Macbeth Resource Pack Aim: to evaluate the technical

Macbeth Resource Pack Aim: to evaluate the technical

Macbeth Resource Pack Aim: to evaluate the technical and conceptual elements of the play, in depth, with perceptive insight and interpretation CONTENTS Synopsis Character description Historical context Narrative (Act 1-5) Writers choices Themes Characterisation Motifs and symbolism Dramatic devices Adaptations Analysis of quotations Essay writing technique Macbeth Macbeth is a Scottish general and the Thane of Glamis who is led to wicked thoughts by the prophecies of the three witches, especially after their prophecy that he will be made Thane of Cawdor comes true.. He is easily tempted into murder to fulfill his ambitions to the throne, and once he commits his first crime and is crowned King of Scotland. He is brave but not virtuous. Ultimately, Macbeth proves himself better suited to the battlefield than to political intrigue, because he lacks the skills necessary to rule without being a tyrant. His response to every problem is violence and murder. Unlike Shakespeares great villains, such as Iago in Othello and Richard III in Richard III, Macbeth is never comfortable in his role as a criminal. It leads to a psychological regression. Lady Macbeth Macbeths wife, a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position. Early in the play she seems to be the stronger and more ruthless of the two, as she urges her husband to kill Duncan and seize the crown. After the bloodshed begins, however, Lady Macbeth falls victim to guilt and madness to an even greater degree than her husband. Her conscience affects her to such an extent that she eventually commits suicide. Interestingly, she and Macbeth are presented as being deeply in love, and many of Lady Macbeths speeches imply that her influence over her husband is primarily sexual. Their joint alienation from the world, occasioned by their partnership in crime, seems to strengthen the attachment that they feel to each another. Banquo The brave, noble general whose children, according to the witches prophecy, will inherit the Scottish throne. Like Macbeth, Banquo thinks ambitious thoughts, but he does not translate those thoughts into action. In a sense, Banquos character stands as a rebuke to Macbeth, since he represents the path Macbeth chose not to take: a path in which ambition need not lead to betrayal and murder. Appropriately, then, it is Banquos ghostand not Duncansthat haunts Macbeth. In addition to embodying Macbeths guilt for killing Banquo, the ghost also reminds Macbeth that he did not emulate Banquos reaction to the witches prophecy. Macduff A Scottish nobleman hostile to

Macbeths kingship from the start. He eventually becomes a leader of the crusade to unseat Macbeth. The crusades mission is to place the rightful king, Malcolm, on the throne, but Macduff also desires vengeance for Macbeths murder of Macduffs wife and young son. King Duncan The good King of Scotland whom Macbeth, in his ambition for the crown, murders. Duncan is the model of a virtuous, benevolent, and farsighted ruler. His death symbolizes the destruction of an order in Scotland that can be restored only when Duncans line, in the person of Malcolm, once more occupies the throne. KEY CHARACTERS IN SHAKESPEARES TRAGIC PLAY Malcolm - The son of Duncan, whose restoration to the throne signals Scotlands return to order following Macbeths reign of terror. Malcolm becomes a serious challenge to Macbeth with Macduffs aid (and the support of England). Prior to this, he appears weak and uncertain of his own power, as when he and Donalbain flee Scotland after their fathers murder. The Three Witches Three black and midnight hags who plot mischief against Macbeth using charms, spells, and prophecies. Their predictions prompt him to murder Duncan, to order the deaths of Banquo and his son, and to blindly believe in his own immortality. The play leaves the witches true identity unclearaside from the fact that they are servants of Hecate, we know little about their place in the cosmos. In some ways they resemble the mythological Fates, who impersonally weave the threads of human destiny. They clearly take a perverse delight in using their knowledge of the future to toy with and destroy human beings. Hecate - The goddess of witchcraft, who helps the three witches work their mischief on Macbeth. Fleance - Banquos son, who survives Macbeths attempt to murder him. At the end of the play, Fleances whereabouts are unknown. Presumably, he may come to rule Scotland, fulfilling the witches prophecy that Banquos sons will sit on the Scottish throne. Lennox - A Scottish nobleman. Ross - A Scottish nobleman. The Murderers - A group of ruffians conscripted by Macbeth to murder Banquo, Fleance (whom they fail to kill), and Macduffs wife and children. Porter - The drunken doorman of Macbeths castle. SYNOPSIS ADAPTATIONS The play opens as three witches plan a meeting with the Scottish nobleman Macbeth, who at that moment is fighting in a great battle. When the battle is over, Macbeth and his friend Banquo come across the witches who offer them three predictions: that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, and that Banquo's descendants will become kings. Banquo laughs at the prophecies but Macbeth is excited, especially as soon after their meeting with the witches Macbeth is made Thane of Cawdor by King Duncan, in return for his bravery in the battle. He writes to his wife, Lady Macbeth, who is as excited as he is. A messenger tells Lady Macbeth that King Duncan is on his way to their castle and she invokes evil spirits to help her slay him. Macbeth is talked into killing Duncan by his wife and stabs him to death. No-one is quite sure who committed this murder and no-one feels safe, but Macbeth is crowned king. Now that Macbeth is king he knows the second prediction from the witches has come true, but he starts to fear the third prediction (that Banquo's descendants will also be kings). Macbeth therefore decides to kill Banquo and his son, but the plan goes wrong - Banquo is killed but his son escapes. Macbeth then thinks he is going mad because he sees Banquo's ghost and receives more predictions from the witches. He starts to become ruthless and kills the family of Macduff, an important lord. Macbeth still thinks he is safe but one by one the witches' prophecies come true, Lady Macbeth cannot stop thinking about Duncan, becomes deranged and dies. A large army marches on Macbeth's castle and Macbeth is killed by Macduff. THEMES, SIGNS, SYMBOLS, MOTIFS, DEVVICES

