The opening scene of ‘Macbeth’ is set in an wild and isolated place – the moorland is far removed from society and away from the usual social rules. The weather too is poor and hostile: the ‘fog and filthy air’ suggests gloom and unhealthiness. This is a place alien to human values, of darkness and foulness, and is a sinister challenge to ordinary goodness. The Witches’ use of rhyme in their speech is used throughout the play to bring a sense of incantation and magical charms. We are presented with a paradox when they chant, ‘When the battles’ lost and won’ and ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’ as the phrases seem to be impossible opposites. This instantly creates a sense of confusion, upsetting the natural order of things. This is echoed by the use of thunder and lightning, which is also associated with evil. After hearing the Witches’ prophecies the audience is shown different characters’ emotions in their reactions to the Witches’ predictions. Banquo appears concerned that men are easily tempted into sin by ‘instruments of darkness’, only to be betrayed. We can see that Banquo is feeling sceptical as witches are ‘instruments of darkness’; something representing evil which therefore cannot be trusted. He continues to say that the Witches’ ‘tell us truths’ to ‘win’ or earn trust and then ‘betray us’ when the most damage will be inflicted. The audience can see that Banquo is thinking rationally as although the Witches’ prophecies promise kingship for his son, Banquo understands that evil has no good intentions and refuses to allow the intriguing and appealing prophecy to influence his actions, unlike Macbeth. In comparison, Macbeth seems much more intrigued by the Witches’ predictions. He describes the ‘supernatural soliciting’ by saying it ‘cannot be ill’ but also ‘cannot be good’. This shows the audience that Macbeth shares the same feelings of doubt in the good intentions of the supernatural as Banquo; however, he is so excited and flattered by the statement that he will be King that he chooses to trust evil. Macbeth continues to say that ‘if ill, / Why hath it given me earnest of success’ suggesting to the audience that he is so desperate for the prophecies to come true that he will naïvely persuade himself to see good in the ‘evil ‘ Witches’. In 1606 people, in particular the King, James VI were concerned and fearful of the supernatural and so Macbeth’s decision to trust the Witches’ will have highlighted his self-indulgent and highly ambitious feelings even further as he is seemingly loyal to Duncan but is easily swayed by the power of suggestion. Lady Macbeth also shows selfish, ambitious feelings when she hears of the Witches’ prophecies. She states ‘thou shalt be’ when she hears of Macbeth becoming King showing she is determined and decisive, maybe resulting in her decisions being impulsive. She shows her selfishness in rejecting her husband's preferred kinder, gentler attitude describing him as ‘too full o’ the milk of human kindness’. This phrase is unexpected as she is offending her husband and suggesting she is more strong and powerful than him; this would be a very controversial idea at the time Macbeth was written. The audience could possibly begin to feel sympathy for Macbeth here as it could be suggested Macbeth’s downfall was due to decisions influenced by others; the Witches’ first planted ideas in his mind and now Lady Macbeth in ‘I may pour spirits in thine ear’ plans to manipulate her husband into committing a murder. However, Banquo is a continued reminder throughout the play of the path Macbeth could have chosen if he had not let his ego control his morals, which explains why it is the ghost of Banquo who later drives Macbeth mad as opposed to Duncan. In act 1 scene 7 of the play, Macbeth delivers a soliloquy showing how his conscience argues with his ‘vaulting ambition’ on the subject of murdering King Duncan in order to fulfill his own selfish desires. Shakespeare uses soliloquy’s, like...
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