Macbeth

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How does the character of Macbeth change throughout the play?

1. When and where is ‘Macbeth’ set and how is this shown in the play? Macbeth is set in the 11th century in Scotland. Macbeth’s castle is in Forres. The stage directions tell you this. The beginning of his name ‘Mac’ is from Scottish heritage and three of the characters from Macbeth have ‘Mac’ in their name (Macbeth, Macduff and McDonald and their wives). Shakespeare got his ides for Macbeth from ‘Hollinshed Chronicals’ (a story book of the time).

2. Who was the new king at the time the play was written and how does this relate to the play? King James was on the throne at time Macbeth was written (which was early 1600s). King James was the patron of Shakespeare’s acting company ‘ The King’s Men’ (which was called ‘The Queen’s Men’ whilst Queen Elizabeth the First was on the throne). Shakespeare knew that King James was interested in witches (he was very superstitious) and that he had a Scottish heritage (as he was originally James VI of Scotland and the son of Mary Queen of Scots). Supposedly he was a descendant of Banquo and Fleance. So Shakespeare gave witches a strong role in Macbeth, made Banquo and Fleance more innocent people, because in the book (Hollinshed) Banquo assisted Macbeth in the murder of King Duncan.

3. How does the audiences sympathies change for Macbeth throughout the play and why? At first the audience likes Macbeth because he’s a good and brave fighter, defending his country. The sergeant gives him the title ‘Brave Macbeth – for he deserves that name’. Then they feel confused and shocked when he plans killing the King. Macbeth, a noble soldier, planning on killing the highest ranking man in the country (Elizabethans believed a King was appointed by God) for his own benefit. Just so that he can become King. Towards the end they aren’t feeling much sympathy at all from Macbeth anymore because he’s killed everybody – his friends as well as his enemies. He doesn’t deserve the audience’s sympathy.

4. What key techniques does Shakespeare use to portray Macbeth as both a hero and a villain? He is shown as a hero by being named a brave fighter and is presented as someone that bravely defends his country, The Captain really admires him. He then becomes a tortured soul and starts killing, turning him into a tyrant. Shakespeare lets Macbeth speak clearly in the beginning and then he starts hallucinating and becomes strange. Shakespeare also showed that he Intended to degrade Macbeth by later in the play giving him clothes that did not fit him and made him look a bit ridiculous. His clothes are either too big or too small for him –‘as his ambition is too big and his character too small for his new and unrightful role as king’. When he feels as if “dressed in borrowed clothes”, after his new title as Thane of Cawdor, prophesied by the witches, has been confirmed by Rosse (I, 3, ll. 108-109), Banquo comments: “New honours come upon him, /Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mould,

5. What is the audience’s first impression of Macbeth in Act 1 and what is its effect? Firstly, in act one scene one, Shakespeare suggests to the audience that Macbeth is a good warrior. When the witches say "the battle lost and won … there to meet Macbeth" may give the impression that he is a good warrior because if he was to survive a battle then he must have won it. But, the quote could also suggest that Macbeth is evil as he is meeting with witches. This is bad because in medieval times witches were thought to be dark people who worked for Satan, and if you had any connection with them, you had a connection with Satan. The Captain admires Macbeth and calls him ‘Brave Macbeth –for he deserves that name’, this tells the audience that he is brave. The first scene may also suggest that Macbeth has a mixed personality because the witches also say, "Fair is foul and foul is fair." This gives the...
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