Practice Essay Question
Question: How does Macbeth follow what is expected in a Shakespearean tragedy?
In you answer, you should refer to characterisation, themes and support your argument with evidence from the text.
The theatrical play ‘Macbeth’ written by Shakespeare during the Elizabethan period in 1606 utilizes different themes and dramatic devices to depict what is anticipated from a Shakespearean tragedy. Throughout the play, three centralised themes include ‘Ambition’, ‘Equivocation’ and ‘Order and Disorder’. During the sixteenth century people believed in the doctrine of ‘The Great Chain of Being’, which is portrayed in Shakespearean tragedies. The protagonist, Macbeth resembles a conventional tragic hero through the illustration of his nobility and high status at first, but is quickly overthrown by his fatal flaw of ambition. This had been achieved in the play by the means of using themes to characterize characters.
The theme ‘Ambition’ delineates Macbeth’s qualities as a hero and his fatal flaw. The opening sequence of the play characterizes Macbeth along with his friend Banquo as brave, honourable heroes from war. But immediately Macbeth finds himself trapped under his overwhelming “Black and deep desires” (Act1 Sc3) to become the king, his fatal flaw. Tension is built through prediction by witches’ prophecies, “You shall be king” (Act1 Sc4) the witches told Macbeth. The prophecies are a reoccurring motif in the play which leads Macbeth into his downfall.
To become king Macbeth would have to defy ‘The Great Chain of Being’ by killing the uppermost human, Duncan who was the king at the time. By doing so he would have set the world into chaos and imbalance. A soliloquy had been utilized to explain some of the thoughts going through Macbeth’s head at the time to decide whether or not to kill Duncan. It mentions “Bloody instructions” (Act1 Sc7), “Deep damnation” (Act1 Sc7) and “I’ll have no spur to prick the sides off my intent only...
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