double sided sword.
It will be plain for the audience to see that he is thoroughly confused about what he should do. There is indication in this soliloquy that Macbeth does actually love the king. He says that Duncan is a perfect ruler, he "Hath borne his faculties so meek that his virtues Will plead like angels," and that "tears shall drown the wind," with the great sadness that will follow the death of Duncan. Duncan stays at the castle in "double trust," one with his kinsman and one with his host. He thinks that it is ironical that it is he "Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife [himself]," and by the end of the soliloquy it seems that he has talked himself out of the murder of the innocent "cherub in." This is quite often the case, as we will se in a following soliloquy, that when Macbeth is on his own he is certain that he does not wish to murder the king. However, a short period of time with his Lady and he changes his mind, although unwillingly, and this does prove that Lady Macbeth does influence and manipulate Macbeth quite heavily.
Even at the end of this soliloquy Macbeth says "I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition," and on cue Lady Macbeth, the spur of Macbeth's vaulting ambition enters. This is Shakespeare's use of dramatic irony, and lets the audience know for sure that it is Lady Macbeth who drives Macbeth to do the deed. After Lady Macbeth's entrance, Macbeth lets her know almost immediately that "we will proceed no further in this business," and gives his reasons. He has won "golden opinions from all sorts of people," and the king himself has "honoured me of late," and he does not want to jeopardize the enviable position that he has climbed towards.
He tries to be clever and uses a metaphor, comparing new clothes with his prestigious current position, which he says, "would be worn in their newest gloss, not cast aside so soon." Lady Macbeth picks up on this metaphor immediately and turns it around on Macbeth, screeching, "Was the hope drunk, Wherein you dressed yourself." This command of the English language shows Lady Macbeth to have great wit and intelligence, and will make Macbeth feel foolish by comparison, that he too cannot retaliate so quickly. Even this adds to Lady Macbeth's overpowering of Macbeth. She then emotionally blackmails Macbeth with the words "From this time Such I account that love," and is telling Macbeth that she will assume Macbeth's declaration of love for his wife was out of drunkenness. Staying with the theme of drunkenness, she says to him he "looks so green and pale At what it did so freely." She is accusing him of not being able to hold his "drink", or hold his courage, and is basically stating that Macbeth is not a man, and he is like the cat that did not want to get his paws wet. This effective use of metaphors and puns twist into each other and effectively starts to twist and confuse Macbeth. However, Macbeth regains his composure, and tells his wife to shut her mouth by ordering her "pr " thee peace." It is interesting to see that Lady Macbeth can have the wit to turn around Macbeth's metaphors, but does not have the intelligence, nor the imagination to think about the terrible consequences of murdering the king.
I can imagine audience desperately hoping that Lady Macbeth will actually change her mind, as they will take pity on Macbeth, who will be punished for something he didn't really want to do. We have often talked about the about the audience's perception of Macbeth, but never Macbeth's perception of himself. He certainly thinks he is man enough; he is a fierce warrior and a valued subject of the king. He says to Lady Macbeth "I dare do all that may become a man; Who dare do more is none." What he is saying therefore that a man that does more them him is not a man, but a beast. Once again Lady Macbeth is quick to strike back with "What beast was't then That made you break your enterprise to me" so it is quite clear that whatever argument Macbeth may wish to take, Lady Macbeth will be ready to pounce back. Macbeth's self-perception as a worthy man slowly deteriorates as Lady Macbeth eats it away with her words.
"When you durst do it, then you were a man," she cries out to him. If Macbeth has confidence in himself, why does Lady Macbeth's words make him feel undeserving of the title "a man" It is quite obvious that Duncan has high regard for Macbeth, and so do the rest of his kinsmen. Yet Macbeth knows that nobody understands him more than his wife, and he cannot act nor put on a two-faced show in front of her. Evidence from the text is when Duncan contemplates that "There's no art To find the mind's construction in the face," whereas Lady Macbeth, because she knows her husband all too well, says to him "Your face, my thane, is a book, where Men may read strange matters." If the person who knows Macbeth better than any other thinks that he is not a real man, then surely, in his own eyes, he cannot be. This is when Lady Macbeth drops the bombshell: "And, to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man." Lady Macbeth is really edging him forward to the task, and he starts to think that 'there is only one way that I can prove myself to be the man that I know I am.' The next things she says really do suggest that Lady Macbeth and Macbeth had talked about their rule one day, some time before the appearance of the witches. "Nor time nor place Did the adhere, and yet you would make both." but now "They have made themselves, and that their fitness now Does unmake you." She is trying to take Macbeth back to the things he has said to her, and the oaths that he has made.
