NCEA Formal Writing 1.5, Literary Essay

In English literature, William Shakespeare is one of the most famous and influential authors. His early work  consisted of comedies and histories, until around the early 1600’s, when he began primarily writing tragedies such as Othello, Hamlet and Macbeth. His style of writing was unique, he used a metrical pattern known as blank verse that was composed of lines ruled by unrhymed iambic pentameter. His style of writing was unique, he used a metrical pattern known as blank verse that was composed of lines ruled of unrhymed iambic pentameter. In Macbeth there is a clear threat to the characters, the fear of the characters mind deteriorating, Shakespeare elaborates this theme with the following techniques, foreshadowing, metaphors, the power of ambition, tension and many more.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth there is no doubt that the play is brimful with metaphors and similes. In Act 5 Scene 5, Macbeth recites a very famous soliloquy following the death of his wife, Lady Macbeth. The text selected is rich in many techniques, as Shakespeare often uses metaphors and similes to express his ideas and creativity to the audiences.”Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

This soliloquy is a common example of Shakespeare exercising his ideas of life being nothing more than an illusion, he notes that Macbeth’s very existence is nothing but “a walking shadow” that neglects meaning and importance.  Next he carries on to use a metaphor to compare life to an actor that has a brief time on stage “a poor player”, he is referring to life passing quickly and being so short that when we die (the play ends) we are not heard from again and are quickly forgotten, meaning we have little importance in life..if we have any at all. “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” these last lines relate back to Macbeth talking about his own tragedy and despair. Himself being the fool that let his wife take charge and control him then followed the encouragement from the witches. Macbeth is at the point in the play falling apart, his overwhelmed by the power that possessed him and caused him to lose everything. His mind is deteriorating. While the story is being told it sounds exciting and unimaginable but in the end, they are just words and not a single one speaks of any importance because the tragedy that took place was all for nothing and it changes nothing at all.

The world knows little about why Shakespeare wrote the way he did, but by exploring the larger themes Shakespeare clearly was focused on in Macbeth, the moral becomes clearer. Throughout the play there is an underlying message, that the power of ambition can become destructive. Once the witches prophesied the news Macbeth would be king, Macbeth became blinded by his desire to ensure the prophecy followed through. He begins as an honourable and noble man, that clearly is devoted to his king, but the idea of claiming the throne breaks free an evil side that corrupts his soul and causes him to commit murder (humanity deteriorating). He sacrifices everything he has so that in the future he can become more powerful, but in the end he loses everything and gains nothing in return. This moral captivates the audience’s attention because it relates to their everyday lives. Shakespeare is portraying the idea that people with a dangerous ambition will do anything and lose everything to fulfill their own desires. Macbeth’s ambition, greed and desire poisoned his mindset and blurred his humanity, William Shakespeare created Macbeth to warn generations of people about the consequences of their ambition.

Foreshadowing means to warn or indicate. In Macbeth, Shakespeare used foreshadowing to warn and prophesis certain events, but he also used foreshadowing to motivate characters. In Act 1, Scene 3 Macbeth is told by the witches that he will become Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland. Macbeth is excited by the idea of becoming king (foreshadowing) he becomes motivated to do whatever it takes to ensure the future followed through.  Foreshadowing in Macbeth makes the play more suspenseful and exciting for the audience, it allows them to know what other characters know, like they are involved in the story themselves and are along side Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as their lives fall apart and crumble.

Tension is a strong component in many of Shakespeare’s plays, but how does he use the common technique to get his ideas across to the audience? Shakespeare plays with the concept of the witches toying with Macbeth, causing him to go insane and complete many deceitful crimes. He then creates tension by introducing a different direction of blame, leaning towards the idea that Macbeth can control his decisions because he is human and alone he is responsible for his actions and the tragedy that took place. An example of tension in Macbeth is in Act 2 , Scene 1. “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?” Macbeth sees a dagger floating in front of him waiting to be clutched, but when he tries to grab it, it becomes clear that the dagger is a sort of vision because Macbeth can not touch it “I have thee not, yet I see thee still.” This creates tension because Macbeth is clearly going mad, the guilt and regret of killing his king has effected his mind, but Shakespeare doesn’t tell the audience if it’s because of Macbeth’s own doing or something else. It causes the audience to make a decision if Macbeth is insane or being toyed with, and by who? This is an elaborate strategy that creates tension between not only the audience but the actors of the play as well. Tension creates opinions, was it Macbeth’s fault? Was it the witches? Or could it have been something else entirely? This effect draws in conversation and drama. The technique allows Shakespeare to make his audiences create decisions and get involved in the play, not only watch it.

Shakespeare used an unknown number of unique techniques and strategy’s to captivate and relate to his audiences. In Macbeth there is  a vivid theme of the unhealthy and deteriorating mental health of some of the characters that progresses throughout the play and is accompanied by a variety of techniques that broadcast the theme. These techniques include metaphors which allow Shakespeare’s ideas to become imbedded in the characters speech. Foreshadowing which guides and attracts the audience to the play. The role of ambition which relates to the audiences and draws them in. Tension that causes the audience to make desicions and more. In some plays Shakespeare has such an unexpected impact on audiences that he could be seen as a higher being. In each and every play, book, movie there is a moral. In Shakespeare’s plays there is always a hidden message/idea that he wants you to take home, share and continue to think about. You may not realize but when you read or watch Macbeth that by the end Shakespeare will have implanted his ideas about ambition and power in your mind. Shakespeare truly is a brilliant author, known across the globe and will forever be remembered for his talent in sharing his ideas, beliefs and opinions to his unaware and unexpected audiences.

