Shakespeare Maintains Sympathy for Macbeth

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  • Topic: Macbeth, Macduff's son, Macduff
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  • Published : October 27, 2012
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Sample Answer Sympathy in Macbeth
For me, a fascinating aspect of the play ‘Macbeth’ is the way Shakespeare maintains the audience sympathy for Macbeth, a ‘tyrant whose name blisters our tongues,’. By the end of the play Malcolm is justified when he says, ‘I think our country sinks beneath the yoke;/ It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash/ Is added to her wounds.’ Yet, despite all of Macbeth’s tyrannous actions, somehow his tragic heroic status is intact at the end of the play. For me this achievement represents the true genius of Shakespeare’s dramatic prowess. How this sympathy for Macbeth is achieved is complex. Firstly one should consider how key moments in the plot are managed, particularly the Introduction and the Conclusion. Secondly, one needs to recognise the importance of the loving relationship that exists between Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth. Thirdly, the witches have an important role to play. They represent evil in the play and the contrast enables the audience to measure the extent of Macbeth’s villainy. Finally, the soliloquies should be examined, as soliloquies give the audience a window into the true nature of a character. The opening scenes introduce Macbeth’s heroic qualities. He is praised for the heroics involved in gaining a victory. “brave Macbeth-well he deserves that name” He is praised for his ruthless and valiant nature, “unseamed him from the nave to the’ chops, / And fixed his head upon our battlements” He has shown remarkable courage in the face of, seemingly insurmountable, opposition, “doubly redoubled blows upon the foe”. Duncan declares him to be Valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman! and elevates him to replace the Thane of Cawdor, “What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won.” We admire Macbeth before we meet him. The closing scenes re-establish Macbeth’s heroic qualities. Lady Macbeth’s death is a low point when he ponders the futility of all life. The full tragedy is realised as he hits rock bottom. “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow/ Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,/ To the last syllable of recorded time;/ And all our yesterdays have lighted fools/ The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!/ life is but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more. It is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing.” This is the moment when Macbeth fully realises the error of his ways enabling him to move forward as a tragic hero. His courage in the face of personal tragedy, “Blow wind, come wrack! At least we’ll die with harness on our back,” maintains our sympathy.

Cornered, “Bear like I must fight the course,” his fight withYoung Siward allows the audience to witness his soldierly qualities for ourselves. We cannot help but admire him.

In the fight with Macduff, Macbeth’s humanity is revealed. He is too full of the milk of human kindness. He declares his remorse for his crimes against Macduff, “My soul is too much charged with blood of thine already” Even after the flaw in the third prophecy is revealed, Macbeth fights on, unwilling to submit to anyone. “I will not yield,/ To kiss the ground before young Malcolm’s feet,”. In this way Shakespeare reminds us of his heroic qualities and our sympathy is maintained.

The love relationship between 'the Macbeths' is a second way our sympathy is maintained. When Macbeth, in his letter, refers to Lady Macbeth as “my dearest partner in greatness” and later suggests that she remain “innocent of the knowledge dearest chuck” we see that their relationship is extraordinary in the cultural context of the time in which the play occurs; a time when loveless arranged marriages were common. Lady Macbeth knows that her husband is “too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way”. Her loving determination to support his ambition, “pour my spirits in thine ear, / And chastise with the valour of my tongue /...
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