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Macbeth a Critical Shakespearean Play Essay Sample

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Macbeth a Critical Shakespearean Play Essay Sample

Macbeth Probably composed in late 1606 or early 1607, Macbeth is the last of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies, the others being Hamlet, King Lear and Othello. It is a relatively short play without a major subplot, and it is considered by many scholars to be Shakespeare’s darkest work. Lear is an utter tragedy in which the natural world is amorally indifferent toward mankind, but in Macbeth, Shakespeare adds a supernatural dimension that purposively conspires against Macbeth and his kingdom. In the tragedy of Lear, the distraught king summons the goddess of Chaos, Hecht; in Macbeth, Hecate appears as an actual character. On the level of human evil, Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy is about Macbeth’s bloody rise to power, including the murder of the Scottish king, Duncan, and the guilt-ridden pathology of evil deeds generating still more evil deeds.

As an integral part of this thematic web is the play’s most memorable character, Lady Macbeth. Like her husband, Lady Macbeth’s ambition for power leads her into an unnatural, phantasmagoric realm of witchcraft, insomnia and madness. But while Macbeth responds to the prophecies of the play’s famous trio of witches, Lady Macbeth goes even further by figuratively transforming herself into an unnatural, desexualized evil spirit. The current trend of critical opinion is toward an upward reevaluation of Lady Macbeth, who is said to be dehumanized by her insanity and her suicide. Much of this reappraisal of Lady Macbeth has taken place in discussions of her ironically strong marriage to Macbeth, a union that rests on loving bonds but undergoes disintegration as the tragedy unfolds. Introduction

Macbeth is a play written by William Shakespeare. It is considered one of his darkest and most powerful tragedies. Set in Scotland, the play dramatizes the corroding psychological and political effects produced when its protagonist, the Scottish lord Macbeth, chooses evil as the way to fulfill his ambition for power. He commits regicide to become king and then furthers his moral descent with a reign of murderous terror to stay in power, eventually plunging the country into civil war. In the end, he loses everything that gives meaning and purpose to his life before losing his life itself.

Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, and tells the story of a brave Scottish general named Macbeth who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the throne for himself. His reign is racked with guilt and paranoia, and he soon becomes a tyrannical ruler as he is forced to commit more and more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion. The bloodbath swiftly takes Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into realms of arrogance, madness, and death. Shakespeare’s source for the tragedy are the accounts of King Macbeth of Scotland, Macduff, and Duncan in Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587), a history of England, Scotland and Ireland familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries. However, the play bears little relation to real events in Scottish history, as the historical Macbeth was an admired and able monarch. Literature Review

Based on the research of “Macbeth” huge critical analysis and criticism was published many journals in the world which is very helpful for preparing this research paper. Several books written by Dr. S. Sen, Experienced author of friends book corner in Bangladesh, cliffs notes, Macbeth’s Bengali translate book by khurrom Hossain etc. remain helpful for the part of that study. On the other hand the different literary web sites of internet are also helpful in this regard. Hypothesis

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) is generally considered to be the greatest playwright and poet that has ever lived. His appeal is universal and his works have been translated, read, and analyzed throughout the world. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, many poems, and 37 plays which have been grouped into comedies, histories, and tragedies. Shakespeare’s plays combine natural human conflict with dramatic flair producing entertainment that appeals to the audiences of today as well as the audiences for which they were written. Shakespeare understood human nature, and he created characters that portrayed human tragedy and human comedy. Some of his characters were fantastic and unworldly, yet they brought to the stage the truth that mere mortals could not. We will find out from that study Macbeth tragic fall high ambition, why a great hero fall down, women’s role for fall down etc. Methodology

To develop this hypothesis, the primary idea is found from the study on English play of Macbeth in the different course of the honors and masters level syllabus and from different critical studies on William Shakespeare of Elizabethan age. After the development of the hypothesis to prepare the research paper, the planned way will hasten to produce the final thesis paper. In fact, the only helpful method will be ‘Observation Method’ for this research job. By using this method, the researcher will go through different literature articles, critical compositions, and websites to find related study materials, in order to be acknowledged in the related topics and will also collect critical journals from different libraries to have specialized information on both the writers and compose the thesis paper in a more credible way. Discussion

