GCSE English and English Literature Coursework Assignment: Macbeth
From national hero to vicious tyrant: Macbeth’s fall from grace.
Macbeth is a dramatic tragedy written by William Shakespeare in the early 1600’s. The play opens with three witches, who decide to confront the Scottish general, Macbeth, on his return from the war between Scotland and Norway, in which he was victorious. The witches predict that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and, later, become king. They also predict that Banquo, another Scottish general, will not be king himself but an ancestor of kings. Later Duncan, the king of Scotland, decides that he will award the title of Thane of Cawdor to Macbeth, exciting him as he now considers the possibility of becoming king. Macbeth returns with Duncan who is to stay with them overnight. Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth to murder Duncan, as she is determined for Macbeth to become king. Macbeth kills Duncan and smears blood on the guard’s daggers, framing them for the murder. Macbeth is now made king as Malcolm, Duncan’s son, flees Scotland. Macbeth now try’s to murder Banquo and his son, Fleance, but Fleance escapes. Banquo’s ghost returns to haunt Macbeth so Macbeth returns to the witches once more. They tell him to be wary of Macduff, Thane of Fife; that he cannot be harmed by one ‘born of woman’ and that he will never be defeated until Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane. Macbeth orders the deaths of Macduff’s family, whilst he is visiting Malcolm in England, for not cooperating with him. Malcolm and Macduff now lead an army to Macbeth’s castle at Dunsinane. Lady Macbeth has gone insane and commits suicide. Malcolm’s army use the tree’s of Birnam Wood as camouflage and manage to defeat Macbeth’s army. Macduff, who ‘was from his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d’, kills Macbeth and Malcolm is now made King of Scotland. The purpose of my essay is to describe the main causes of Macbeths decline from the noble hero he is portrayed as at the start to the vicious tyrant he is at the end that will do anything in his power to stay on the throne of Scotland. Jacobean audiences believed that things in the universe were all part of ‘divine order’. This meant that Kings had a divine right to rule as they were chosen by God. Any threat to the king, in this case Macbeth, was a threat to all of society and the natural order of things. They would eventually bring chaos to the heavens and the earth. The witches explain this in the first scene of the play; ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair’ meaning that to them what is evil is good and what is good is evil, their attitude to life but also a warning of the things to come. Macbeth was just an ordinary man and, although he was of high social rank, lacked the qualities that a king would need. God should appoint the ruler but it is possible for a disturbance in the natural order of things to happen. This may allow someone to overthrow the rightful monarch. In Macbeth, this is what happens when the witches dabble in the affairs of men, so the natural order of things descends into chaos. At the start of the play, Macbeth is portrayed as a good, noble man who knows his place in society and appears loyal to King Duncan. Scene two opens with King Duncan coming across a wounded Captain who describes the battle against the rebels which has just been fought. He tells them how ‘brave Macbeth’ defeated the rebellion led by the traitor, Macdonwald saying ‘Till he faced the slave; Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, Till he unseamed him from the nave to the chops, and fixed his head upon our battlements’. This means that Macbeth kept going until he faced Macdonwald and killed him at the first opportunity he was given, showing his determination to do well and achieve victory for his country and his King. The captain then compares Macbeth and Banquo to ‘Sparrow eagles, or hare the lion’. Eagles and lions are the ultimate predators, powerful and ‘king’ of the animal kingdoms, land and...
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