“How does Shakespeare present Macbeth as a disturbed character in Act 1 of Macbeth?”

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“How does Shakespeare present Macbeth as a disturbed character in Act 1 of Macbeth?” William Shakespeare wrote the play “Macbeth” in 1606. It, as the title suggests, follows the story of a Scotsman named Macbeth and how, after the prophecy of three witches, sees his status evolve from a general in the Kings army to becoming the King himself. However the main theme that Shakespeare introduces in this play is the lengths man will go to fulfil ambition and the treacherous consequences that come with it. Not only do we see Macbeth’s status evolve but also his personality within. With each scene we see Macbeth succumb to the pressures of achieving power and how this affects his character as well. Act 1 of “Macbeth” truly, from the beginning, shows us a clear development of Macbeth’s disturbed personality not only through language but the context behind this tragedy. In Act 1 Scene 2 we are not introduced to Macbeth, but not directly. Shakespeare describes him as a ruthless, violent but brave soldier through the mouths of admirers. When the Thane Ross and a Captain describe Macbeth’s “brave” performance during a victory over Norway, we are immediately acquainted to the respect that he is held in. The Captain describes him in a very positive manner, “For brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name” is a quote that clearly emphasises the admiration that fellow soldiers have for Macbeth. The use of the word “deserves” shows us that he has earned the right to be commended. However another interpretation of Macbeth’s heroics is possibly his ruthlessness. During his distinguishing, Macbeth is also described as quite a violent person. His fierceness is made apparent when the Captain conveys a very vivid explanation of how Macbeth killed a Norwegian, “Till he unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps”. This description is very daunting to think about and Shakespeare leaves this image implanted in the heads of the audience. The use of the word “unseam’d” shows us Macbeth’s ruthlessness when in battle, with possibly no respect for other’s lives. The violent aspect of Macbeth’s character can be interpreted a disturbed one. His ruthlessness is quite inhumane in the sense that he shows signs of a villainous character. Another way in which Macbeth is seen a disturbed character, is his association and connection with the three witches. When Macbeth and Banquo are introduced in Scene 3, Macbeth’s first line is “So foul and fair a day I have not seen”. This quote echoes the witches’ in Scene 1, “Fair is foul and foul is fair”. The phrase is almost a paradox, it can interpreted to show how nothing is as it seems. However the fact that Macbeth repeated a phrase said by witches all but adds to a negative insight into his character. During Shakespeare’s time, witches were seen as very real creatures. In the early 17th century, suspected witches were burnt and there was even an Act of Parliament put forward in 1604 against them. This was because witches were subjects of morbid and fevered fascination by society at this time; people feared them. They were seen as creatures of Satan and therefore evil characters. The use of the three witches in the play adds to the fear within it and with this, the use of Macbeth echoing their words adds to the sheer disturbance. During this time, Macbeth’s reference to “foul and fair” would have caused a negative impact on the way the audience looked at him. To be associated with repelled evil witches creates a dark atmosphere and tone throughout the play. After the witches’ prophecy, Macbeth’s mind is beginning to turn into a state of madness and paranoia due his constant change in thoughts. The ideas that roam Macbeth’s head prove to be a substantial part of the Act. The prophecy, which promises the status of King in the future, has been fixed into Macbeth’s mind, provoking ill thoughts. After bearing witness to the supernatural occurrence, Macbeth begins to contemplate the idea of kill the present King Duncan in order...
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