Act Five – Scene Five

Characters:
Macbeth
Messenger
Seyton

Summary:
Macbeth boasts that his castle can withstand a siege indefinitely but its disturbed by the cry of women. Hearing that Lady Macbeth is dead, he reflects on the pointlessness of life. A messenger brings news that Birnam wood appears to be moving and  Macbeth begins to wonder whether the Witches might have deceived him. Weary of life, he determines to fight to the last. Malcolm gives orders about the attack.

Quote: 
“As I did stand my watch upon the hill, I looked toward Birnam, and anon, methought the wood began to move.” – Messenger

Act Five – Scene Four

Characters:
Doctor
Macbeth
Malcolm
Menteth
Siward
Soldiers

Summary:
As Macbeth struggles into his armour , the doctor leaves, wishing he were well away from Dunsinane. The two armies opposing  Macbeth have joined forces. Malcolm orders that every man must cut down a bough from Birnam wood so that they can conceal the army’s true size, and reports that many men have deserted  from Macbeth.

Quote
“Let every soldier hew him down a bough, and bear’t before him: thereby shall we shadow the numbers of our host, and make discovery err report of us.” – Malcolm

Act Five – Scene One

Characters:
Doctor
GentleWoman
Lady Macbeth

Summary:
This scene is focused on the effects of Duncan’s murder on Lady Macbeth. Previously Lady Macbeth had supported her husband, driven by ambition and excitement. Now apparently guilt-stricken Lady Macbeth is exhibiting strange behaviour that the doctor and of Lady Macbeth’s gentlewoman have been tasked to keep an eye on her behaviour.

Quote:
“Lo you! here she comes. This is her guise, and, upon my life, fast asleep. Observe her: stand close.” – Gentlewoman

“Out, damned spot! out, I say!” – Lady Macbeth

Act Four – Scene Three

Characters:
Malcolm
Macduff
Rosse

Summary:
Malcolm fears that Macduff is going to betray him and favour Macbeth for personal reward. Macduff is offended that Malcolm feels this way.  To test Macduff’s loyalty, Malcolm pretends to be even more sinful than Macbeth.  Malcolm pretends to be lacking in all the virtues that a king should possess. Macduff rejects Macduff as fit to rule Scotland. Malcolm then explains that he had lied about his vices to test Macduff’s loyalty.  Rosse reports that Macduff’s family are well and that men are preparing to rebel against Macbeth’s tyranny. Malcolm plans to invade scotland with the support of England. Rosse breaks the news that Macduff’s wife and children had been murdered. Malcolm and Macduff leave to prepare for the invasion of Scotland.

Quote:  “Fit to govern? No, not to live. – O nation miserable!” – Macduff

Act Four – Scene Two

Characters:
Lady Macduff
Rosse
Murderer
Son

Summary:
Lady Macduff tells Rosse, that her husband is a traitor because he has fled to England. Rosse (Macduff’s son) refuses to believe that his father is dead and asks about traitors. Lady Macduff receives news of approaching danger.

Quote:
“If he were dead, you’ ld weep for him: if you would not, it were a good sign that I should quickly have a new father.” – Son.

  • Samantha Traynor

Act 4 – Scene 1

Characters:
Witch 1, 2 & 3
Apparitions 1, 2 & 3
Hecate
Macbeth
Lenox

Summary:
The Witches prepare a magic brew while waiting to meet with Macbeth. When Macbeth arrives he demands that the Witches answer his questions, whatever the consequences. The Witches ‘masters’ take the form of apparitions. An armoured head warns Macbeth about Macduff while a bloody child reassures him that he cannot be harmed by any man whom a woman has given birth. Macbeth promises to kill Macduff but then a child wearing a crown carrying a tree (third apparition) tells Macbeth he will not be defeated until Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane. Macbeth wants to know if its true that Banquo’s descendants will become kings, the Witches show a vision of eight kings with Banquo. Lenox arrives  to report that Macduff has fled to England and the Witches disappear. Macbeth decides to attack Macduff’s castle and kill all of his family.

Quote:

“Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! beware Macduff; Beware the Thane of Fife. – Dismiss me. – Enough.” – Apparition 1

 

Act 2, Scene 4

Characters:
– Old Man
– Rosse
– Macduff

Summary:
– Malcolm plans to leave to england, Donalbain to ireland. Rosse and an old man discuss the kings murder. Macduff joins them and tells them that the sons have been accused of bribing the body guards. Macbeth has already gone to Scone to be crowned as king as Rosse plans to attend the coronation. Macduff returns home to Fife.

Quote:
– “He is already named, and gone to Scone to be invested” – Macduff

Act 2, Scene 3

Characters:
– Macbeth
– Lady Macbeth
– Porter
– Macduff
– Lenox
– Lady Macbeth
– Banquo
– Donalbain

Summary:
– Macbeth is regretting what he has done. Macduff and Lennox joke about the effects of alcohol.  Macbeth shows Macduff where Duncan is lodging. Lenox describes the strange and unnatural events of the previous night. Macduff cries out at the discovery of the kings murder, Lennox and Macbeth go and see for themselves.  Macbeth returns and expresses his shock. Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain are told their father is dead. Macbeth explains why he killed the boy guards Lady Macbeth faints as her husband recalls Duncans bloody murder.

Quote:
– “The night has been unruly: where we lay, our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say, lamentis her i’ the air; strange screams of death.”