Treachery, Puppeteering, Ruthlessness, Justice, Murder Corruption and Unaccountable Ambition Scheming and Machiavellianism Nature Hubris Gender roles Cruelty and Masculinity The Difference Between Kingship and Tyranny The Burden of Guilt Fortune, Fate and Free Will Reason versus passion Feudal order Enigmas and catalysts hallucinations and prophecies Blood The Weather Grudges, Vendettas and Revenge Hierarchy The difficulty of diplomacy Dramatic irony The conscience and mental health 2015 Justin Kurzel directed film adaptation, starring Michael Fassbender (Macbeth), Marion Cotillard (Lady Macbeth), Paddy Considine (Banquo), Sean Harris (Macduff) and David Thewlis (King Duncan). 1971 Roman Polanski directed film adaptation. 1979 Royal Shakespeare Company TV Movie starring Ian MacKellen (Macbeth) and Judi Dench (Lady Macbeth). 1948 Adaptation directing and starring Orson Welles (Macbeth). 2013 National Theatre Live version starring Kenneth Branagh (Macbeth). CONTEXT The most influential writer in all of English literature, William Shakespeare was born in 1564 to a successful middle-class glove-maker in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Shakespeare attended grammar school, but his formal education proceeded no further. In 1582 he married an older woman, Anne Hathaway, and had three children with her. Around 1590 he left his family behind and traveled to London to work as an actor and playwright. Public and critical acclaim quickly followed, and Shakespeare eventually became the most popular playwright in England and part-owner of the Globe Theater. His career bridged the reigns of Elizabeth I (ruled 15581603) and James I (ruled 16031625), and he was a favorite of both monarchs. Indeed, James granted Shakespeares company the greatest possible compliment by bestowing upon its members the title of Kings Men. Wealthy and renowned, Shakespeare retired to Stratford and died in 1616 at the age of fifty-two. At the time of Shakespeares death, literary luminaries such as Ben Jonson hailed his works as timeless. Shakespeares works were collected and printed in various editions in the century following his death, and by the early eighteenth century his reputation as the greatest poet ever to write in English was well established. The unprecedented admiration garnered by his works led to a fierce curiosity about Shakespeares life, but the dearth of biographical information has left many details of Shakespeares personal history shrouded in mystery. Some people have concluded from this fact and from Shakespeares modest education that Shakespeares plays were actually written by someone elseFrancis Bacon and the Earl of Oxford are the two most popular candidatesbut the support for this claim is overwhelmingly circumstantial, and the theory is not taken seriously by many scholars. In the absence of credible evidence to the contrary, Shakespeare must be viewed as the author of the thirty-seven plays and 154 sonnets that bear his name. The legacy of this body of work is immense. A number of Shakespeares plays seem to have transcended even the category of brilliance, becoming so influential as to affect profoundly the course of Western literature and culture ever after. Shakespeares shortest and bloodiest tragedy, Macbeth tells the story of a brave Scottish general (Macbeth) who receives a prophecy from a trio of sinister witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed with ambitious thoughts and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and seizes the throne for himself. He begins his reign racked with guilt and fear and soon becomes a tyrannical ruler, as he is forced to commit more and more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion. The bloodbath swiftly propels Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to arrogance, madness, and death.