She is trying to make him guilty, and builds this up furthermore with the horrific image of Lady Macbeth, who would have "dashed the brains out" of the "babe that milks mead I sworn as you Have done to this." What Lady Macbeth is really saying that she is more of a man than he is. This whole emotional blackmail, the questioning of manhood, courage and faithfulness to promises gone by, all are drawing Macbeth into her clutches. The abundance of her clever word play add to her role as the dominant figure, slowly dragging Macbeth down until he questions, semi-persuaded "If we should fail." As soon as these words leave his Macbeth's mouth, she knows that she has won. "We fail" she would crow ironically, as if it were impossible, a joke.
"We " ll not fail." As soon as these words are said, all of the audience will be severely dismayed, depressed even. They know that Macbeth has give into her, and will wish that they could somehow tell Macbeth to not listen to his wife. Similarly to the completion of an iambic pentameter by several characters, she completes the thrice repetition of the word "fail." Even in modern day propaganda schemes, the repetition of three is used as a brainwashing technique, so this is another example of Lady Macbeth using her language only to persuade Macbeth. She then goes through her plan quickly to Macbeth. In all honesty, it is a clumsy plan, and shows that Lady Macbeth hasn't really thought it through, unlike Macbeth who turns things over in his mind for hours. Lady Macbeth doesn't seem to think that this is a flawed plan at all, and she has not the imagination to predict any difficulty in carrying out the plan and getting away with it.
There are no full stops in Lady Macbeth's description of her tactics, which would indicate two things. She wants to tell Macbeth quickly, before he can change his mind and that she has almost memorise d the way she will tell Macbeth, so it all blurts out in a hurry. She must have been fairly confident that she would persuade Macbeth if she'd thought of the plan and the manner in which she'd tell Macbeth. Macbeth does actually slightly question the plan, thinking "Will it not be received That the [the guards] have done't" though Lady Macbeth is quick to point out that if they act sad, and make their "griefs and clamour roar Upon his death," then nobody will suspect Macbeth and his Lady. Another thing worthy of mention is that when Macbeth does comply with the murder, she says, "screw your courage to the sticking place." A modern interpretation of this line is that it can be taken as sexual innuendo, and she is saying that Macbeth has made the right choice, and he'd be rewarded for it later on in the bedroom. "What cannot you and I perform upon Th " unguarded Duncan" asks Lady Macbeth.
This would suggest that she too would help murder the king, but when it actually comes to it, Macbeth is alone. Other examples of Lady Macbeth indicating that she herself would murder the king is when she says "Leave the rest to me," and "you shall putinto my despatch," which furthermore proves that she is leading Macbeth into believing that he will have no physical role, or only a minor one in the murder of the king. Macbeth probably thought that the onus would be shared, which would " ve have made him be less reluctant to kill the king. In fact, throughout most of the play, the audience, as well as Macbeth, believe that Lady Macbeth will kill the king with her own hands. Her rather pathetic excuse for not killing the king is that he had "resembled My father as he slept," and she couldn't murder him. However, we know that Macbeth really is persuaded to kill the king when he is says "I am settled, and bend up Each corporal agent to this terrible feat." He then gives Lady Macbeth similar advice to which she had given him: "false face must hide what the false heart doth know." Leading up to the murder, Macbeth is walking around the castle, waiting for his call from his wife that the guards have been drugged, and the king is ready for his murdering.
He sees and talks to Banquo, as would a friend, though I think he has an ulterior motive in that he fears Banquo knows too much. He says to Banquo that he would like to "spend it in some words upon that business," meaning the business of the witches. He also informs Banquo that if he follows Macbeth's advice, "it shall make an honour" for him. Banquo answers with a very noble and honourable speech, saying, "So I lose none [honour] in seeking to augment it, but still keep My bosom franchised, and allegiance clear, I shall be counselled," This is the kind of thing that the Macbeth described by the Captain should have said. I believe that if this righteous sermon delivered by Banquo is not enough to force Macbeth into aborting his mission, if this does not appeal to his "good" side, then nothing will; he is wholly convinced that he must kill the king. Macbeth's soliloquy ensuing this moment does show his inner struggle of his "heart opressd brain" though it seems now that Macbeth will carry out the crime regardless.