The play begins on an open stretch of land in medieval Scotland. Three Witches enter and give the prophecy that the civil war will end that day and that at sunset they will meet Macbeth. The Witches are summoned to leave, but they do not leave without stating that what is normally “fair” will be “foul,” and what is “foul” will be “fair.” King Duncan learns that Macbeth has been victorious and has defeated MacDonald. The Thane of Cawdor has betrayed Duncan and is accused of being a traitor. Duncan orders the Thane of Cawdor’s execution and announces that Macbeth will receive the title of Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo leave the battlefield and meet the Witches. The Witches state the prophecy that Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor and king and that Banquo will be the father of kings, but not king himself. Macbeth has been victorious on the battlefield and the war is at an end—to what greatness should he now aspire? The Witches spark the ambitious nature in Macbeth, as he knows his rise to power would greatly be enhanced by being named Thane of Cawdor. After the Witches vanish, Ross and Angus arrive and announce that Macbeth has been named Thane of Cawdor.

Banquo is skeptical of the Witches, but Macbeth, driven by a desire for power, considers killing Duncan to gain the crown. Macbeth is overwhelmed by the image, yet his desire for power is still present, as stated in a letter he sends to Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth encourages Macbeth to act on his thoughts, telling him that she will guide and support his plan to kill King Duncan. While Duncan is visiting Inverness, Macbeth’s castle, Macbeth kills Duncan as he sleeps. After the murder is discovered, Macbeth kills the servants, whom he accuses of Duncan’s murder. Duncan’s sons, fearing for their own lives, flee Scotland. Macbeth is crowned king. Banquo raises suspicions that Macbeth killed Duncan. Macbeth hires two men to kill Banquo and his son Fleance, whom Macbeth fears will become king, as the Witches foretold. Banquo is killed, but Fleance escapes.

The Witches conjure a spell, and Apparitions reveal to Macbeth three prophecies that will affect his future. He is told to beware of Macduff, that no man born of woman can harm him, and he will not be conquered until the forest at Birnam marches to Dunsinane. Macbeth is also shown a procession of kings with the last king looking in a mirror—the reflection is that of Banquo. Macbeth orders Macduff’s family to be murdered and leaves for England to confront Macduff. When Macduff hears of the massacre of his family, he vows to seek revenge on Macbeth. He joins Malcolm in his quest to depose Macbeth. The army proceeds in camouflage by carrying a branch from Birnam Wood into battle. Alarmed by this, Macbeth fears the Witches’ prophecy will come true. Macbeth is told of Lady Macbeth’s death by her own hands, and he laments the nature of his life. Macbeth fights Macduff, and Macbeth boasts that he cannot be killed by any man born of woman. Macduff informs Macbeth that he was surgically removed from his mother’s womb and thus was not born of woman. Macduff kills Macbeth in battle and hails Malcolm as King of Scotland. Malcolm vows to restore Scotland to a peaceful country. Macbeth: Historical Background

Shakespeare’s Macbeth remains one of his most popular plays, both for classroom study and performance, and with good reason. Here we have the playwright’s shortest play, but arguably his most intense, in terms both of its action and its portrayal of human relationships. The “butcher and his fiend-like queen” are among the most attractive villains in stage history, and the profound psychology with which Shakespeare imbues them is deliciously pleasurable for theater audience and student alike. Macbeth was a real king of eleventh-century Scotland, whose history Shakespeare had read in several sources, principally the Chronicles of Holinshed, to which he referred for many of his other historical dramas. In Holinshed’s account, Banquo and Macbeth combine to kill King Duncan after winning his favor in a battle against the Danes.

The original story is full of wonderful details that show the cunning of the Scots and Macbeth, who slaughtered an entire Danish army not by brute force, but by cunning: first mixing a sleeping potion and sending it, like the Trojan horse, as a gift to the enemy army. Once they were asleep, Macbeth was able to kill them easily. Presumably from this incident, Shakespeare derived his idea of having Lady Macbeth administer a sleeping potion to the guards of King Duncan’s chamber. In Holinshed’s account, however, although we learn that Macbeth’s wife is ambitious to become queen, Lady Macbeth does not feature as an accomplice. Instead, Banquo joins forces with Macbeth in killing Duncan. As we shall see later, this particular confederacy of murderers presented Shakespeare with a problem. Holinshed did not simply provide Shakespeare with a good story; Macbeth contains many examples of imagery and language that Shakespeare borrowed directly from his source, a practice common to all writers. For example, compare these words of Holinshed with Shakespeare’s words. Findings

