TO WHAT EXTENT DOES SHAKESPEARE PRESENT MACBETH AS A VILLAIN? Shakespeare presents Macbeth more extensively as a villain using methods which would be more understood in the era the play was composed, which was the Jacobean period, but influenced by the reign of Elizabeth. During the Elizabethan period people were preoccupied with the supernatural, which is one of the main topics in Shakespeare’s play. In my opinion Shakespeare structures the play to make the audience see Macbeth transforming from a hero into a villain, we can also see how Macbeth’s character transfigures from a valiant, noble soldier to a deceitful traitor. Shakespeare exhibits Macbeth as being heroic both at the prelude and the climax of the play by portraying him as being brave and gallant. These heroic qualities supported by Macbeth’s will to fight for king and country are illustrated when fighting the rebellion, by Duncan, who is the king of Scotland. Duncan commends Macbeth, without the hero being present, which shows high respect from Duncan to Macbeth. This is shown in Act 1 Scene 2: “O Valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!” This is Duncan speaking and he is talking about Macbeth. Having the king call a soldier a cousin is a great honour and it is almost like Duncan is calling Macbeth his equal because of the heroic qualities Macbeth has shown him. At this point Shakespeare presents Macbeth as a hero more than a villain because of what Duncan says to Macbeth. The audience in the Jacobean period would have immediately started to like Macbeth because of this heroism towards the king. This response is important because the audience in the 1600s was exceedingly religious and they believed in the Divine Order; the king was a messenger from God, therefore Macbeth was helping to protect God by fighting for Duncan. However, at this point the audience were not the only people who were admiring him; all the soldiers that Macbeth fought with, Banquo and unsurprisingly the king. This is because Macbeth has relinquished his life and will to save and protect the king. An example to show how the king gratifies Macbeth is shown in Act 1 Scene 4: “... the proportion of both thanks and payment might have been mine...” This is showing that Duncan is very appreciative of Macbeth’s heroic acts and no amount of money could suffice Duncan’s gratitude. Language and dramatic techniques are used throughout the play by Shakespeare to emphasize certain aspects and themes. To accentuate Macbeth’s heroism, Shakespeare has used similes such as the one found in Act 1 Scene 2 Line 35: “As sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion.” This compares Banquo and Macbeth to eagles and lions killing sparrows and hares; it is too easy to accomplish and there is no challenge. This is a comparison of Macbeth and Banquo fighting the rebellion which they did very easily. This technique is used to emphasize Macbeth’s valour and how other characters admire him. Another technique is irony used within the speech of the Thane of Ross: “God save the king.” This is ironical because we, as the audience, know what happens to Duncan and know that not even God can save him. The dramatic irony here is shown because the Thane of Ross literally says ‘May the king live forever’, but as the audience we know that Duncan will die in the hands of Macbeth who he put so much trust in to. The dramatic irony is that the Thane of Ross is saying the opposite of reality and the irony comes because the audience know and Duncan does not know that he will die.
Shakespeare presents Macbeth as a tragic hero by allowing him to be influenced by external sources of evil and power. The definition of a tragic hero is a hero who has a tragic flaw or makes an error which eventually leads to his downfall. Macbeth’s tragic flaw or error is succumbing to his ambition, which seems to be decided by a preordained fate. Moreover, Shakespeare presents Macbeth as having convened with external influence such as his wife and the witches. Lady...
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