Explore how writers present disturbed characters in Macbeth and The Laboratory.

Topics: Macbeth, Three Witches, Lady Macbeth Pages: 5 (3194 words) Published: November 3, 2014

Explore how writers present disturbed characters in Macbeth and The Laboratory. Macbeth is arguably one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies. Written sometime between 1603 and 1606, the play is strongly written with King James the first’s of England’s interests in mind; the supernatural. Because of this we are introduced to the idea of the paranormal and witchcraft straight way in the play with the three. This would have scared a Jacobean audience as they feared the supernatural; it also foreshadows the likeliness of disturbed characters to be introduced later in the play. In comparison, The Laboratory, a poem written by Robert Browning in the 1800’s and set in aristocratic France- before the revolution, when the old regime of the monarchy was still in place. This was a time of great diversity between the social classes, so seeing the narrator of the dramatic monologue, an affluent woman, liaising with a poor alchemist would have deeply shocked a 19th century audience, as they would believe her to be troubled, or maybe even disturbed. Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy; this means that the play has no sub-plots and only concentrates on the story, and the disturbed mind, of the main character, Macbeth. The full focus on Macbeth himself emphasises his evil nature and thirst for power, portraying him as the ultimate tyrannical and disturbed character. “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on the other” . The metaphorical language used as the reference to ‘spurs’, used to make horses go faster, shows that Macbeth feels his ambition to gain power is being limited by the king. Macbeth is shown to have great respect for the king and sees the king as almost a friend, so to describe him as a mere obstacle to overcome shows he has no moral boundaries, making him a disturbed character. Similarly, The Laboratory is a poem written in the form of a dramatic monologue, this means we hear everything that’s going on from the view of the narrator. In this case, it’s high class woman who is obsessed with getting revenge on her husband and his lovers. Her single-mindedness is shown by the poem only being about her thoughts and her fatal flaws, jealousy and revenge. These themes are shown in the poem right away. In the first stanza, the topic of poison and murder are mentioned quite blatantly. “Which is the poison to poison her, prithee?” The reader doesn’t yet know that there's a revenge plot, however Browning wants the reader look into the narrators disturbed mind early into the poem. He uses this fourth line like a hook to pull the reader into the poem and make them wonder why the speaker would want to kill someone. In Act 1, Scene 1 of Macbeth, we are introduced to the three witches, showing the audience that the play has a strong supernatural theme. This would have scared a Jacobean audience much more than a modern audience as witchcraft was feared much more intensely than it is today. Shakespeare used catalectic trochaic tetrameter and rhyming couplets to make the witches words sound like a spell, “Fair is foul and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air.” The oxymoron shows that the witches don’t know the difference between good and bad. This foreshadows a play of contrasts and disturbed minds. Macbeth’s words also echoes the witches in Act 1, Scene 3 “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” We recognise the oxymoron from when the witches said it in the opening scene; this gives the audience the impression that Macbeth shares similar qualities with the witches, such as he doesn’t know the difference between good and bad, and therefore had no moral boundaries. It also foreshadows that Macbeth will have more to with the witches in the future. This makes Macbeth a disturbed character to the audience, particularly a Jacobean audience, because of his association with the supernatural. On the other hand, the subtitle to Robert Browning's poem “The...
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