G. The Fall of Man
The ancient Greek notion of tragedy concerned the fall of a great man, such as a king, from a position of superiority to a position of humility on account of his ambitious pride, or hubris. To the Greeks, such arrogance in human behavior was punishable by terrible vengeance. The tragic hero was to be pitied in his fallen plight but not necessarily forgiven: Greek tragedy frequently has a bleak outcome. Christian drama, on the other hand, always offers a ray of hope; hence, Macbeth ends with the coronation of Malcolm, a new leader who exhibits all the correct virtues for a king. Macbeth exhibits elements that reflect the greatest Christian tragedy of all: the Fall of Man. In the Genesis story, it is the weakness of Adam, persuaded by his wife (who has in turn been seduced by the devil) which leads him to the proud assumption that he can “play God.” But both stories offer room for hope: Christ will come to save mankind precisely because mankind has made the wrong choice through his own free will. In Christian terms, although Macbeth has acted tyrannically, criminally, and sinfully, he is not entirely beyond redemption in heaven. H. Fortune, Fate, and Free Will

Fortune is another word for chance. The ancient view of human affairs frequently referred to the “Wheel of Fortune,” according to which human life was something of a lottery. One could rise to the top of the wheel and enjoy the benefits of superiority, but only for a while. With an unpredictable swing up or down, one could equally easily crash to the base of the wheel. Fate, on the other hand, is fixed. In a fatalistic universe, the length and outcome of one’s life (destiny) is predetermined by external forces. In Macbeth, the Witches represent this influence. The play makes an important distinction: Fate may dictate what will be, but how that destiny comes about is a matter of chance (and, in a Christian world such as Macbeth’s) of man’s own choice or free will. Although Macbeth is told he will become king, he is not told how to achieve the position of king: that much is up to him. We cannot blame him for becoming king (it is his Destiny), but we can blame him for the way in which he chooses to get there (by his own free will). I. Kingship and Natural Order

Macbeth is set in a society in which the notion of honor to one’s word and loyalty to one’s superiors is absolute. At the top of this hierarchy is the king, God’s representative on Earth. Other relationships also depend on loyalty: comradeship in warfare, hospitality of host towards guest, and the loyalty between husband and wife. In this play, all these basic societal relationships are perverted or broken. Lady Macbeth’s domination over her husband, Macbeth’s treacherous act of regicide, and his destruction of comradely and family bonds, all go against the natural order of things. The medieval and renaissance view of the world saw a relationship between order on earth, the so-called microcosm, and order on the larger scale of the universe, or macrocosm. Thus, when Lennox and the Old Man talk of the terrifying alteration in the natural order of the universe — tempests, earthquakes, darkness at noon, and so on — these are all reflections of the breakage of the natural order that Macbeth has brought about in his own microcosmic world. J. Disruption of Nature

Violent disruptions in nature — tempests, earthquakes, darkness at noon, and so on — parallel the unnatural and disruptive death of the monarch Duncan. The medieval and renaissance view of the world saw a relationship between order on earth, the so-called microcosm, and order on the larger scale of the universe, or macrocosm. Thus, when Lennox and the Old Man talk of the terrifying alteration in the natural order of the universe (nature), these are all reflections of the breakage of the natural order that Macbeth has brought about in his own microcosmic world (society). Many critics see the parallel between Duncan’s death and disorder in nature as an affirmation of the divine right theory of kingship. As we witness in the play, Macbeth’s murder of Duncan and his continued tyranny extends the disorder of the entire country. K. Gender Roles

Lady Macbeth is the focus of much of the exploration of gender roles in the play. As Lady Macbeth propels her husband toward committing Duncan’s murder, she indicates that she must take on masculine characteristics. Her most famous speech — located in Act I, Scene 5 — addresses this issue. Clearly, gender is out of its traditional order. This disruption of gender roles is also presented through Lady Macbeth’s usurpation of the dominate role in the Macbeth’s marriage; on many occasions, she rules her husband and dictates his actions. L. Reason Versus Passion

