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“Compare Act-1 and Act-5 of Macbeth focusing the character of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’’

By literature2015 Jul 08, 2014 1051 Words
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon” .The Tragedy of Macbeth (commonly called Macbeth) is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. Shakespeare's source for the tragedy are the accounts of King Macbeth of Scotland, Macduff, and Duncan in Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), a history of England, Scotland and Ireland familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries. However, the story of Macbeth as told by Shakespeare bears little relation to real events in Scottish history, as Macbeth was an admired and able monarch. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most intense and attractive villains. However, as this Macbeth character analysis reveals, he is a complex and multi-faceted character. According to Act-1 the first time that Macbeth is mentioned in the play is through indirect characterization by the witches and later the Captain, who praises him as a brave warrior. This is shortly followed by Duncan referring to the tragic hero as ‘Noble Macbeth’. However, when we meet Macbeth ‘in person’ for the first time in the 3rd scene of Act 1, he almost immediately notices the presence of the three witches and based on his reactions to them and the message that they uncover about him becoming Thane of Cawdor and King, more is revealed about who he is. Subsequently this occurs repeatedly throughout the script.

Three Witches
The encounter with the witches is a pivotal event in the play. Through the dialogue between Macbeth and Banquo, we can further identify their characteristics, come to understand that Banquo acts as a foil of Macbeth and that the two characters are quite distinct in personality. Through Macbeth’s dialogue with the witches right before they vanish, his words indicate to the reader that he is skeptic of their presence and seeks to be comforted by having Banquo confirm he saw them too to eliminate doubt. Inquiring a rational explanation and trust leads to him being demanding and in a way, insulting. This also shows that Macbeth has ambitions and a greed for power, as he so urgently seeks an explanation and reassurance. However, in Scene 3, the reader comes across the first aside by Macbeth, a comment made to the audience, that is not assumed to be heard by the actors. This plays a key role in our understanding of Macbeth as a character and how he sees himself and the situation in which he is ‘trapped’. The importance of asides lies in the fact that they often reveal personal thoughts or ‘inner voices’. As this is not known by the other characters, it gives away a deeper understanding of the feelings; emotions etc. of the character and can explain or even foreshadow certain events. Macbeth often reflects on what he is feeling and this comes down to revealing a large part of his character; although ambitious, he also has a sense of morality, virtues and emotion: “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition” Presenting his soliloquy, we come to understand that the tragic hero is torn by an internal struggle on many fronts. For example, he struggles to decide whether his actions should be based on temptation and ambition, or whether to rather give way to morals and justice. He is also a reflective and critical character, because his asides reveal that he is aware of the consequences of killing the King and that he has no reason or right to do so and acknowledges the guilt that he will feel. The fact that Macbeth relies on fate shows that he is rather hypocritical. From the dialogue with ‘female’ characters of the drama, Macbeth’s manhood and courage is questioned, and portrays him as rather vulnerable, which is especially ironic as this seemingly strong, manly, bold warrior is influenced and overpowered by women, rather than listening to the advice of Banquo, who warns him of the witches “Tell us truths…to betrays in deepest consequence”.

In act-5 we can see Lady Macbeth has finally gone mad with guilt over the murders. The once strong and ruthless woman is now a scared child. Doctors are unable to help her. In Act 5 Macbeth blusteringly orders that banners be hung and boasts that his castle will repel the enemy. A woman’s cry is heard, and Seyton appears to tell Macbeth that the queen is dead. Shocked, Macbeth speaks numbly about the passage of time and declares famously that

Lady Macbeth (bloody hand)
“Life is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing”.
He is acting out of control as Caithness claimed earlier.
Some of the Scottish lords are discussing Macbeth's state of mind and have come to the conclusion that they will help Malcolm and Macduff fight against Macbeth. Of course, Macbeth isn't really concerned because the prophecy, he believes, insures that he cannot be killed by any man born of woman. Macbeth soon confronts Macduff and learns that Macduff was ripped from his mother's side and not born naturally. Thus, Macbeth is killed by Macduff, just as Macbeth had conquered the other Thane of Cawdor. Malcolm then becomes the rightful King of Scotland Macbeth is never happy with his actions, even when they have earned him his prize, because he is acutely aware of his own tyranny. At the end of the play there is a sense of relief when the soldiers are at his gate. However, he continues to remain foolhardily confident – perhaps due to his unerring belief in the witches’ predictions. The play ends where it began: with a battle. Although Macbeth is killed as a tyrant, there is a sense that his soldier status is reinstated in the final scenes of the play. Throughout the course of the play Macbeth comes full circle.

Final War (Macbeth was killed)
It is difficult to view Macbeth as an inherently evil character because it is clear that he lacks strength of character. The events of the play also affect his mental stability – his guilt causes him a great deal of mental anguish and leads to hallucinations.

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