Macbeth was most likely written in 1606, early in the reign of James I, who had been James VI of Scotland before he succeeded to the English throne in 1603. James was a patron of Shakespeares acting company, and of all the plays Shakespeare wrote under Jamess reign, Macbeth most clearly reflects the playwrights close relationship with the sovereign. In focusing on Macbeth, a figure from Scottish history, Shakespeare paid homage to his kings Scottish lineage. Additionally, the witches prophecy that Banquo will found a line of kings is a clear nod to Jamess familys claim to have descended from the historical Banquo. In a larger sense, the theme of bad versus good kingship, embodied by Macbeth and Duncan, respectively, would have resonated at the royal court, where James was busy developing his English version of the theory of divine right. Macbeth is not Shakespeares most complex play, but it is certainly one of his most powerful and emotionally intense. Whereas Shakespeares other major tragedies, such as Hamlet and Othello, fastidiously explore the intellectual predicaments faced by their subjects and the fine nuances of their subjects characters, Macbeth tumbles madly from its opening to its conclusion. It is a sharp, jagged sketch of theme and character; as such, it has shocked and fascinated audiences for nearly four hundred years. KEY QUOTATIONS The raven himself is hoarse That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements. Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood, Stop up thaccess and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between Th effect and it. Come to my womans breasts, And take my milk for gall, you murdring ministers, Wherever in your sightless substances You wait on natures mischief. Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry Hold, hold! (Act 1, Scene 5, lines 36-52) If it were done when tis done, then twere well It were done quickly. If thassassination Could trammel up the consequence, and catch With his surcease success: that but this blow Might be the be-all and the end-all, here, But here upon this bank and shoal of time, Wed jump the life to come. But in these cases We still have judgement here, that we but teach Bloody instructions which, being taught, return To plague thinventor. This even-handed justice Commends thingredience of our poisoned chalice To our own lips. Hes here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been So clear in his great office, that his virtues Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against The deep damnation of his taking-off, And pity, like a naked new-born babe, Striding the blast, or heavens cherubin, horsed Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition which oerleaps itself And falls on thother. (Act 1, Scene 7, lines 1-28) EXPLANATION Lady Macbeth speaks these words in Act 1, scene 5, lines 3652, as she awaits the arrival of King Duncan at her castle. We have previously seen Macbeths uncertainty about whether he should take the crown by killing Duncan. In this speech, there is no such confusion, as Lady Macbeth is clearly willing to do whatever is necessary to seize the throne. Her strength of purpose is contrasted with her husbands tendency to waver. This speech shows the audience that Lady Macbeth is the real steel behind Macbeth and that her ambition will be strong enough to drive her husband forward. At the same time, the language of this speech touches on the theme of masculinity unsex me here / . . . / . . . Come to my womans breasts, / And take my milk for gall, Lady Macbeth says as she prepares herself to commit murder. The language suggests that her womanhood, represented by

breasts and milk, usually symbols of nurture, impedes her from performing acts of violence and cruelty, which she associates with manliness. Later, this sense of the relationship between masculinity and violence will be deepened when Macbeth is unwilling to go through with the murders and his wife tells him, in effect, that he needs to be a man and get on with it. In this soliloquy, which is found in Act 1, scene 7, lines 128, Macbeth debates whether he should kill Duncan. When he lists Duncans noble qualities (he [h]ath borne his faculties so meek) and the loyalty that he feels toward his king (I am his kinsman and his subject), we are reminded of just how grave an outrage it is for the couple to slaughter their ruler while he is a guest in their house. At the same time, Macbeths fear that [w]e still have judgement here, that we but teach / Bloody instructions which, being taught, return / To plague thinventor, foreshadows the way that his deeds will eventually come back to haunt him. The imagery in this speech is darkwe hear of bloody instructions, deep damnation, and a poisoned chaliceand suggests that Macbeth is aware of how the murder would open the door to a dark and sinful world. At the same time, he admits that his only reason for committing murder, ambition, suddenly seems an insufficient justification for the act. The destruction that comes from unchecked ambition will continue to be explored as one of the plays themes. As the soliloquy ends, Macbeth seems to resolve not to kill Duncan, but this resolve will only last until his wife returns and once again convinces him, by the strength of her will, to go ahead with their plot. KEY QUOTATIONS Whence is that knocking? How ist with me, when every noise appals me? What hands are here! Ha, they pluck out mine eyes. Will all great Neptunes ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red. (Act 2, Scene 2, lines 55-61) Out, damned spot; out, I say. One, two,why, then tis time to dot. Hell is murky. Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier and afeard? What need we fear who knows it when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? (Act 5, Scene 1, lines 30-34) She should have died hereafter. There would have been a time for such a word. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle. Lifes but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 16-27) EXAMPLE QUESTIONS 1. Agree or disagree with the following statement: "Macbeth is a play about courage, which asserts the triumph of good over evil." In answering this question, you should remember that courageous acts are not always motivated by virtue. EXPLANATION Macbeth says this in Act 2, scene 2, lines 5561. He has just murdered Duncan, and the crime was accompanied by supernatural portents. Now he hears a mysterious knocking on his gate, which seems to promise doom. (In fact, the person knocking is Macduff, who will indeed eventually destroy Macbeth.) The enormity of Macbeths crime has awakened in him a powerful sense of guilt that will hound him throughout the play. Blood, specifically Duncans blood, serves as the symbol of that guilt, and Macbeths sense that all great Neptunes ocean cannot cleanse him that there is enough blood on his hands to turn the entire sea redwill stay with him until his death. Lady Macbeths response to this speech will be her prosaic remark, A little water clears us of this deed (2.2.65). By the end of the play, however, she will share Macbeths sense that Duncans murder has irreparably stained them with blood.