During their debates over which course of action to take, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth use different persuasive strategies. Their differences can easily be seen as part of a thematic study of gender roles. However, in truth, the difference in ways Macbeth and Lady Macbeth rationalize their actions is essential to understanding the subtle nuances of the play as a whole. Macbeth is very rational, contemplating the consequences and implications of his actions. He recognizes the political, ethical, and religious reason why he should not commit regicide. In addition to jeopardizing his afterlife, Macbeth notes that regicide is a violation of Duncan’s “double trust” that stems from Macbeth’s bonds as a kinsman and as a subject. On the other hand, Lady Macbeth has a more passionate way of examining the pros and cons of killing Duncan. She is motivated by her feelings and uses emotional arguments to persuade her husband to commit the evil act. Characteristics of Macbeth:

Supernatural Elements: Use of super-natural elements is a common characteristic of the Elizabethan drama, to which Shakespeare’s plays are no exception. Supernatural powers contribute to the fate of the protagonist. However, they are not solely responsible for the downfall of the hero, it still lies in the deeds/actions of the hero. Usually, these actions are the outcome of the protagonist’s over-ambitious nature (as in Macbeth where he wants to become the king) or the feeling of revenge. Furthermore, they are not illusions in the mind of the hero because they contribute to the action of the play with their presence in more than one or two scenes. The effective use of witches in Shakespeare’s plays reflect the ancient social beliefs in the evil powers who practice evil rites to affect the central character(s). For instance, in Macbeth, when Macbeth encounters the three witches, he starts believing whatever they say without questioning their existence. This is what the ancient social belief in the evil spirits reflected in Shakespeare’s tragedy. Fate/Fortune

As the tragic hero/heroine is of high estate and is a public figure, his/her downfall produces a contrast which affects not only his/her personal life, but the fate and welfare of the entire nation or the empire. It reflects the powerlessness of human beings and the omnipotence of fate that a personal story of a peasant or a worker cannot produce. The adverse effects of fate on the empire are evident in Macbeth, when Duncan’s sons Malcolm and Macduff are planning to defeat Macbeth and at the same time trying to support the collapsing kingdom. Macduff suggests that Malcolm take the throne, but Malcolm is not mature enough to hold the falling empire. Paradox of Life

Shakespeare’s tragedies reflect the paradox of life, in the sense that the calamity and suffering experienced by the tragic hero are contrasted with the previous happiness and glory. This paradox is very clear in the play Macbeth. Initially, Macbeth is portrayed as the most brave and loyal soldier of the nation and is rewarded by king Duncan for his bravery and love for the nation. However, Macbeth is not satisfied with whatever he gets and desires more. This desire or over-ambitious nature leads him to think evilly and act on it which is an extreme end of his real personality.

Conclusion

Macbeth is a play about the eclipse of civility and manhood, the temporary triumph of evil; when it ends, virtue and justice are restored.” Shakespeare displays a remarkable perception of the human condition by dramatizing not only the way in which evil enters Macbeth’s world, but also the devastating effect it has on those who yield to temptation and sin. Shakespeare concludes the tragedy on a hopeful note; however, for as awesome and corruptive as the evil is that pervades Macbeth, it is only temporary. Ultimately, time and order are restored through the actions of the defenders of goodness. Finally it can be say that Macbeth is Shakespeare’ great work. William Shakespeare’s great tragedy “Macbeth”, which appeal universal. Shakespeare’s tragedy always great. Macbeth was a great hero but his high ambition makes him tragic character. Shakespeare shows that man’s high ambitions the main cause of failure.

Appendix

Biography of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) – 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”. His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, two epitaphs on a man named John Combe, one epitaph on Elias James, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare’s private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the 16th century. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare, published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare’s. It was prefaced with a poem by Ben Jonson, in which Shakespeare is hailed, presciently, as “not of an age, but for all time.” Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare’s genius, and the Victorians worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called “bardolatry”. In the 20th century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.

Works Cited:

1. Sen, Dr. S. Macbeth: A critical analysis; FBC 2006.
2. Hossain, Khurrom. Macbeth: Bengali Translation; FBC 2006. 3. http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study_guide/literature/macbeth/william-shakespeare-biography.html 4. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/characteristics-of-a-shakespearean-tragedy.html 5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macbeth#Commentary

6. http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study_guide/literature/macbeth/william-shakespeare-biography.html 7.

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