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.

4 Replies to “NCEA Formal Writing 1.5, Literary Essay”

  1. This uses both the type of elevated expression and the level of detailed analysis that this task asks of you. The only feedback I have at this point is that you’ll need to follow the convention of embedding your quotations into your analysis as opposed to presenting them as separate material. Let me know if you’d like some help to integrate your quotations more.

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