Macbeth: essay of argument
Practice assessment task
Mode: essay of argument
Due date: end of term 2 (ask your teacher for the day and period you are expected to submit this task) Criteria: Students will be assessed on how well they:
1. Demonstrate they have developed a personal, informed reading of the play 2. Write a well-structured and sustained essay of argument in response to the question 3. Use details from the text to support their argument
4. Show that they understand the context and the values of Shakespeare’s time and can compare them with the time in which the play is being read/viewed Question:
‘I have no sympathy for Macbeth. He is a despicable human being who deserves what he gets.’ Do you agree with this assessment of the character Macbeth?
Support your argument with close reference to the context, structure and language of the play.
Shakespeare’s tragedy of Macbeth is written about a story of a Scottish thane (Macbeth), whom, fuelled by burning desire and ambition, urged on by his wife and also triggered by the three witches’ equivocation, murders his king, Duncan. Despite Macbeth’s negative attributes such as his greed, corruption, paranoia, the audience still retains and pities Macbeth due to the fact that Shakespeare employs soliloquies, humanity and tragic flaw. Judging Macbeth superficially by his actions alone leaves the reader no choice but to consider him as evil and immoral; yet when one examines the full presentation of his character and understands his mental struggles (through his soliloquies), a feeling of sympathy is evoked.
Throughout the whole play, Macbeth is shown as having a conscience. Prior to his murdering of Duncan, Macbeth has serious reservations about following through with the assassination, with Shakespeare portraying Macbeth as a reluctant murderer. After all, his ambitions for the throne were only made public after hearing a prophecy, which the audience later realises as an equivocation, made by witches. Even then, he weighs up his reasons for and against murdering Duncan and concludes, "If chance will have me King, why, chance may crown me, without my stir". This shows the audience that Macbeth has a clear conscience and realises that there is no way back once he has done the deed. Shakespeare juxtaposes Macbeth’s conscience to Lady Macbeth’s, whose conscience does not kick in until the very end of her life, when the enormity of the deed suddenly dawns upon her whereas Macbeth’s conscience was there from the start. This makes the audience realise that Macbeth is not all evil, and that he has only human, which more or less makes the audience understand his actions and sympathize with him. Upon thorough examination of his conscience, he realises that as Duncan’s kinsman, subject and host, his duty is to protect Duncan and “not bear the knife myself”. When he remembers the virtues of Duncan’s kingship, he concludes that his only reason for murdering him is his own “vaulting ambition”. At this point he firmly tells Lady Macbeth that, “We will proceed no further in this business”, expressing his desires to put an end to all talks about murder. This gains further sympathy from the audience, as they understand the emotional turmoil of Macbeth’s mind and further proves the point that Macbeth is only human.
Shakespeare also uses other characters to further build on the audience’s sympathy for Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is one of the many characters that Shakespeare employs. When Macbeth refuses to go ahead with the mission to kill Duncan, Lady Macbeth, however, persists. She plays a critical role in the build-up to the murder where she uses her powers of persuasion to make Macbeth change his mind by taunting him with questions about his courage and masculinity: “Art thou afeard?”, and also equating murder to manliness and courage. This makes the audience see that Macbeth is a reluctant murderer and that his wife was the driving force behind the murder,...
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