Banquo is portrayed very favourably in the play. He was in fact a fabrication, and was created by a Scottish historian to validate the Stuarts heritage. Also, the witches prediction that Banquo's children shall be Kings would have pleased King James, a Stuart, who claimed to be a direct descendant Banquo, even though he didn't actually exist. After Banquo leaves, Macbeth starts arguably what is the most famous soliloquy "Is this a dagger I see before me" in the entire play.
From this point on, Macbeth starts to mentally disintegrate, imaging, seeing and hearing things. The dagger represents what he is about to do, and his unwillingness to do it. He says that the dagger is a "false creation, Proceeding from the heart-oppress d brain" which is showing that he cannot think or concentrate fully. He then sees blood on the knife, and realizes "It is the bloody business," which is making him imagine things. He then personifies murder, or indeed himself, as a skeleton. The rest of the soliloquy has a semantic field dealing with darkness and evil, such as "Nature seems dead wicked dreams abuse curtained sleep; witchcraft celebrates Hecate withered Murder wolf howl's Tarquin's ravishing strides like a ghost," and he realizes that the murder of the king will put him in the same category as all this wickedness and malevolence.
These words in the semantic field will also give the audience a sense of the evil that is about to come, and the words charge the atmosphere of the audience, who can feel something terrible is coming very soon; Nevertheless, the "bell rings" for the cue of the murder and Macbeth goes off to finally do the dastardly deed. After Macbeth has murdered the king, he returns to his chamber where Lady Macbeth awaits. Shakespeare builds the tension, and shows the paranoia that the two are now going through. They are frightened by every noise and shudder at every shadow, as we can see by the total splitting of the iambic pentameter, which shows the panic between them, and it is very fast flowing: Lady Macbeth I heard the owl scream, and the crickets cry.
Did you not speak Macbeth When Lady Macbeth NowMacbethAs I descended Lady Macbeth Ay. As you can see, there is almost no gap in between the words of the actors, which creates an atmosphere of hurried and frenzied paranoia. It is Lady Macbeth who regains her composure the quickest. Macbeth never does regain his composure, and starts to lose control of his mind; his immediate response to killing Macbeth is losing his common sense and his ability to think straight.
Macbeth, the brutal killer who can cut a man from the nave to the chaps, looks at his hand and says, "this is a sorry sight" because they are bloody. Returning to his chamber, he thinks that he heard the sons of the king, Flea nce and Donal bain, wake up, say their prayers and go to sleep again. When Macbeth heard them say "Amen," he himself could not pronounce the blessing "Amen" to them. This would give Shakespeare's audience the perception that Macbeth has joined the side of the devil, and that he can no longer worship God; once again, this ties in with the theme of the Divine Right of Kings. A modern day audience may consider that in fact it is Macbeth's own perception of himself as evil that forbids him from worshipping God.
On the return journey, Macbeth also hears a voice cry, "Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep." This means that Macbeth murdered a sleeping King, but more ingeniously, Macbeth murders the innocent. He will never be able to sleep again in the rest of the play, if he does, he will feel better in the morning. Macbeth says that sleep is the "Balm of hurt minds." His conscience eats at him; the thought of killing the king plays on his mind, and stops him from getting the bliss that sleep offers. Later on in the play, Shakespeare uses an owl as a metaphor for Macbeth; "A falcon by a mousing owl hawked at, and killed," as a falcon is a royal bird.
Similarities between Macbeth and an owl are that they both hunt the innocent in the night and that they both do not sleep. The reason why Shakespeare uses this metaphor is once again to try and draw all sympathy away from Macbeth, as the king would not have liked him. In Shakespeare's time, owls were associated with witching and darkness, so the audience would despise Macbeth in theory; yet I still think pity would have been present in practice. Macbeth returns to the chamber with his hands smothered in blood. Lady Macbeth orders him to, "wash this filthy witness from your hand," but Macbeth retorts "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand" and he says that the blood on his hands will stain all of the seas, "Making the green one red." Only after killing the king does he realize what he has done.
