Discuss the role of the supernatural in
The play “Macbeth” was written by William Shakespeare in the early 1600’s. The purpose of the play was to entertain the new king, James 1. The play a Scottish theme, inclusion of witches and also the characters of Banquo and Fleance, who are said to be ancestors of James 1, all point to the play having been produced in order to flatter the king to gain patronage, James 1 considered himself to be an expert on witches and witchcraft having written a book called “Demonology” and investigating Witchcraft trails. James 1 obsession with witches was not unusual. During Shakespeare’s time there was mass hysteria about witchcraft so “Macbeth” would have appealed to a wide audience, perhaps assign to the common paranoia as witches were considered evil. “Macbeth” genre is considered to be a tragedy.
The play begins with a supernatural scene, where the three witches meet and give many clues as to who they are or what they have control over, “…we three meet again in thunder, lighting or in rain?….When the battle’s lost and won….That will be ere the set of sun….There to meet with Macbeth.” This scene sets the atmosphere for the rest of the play. If this scene was not there it would be difficult for the audience to understand how later scenes are linked or how these three women can tell Macbeth’s future. Also if elements of the supernatural were not used in Act 1 Scene 1, as they have been, the witches could not be shown as sinister and evil. These two elements of horror, “sinister” and “evil” would later be used to explain the cause of the three witches’ behaviour further on in the play.
As the play continues the supernatural is used more. Act 1 Scene 3 is Macbeth’s first meeting with the witches, and is also the first time the audience sees or experiences the witches’ supernatural abilities. “All hail to thee, Thane of Cowdor, All hail, Macbeth! That shalt be king hereafter”. The witches predict Macbeth’s future and tell him that he shall become the Thane of Cowdor and then king. The rest of the play is based on this supernatural prediction. After learning that Macbeth is to become King of Scotland the play follows Macbeth’s plot to get rid off King Duncan and subsequently Macbeth’s life after the murder.
Macbeth is now Thane of Cowdor and has a strong belief in the witches’ predictions. King Duncan is to stay at Macbeth’s castle. Macbeth is overwhelmed to hear this and travels ahead, of the King to warn his wife of King Duncan’s arrival the following day. Lady Macbeth is aware of Macbeth’s meeting with the witches and what they have said. She is more wanting of the royal title than her husband, and has deviously plotted to murder the King during his stay. Lady Macbeth at this point has become controlling, powerful and manipulative by planting idea’s into Macbeth’s head these were unusual traits for a woman at this time and the audience would have been shocked and appalled that a woman was acting like that. When Lady Macbeth says “unsex me here” This is strange because Lady Macbeth does not want a sex not a man or a woman which the audience might interpret as Lady Macbeth might want to be a supernatural creature such as the witches. The supernatural is bought in to once again attract the immediate attention of the audience. “Is this a dagger I see before me”, Macbeth has a vision of a dagger just before he is to murder the King. This surreal vision of dagger is another example of the supernatural. This dagger encourages or “pushes” Macbeth to commit the crime. Although it is meant to encourage Macbeth to do the murder, it is at the same time, showing the audience that what Macbeth is about to do, although it being obvious, is evil. Shakespeare uses the supernatural to guide the audience to show what evil is. You begin to notice, as you read through the play, that supernatural is used in all places where evil is...
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