Audience Response to Macbeth

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The human condition has been explored throughout time and its study has primarily allowed us to learn from our past and develop as people. The Elizabethan era is very different from the world today as our values and beliefs have changed to suit our level of knowledge and intelligence. These differences become clear when exploring an audience's response to William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, from the Elizabethan era and today. The text was written in 1606 and was set in Scotland. The tragedy construes what egotistical ambition can do to the mind. Key themes of loyalty and betrayal, the increase in intelligence of humans, the way laws govern society and the balance in power between genders affect an audience's response to Macbeth. Specifically speaking; Macbeth's corruption, the three witches and Lady Macbeth’s power in marriage show how theses themes affect the difference in a viewer’s response to Macbeth from the 17th Century to today.

Macbeth is initially established as loyal and faithful and he shows this by saying, "The service and the loyalty I owe, In doing it, pays itself. Your highness' part." The idea of loyalty in Elizabethan times was a huge deal, however, during the course of the play, jealously of King Duncan grows in his veins. After some encouragement from other characters, ambition overrides his core and soon King Macbeth is born. During the 17th Century productions of the play, Macbeth kills King Duncan offstage. There are many theories as to why this occurred (because all other murder scenes were performed on stage) but the main reason is because authorities didn’t want their citizens thinking the government could be removed so easily. People back then would respond to this idea of killing the king in horror and disgust. This was because loyalty was valued highly back then and to earn faith from your king would require a lot of effort. So when Macbeth becomes king, anyone who even followed him out of fear or blackmail would be seen cowardly and frowned upon as they lacked respect for King Duncan. Today, this idea of loyalty is as common as traitorship because it's more accepted. Viewers would not feel as upset as back then since it’s fairly common in the modern world, allowing them to easily relate. The idea of betrayal in Macbeth was created for the purpose to challenge the status quo of the time, so Elizabethan audiences would react with surprise. But as times change, this theme that once challenged the usual state of affairs has now become the general circumstances of life.

Our advancing intelligence and understanding of the world vastly improves through research and science. During Elizabethan times, education was very weak meaning people really didn't know why most things happened. During the 16th century myths about witches arose and people panicked as no one actually had real proof (or as we now know today) of their existence. So anything that happened which was not explainable by the researches they had available to them was regarded as witchcraft. This included deaths, sudden illnesses and even crop failures from bad weather. Unfortunately for the innocent who were proclaimed witches, Elizabethan monarchy had their followers believe witches were evil and sent by the devil so they had to be 'removed from society'. Because of the hype for witches, society not only hated them but many were determined to hunt them down. This shows how barbaric and unevolved Elizabethan people were, just because they could not accept that witches did not exist. So when they viewed Macbeth and saw the three weird sisters, viewers responded with shock, anger and excitement because they new they were evil and that no matter what, they would be detrimental for Macbeth. This allowed the audience to directly relate to the text which was Shakespeare's original intentions. He almost used subliminal, descriptive imagery as every time the witches would enter the stage the weather would always be bad. This is reinforced...
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