Still, Lady Macbeth bears no guilt and says, "A little water clears us of the deed." As a director, I would force the actor playing Macbeth to show that he is become insane, and all the lines are to be said in a frenzied fashion, with Lady Macbeth trying to calm him; especially the lines when he talks about hearing voices. Also, when it becomes apparent that Macbeth has brought the daggers back with him and he did not smother the guards in blood as was planned, I would like the actor to be too preoccupied with madness to really care about these details. Macbeth says, "I'm afraid to think what I have done," which shows that his courage and manliness that Lady Macbeth used to get him to murder the king leaves him, and he is left a nervous wreck. Interestingly, Macbeth attacks the courage and questions the manhood of the people who he bribes to kill his foes; in much the same way did Lady Macbeth to him.
Lady Macbeth keeps her calm, returns to the guard to "make it seem their guilt," and then comes back to the chamber. She remarks to Macbeth "My hands are of your colour, but I shame To wear a heart so white," which shows that in a sense, Lady Macbeth is more of a man than Macbeth, whose "constancy hath left [him] unattended." She tells Macbeth to "Get on your night-gown And show us to be watchers." Macbeth we know cannot get to sleep, and soon it is time to meet the new day; the shock of a deceased monarch, he knows, will fall upon everyone. When the household arises from their sleep, he equivocates on several occasions. When he is asked, "Is the king stirring" by Macduff, he says "Not yet." Another interesting occasion is when Lenox enquires, "Goes the king hence today" to which Macbeth replies "He does: - he did appoint so," which shows the audience that Macbeth corrects himself guiltily. Obviously he has to lie, but on this last occasion there was no need to rectify himself; he still feels guilty about the murder of the king.
When the news of the murder actually does break out, there is a hysteria running through the castle. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth act very distressed, though the audience will feel that Macbeth is the only one of the two who is not putting on a two-faced show. Macbeth, in this madness, kills the guards who were to be accused of killing the king. This isn't a very smart move, as Macbeth had no reason for doing so, and therefore he becomes suspicious under the eyes of the others. He tries to redeem himself by saying that he had done it in a fit of emotion, and he is very poetic when he describes Duncan "silver skin laced with his golden blood;" and this might indicate that he really did love Duncan. Furthermore, to draw attention away from Macbeth and any suspicions that arise, Lady Macbeth faints, and the limelight moves wholly away from Macbeth until he is crowned King of Scotland.
However, I think that the audience will believe that Lady Macbeth is faking the faint in order to move the attention away from her husband, rather than fainting after realizing what a terrible thing that she had done. So we can see the migration of the brave Macbeth in this story to the nervous wreck that he is by the end. Macbeth is a man of conscience and a man of imagination. He knew that if he was to kill the king he would have to receive some kind of punishment, though he went ahead with it anyway. It is the flaw in his character: his ambition, that let him carry out his deed. Although everyone has ambition, he could not control his; his ambition and love for the throne had blinded him to such an extent that he was willing to take the risk.
He does say that he has "no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition," so he admits to himself that he will not kill the king out of his own accord; he needs someone there to persuade him. This someone to persuade him is Lady Macbeth, but also the witches: it is as if that Macbeth's ambition is a chemical reaction on the verge of taking place, but Lady Macbeth and the Witches are the catalysts. Lady Macbeth recognizes this as she says to Macbeth "art not without ambition," and understands her role as the vehicle of his ambition when she says "Hie thee hither, That I may pour my spirits in thine ear." Unlike Macbeth however, she does not speculate about the consequences of her actions, nor does she seem to take into regard any pain that her selfish acts may create. She certainly is an intelligent woman, as we can see from her manipulation techniques that she used on Macbeth, and I think that her ambition blinded her own mind, much in the same way as her husbands did. Lady Macbeth's plan was a clumsy one, and I think that it was the frenzy of the relationship between her and her husband that left both of their thoughts slightly disillusioned. Scholars always argue that it was the fault of Lady Macbeth that Macbeth was persuaded to kill the king.
It was her constant questioning and perseverance that brought his downfall. We have seen the two sides of Macbeth in his soliloquies, and it is true to say that when unpolluted with Lady Macbeth's wilfulness, he talks himself out of the murder. However, I feel that they were both at fault; Macbeth fantasized over the murders of Duncan and possibly Malcolm before Lady Macbeth even joins the queue of conspirators; Macbeth needed to be on the edge before Lady Macbeth could push him.