These words are spoken by Lady Macbeth in Act 5, scene 1, lines 3034, as she sleepwalks through Macbeths castle on the eve of his battle against Macduff and Malcolm. Earlier in the play, she possessed a stronger resolve and sense of purpose than her husband and was the driving force behind their plot to kill Duncan. When Macbeth believed his hand was irreversibly bloodstained earlier in the play, Lady Macbeth had told him, A little water clears us of this deed (2.2.65). Now, however, she too sees blood. She is completely undone by guilt and descends into madness. It may be a reflection of her mental and emotional state that she is not speaking in verse; this is one of the few moments in the play when a major charactersave for the witches, who speak in four-foot coupletsstrays from iambic pentameter. Her inability to sleep was foreshadowed in the voice that her husband thought he heard while killing the kinga voice crying out that Macbeth was murdering sleep. And her delusion that there is a bloodstain on her hand furthers the plays use of blood as a symbol of guilt. What need we fear who knows it when none can call our power to account? she asks, asserting that as long as her and her husbands power is secure, the murders they committed cannot harm them. But her guilt-racked state and her mounting madness show how hollow her words are. So, too, does the army outside her castle. Hell is murky, she says, implying that she already knows that darkness intimately. The pair, in their destructive power, have created their own hell, where they are tormented by guilt and insanity. These words are uttered by Macbeth after he hears of Lady Macbeths death, in Act 5, scene 5, lines 1627. Given the great love between them, his response is oddly muted, but it segues quickly into a speech of such pessimism and despairone of the most famous speeches in all of Shakespearethat the audience realizes how completely his wifes passing and the ruin of his power have undone Macbeth. His speech insists that there is no meaning or purpose in life. Rather, life is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing. One can easily understand how, with his wife dead and armies marching against him, Macbeth succumbs to such pessimism. Yet, there is also a defensive and self-justifying quality to his words. If everything is meaningless, then Macbeths awful crimes are somehow made less awful, because, like everything else, they too signify nothing. Macbeths statement that [l]ifes but a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage can be read as Shakespeares somewhat deflating reminder of the illusionary nature of the theater. After all, Macbeth is only a player himself, strutting on an Elizabethan stage. In any play, there is a conspiracy of sorts between the audience and the actors, as both pretend to accept the plays reality. Macbeths comment calls attention to this conspiracy and partially explodes ithis nihilism embraces not only his own life but the entire play. If we take his words to heart, the play, too, can be seen as an event full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing. 2. Examine to what extent Lady Macbeth is to blame for her husband's downfall. Discuss the relationship between the couple as the play develops. 3. Discuss whether Macbeth is truly a tragic figure. 4. Some people suggest that the porter scene is included only so that the actor playing Macbeth has time to wash the blood off his hands. Do you agree? Or do you think the scene serves other purposes? Explain your answer. 5. From your reading, explain what Shakespeare imagined to be the qualities of a good king. How do Duncan and Macbeth fit this role? How might Malcolm do so? 6. Consider the use that Shakespeare makes of supernatural elements in this play. Be sure to include the Witches, the dagger, Banquo's ghost, the apparitions, and the Old Man's observations in your assessment.

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