Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s best known tragedies. It is set in Scotland where a Scottish lord, Macbeth, is told a prophecy by three witches that he will become the king of Scotland. He then chooses the evil path, and with the help of his ruthlessly ambitious wife, commits regicide to become king. He furthers his moral decent with a reign of murderous terror to stay in power. In the end, he loses everything that gives purpose to his life, along with losing his life itself. Although it is such a fierce tragedy, it is also extremely appealing.
It is a play that is full of action, mystical power and tension, which always keeps the readers and watchers interested. The action is apparent the entire way through the play right from the very beginning when we hear Duncan talking of Macbeth in battle, when he “unseam’d” a man “from the nave to the chaps”. At this point in the play, Macbeth is still loyal to his king, Duncan, and his country. It is clear that he is a brave soldier who wouldn’t hesitate to kill for his king.
Throughout the play there are bursts of violent action, such as the murder of Banquo and of Macduff’s wife and children, but the greatest moments of action are during Act 5 when the battle to overcome Macbeth’s tyrannous reign over Scotland commences. Although it had been prophesized that “no man of woman born shall harm Macbeth”, Macbeth knows that he is going to die during this battle, but he is determined to bring with him as many as he can – I will fight ‘till from my bones my flesh be hack’d.
In the end it is Macduff who kills Macbeth as he wasn’t of woman born, he was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d”, and returns with Macbeth’s head on a spike, describing Macbeth and his wife as “this dead butcher and his fiend like queen. ” Although murder is a terrible and gruesome tragedy, it very much draws people in and keeps them watching because violence seems to be something that we are all interested in by nature, and action and violence are some of this plays traits which really do appeal to people. Another aspect of this play which people really find appealing is the insinuation of all the dark magic.
It makes the play seem very mystical and scary. The witches are the main contribution to the mystical aspect of the play. The witches appear in the most well known and most magical scene of the play, the cauldron scene. The three witches are pictured standing around a cauldron making a potion of evil and disgusting ingredients like “finger of birth strangled babe” and “fillet of a fenny snake” whilst chanting “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble”. Here they conjure up the three apparitions – the armed head, the bloody child and the crowned child with a tree in his hand.
These apparitions tell Macbeth the prophecies which lead him to believe that he is invincible. One could also argue that Lady Macbeth can relate in some way to the witches when she calls upon the evil spirits and commands them to “Unsex me here, and fill me, from the crown to the toe, top full of direst cruelty” so that she can partake in the murder of Duncan without feeling any remorse or guilt, which at the end of the play we can see didn’t work as she went mad with guilt in the sleepwalking scene when she was continuously trying to clean Duncan’s blood from her hands.
The addition of magic to the play is something that really appeals to the audience as it gives off a very mystical and chilling air. Magic makes the play so much more exciting, and the fact that the witches are supposed to be so gruesome and evil makes the play a little bit scary, which is always enjoyable when watching as it really gets people going and keeps them alert. Finally, what is also so appealing about Macbeth is the continuous tension the whole way through the play.
The tension starts at the very beginning when the witches prophesize that Macbeth will become king, as we see that Macbeth has immediately thought of killing Duncan and doesn’t want anyone to know his evil thoughts – Stars, hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires. Before Macbeth goes to kill Duncan, it is almost as though we can feel the terror and angst that he feels, and afterwards, when he is covered in blood and Lady Macbeth tells him to “go get some water, and wash this filthy witness from your hand”, the audience can almost feel both their paranoia.
From this point until Macduff kills Macbeth, there is an air of tension in the play, as we know that Macbeth’s reign over Scotland will destroy the country. His tense paranoia is also obvious from this point onwards as he feels the need to murder absolutely anyone who he thinks may go against him. His paranoia is also very evident in the banquet scene when his guilt of having his friend Banquo killed overthrows his conscience and he begins to see Banquo’s ghost, covered in blood.
It is as this point in the play where Macbeth’s intense paranoia is at its peak, as after this he has Macduff’s family murdered just to be spiteful. It is also now in the play that we notice Lady Macbeth has become tired and we don’t see her again until the sleepwalking scene when her own guilt is quite evident. An air of tension is always something people enjoy as it keeps them on their toes and anxious to know what is going to happen next. The tension also ties in with the witches as it is undetectable as to when they are going to come up in the play.
Overall, I find Macbeth a very appealing play. It has many aspects, such as the magic, action and tension, which really make it very enjoyable both to read and to watch, as it keeps us interested in what is going to happen next. Because the play is short, it is as though Shakespeare was trying to fit everything into a short span of time. So every moment of the play was actually of significance, meaning that there wasn’t a single boring moment in the play.
Courtney from Study Moose
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