Essay Question: ‘Despite being written four hundred years ago, the play Macbeth – like all Shakespeare’s plays – continues to resonate strongly with modern day audiences.’ Discuss this statement with reference to the plays thematic concerns and the strategies used by Shakespeare to promote engagement and to shape meaning and understanding.
Shakespeare’s play Macbeth still resonates strongly with modern day audiences due to the use of themes and devices that are still relevant to today’s society. Corruption and the connection between violence and masculinity are the main ideologies faced by the main characters. The existence of ‘destiny’, superstitions and supernatural beings are often questioned in today’s society. Guilt is also a major theme which drives Macbeth to the point of insanity and his wife into depression which then leads to her suicide; again these are modern issues which trouble some people on a daily basis. Also the use of dramatic irony, rhyming couplets, soliloquies and comic relief keep the audience attentive and allows the audience to create an emotional connection with the characters.
Effective drama creates a willing suspension of disbelief within the audience; this is the main reason Shakespeare’s plays are still a world favourite to this day. One of the ways Shakespeare creates this state of complete absorption within his audience is through the use of dramatic irony. In Macbeth the audience is often aware of an event that has already come to pass or is about to unfold before the character. For example, when Macbeth orders three assassins to murderer Lady Macduff and her children, the audience knows her life is about to end and yet Lady Macduff and her babes are blissfully unaware. This creates suspense which effectively draws the audience into the play as if they were witnessing the events first hand. Due to this the audience is able to create an emotional bond with those suffering throughout the play.