The texts I have chosen to compare to Macbeth are; The Laboratory by Browning and Summer of 1969 by Seamus Heaney. The laboratory is about a woman who discovered that her partner was having an affair with another woman. She went to an apothecary and asked for a poison to be made to kill the woman who her partner had cheated with. This can be linked to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth because they wanted to kill people because of their own reasons which to a normal person may seem irrational or immoral. This dramatic monologue is set in the Victorian time. Summer of 1969 is about an Irish man in Spain, Madrid, around the time of the Irish civil war. It emphasizes his doubts and uncertainties about going back to fight for his country or staying in Madrid away from all the fighting. These two poems are linked to Macbeth and I will compare the doubts and uncertainties in both poems with Macbeth. At the time of Macbeth women were seen as lesser than men or that men were always in control and had power over what the women said and did. Whereas all throughout this play by Shakespeare, Macbeth is controlled by his wife, Lady Macbeth, and is constantly overruled and is seen to be the figure head of their relationship and can control Macbeth by manipulating him into doing things which he doesn’t want to do.
This implies that she is mentally stronger and smarter than Macbeth because she has the power to be able to do this. In parts of the play Macbeth is unsure whether killing Duncan is the right thing to do, whether his selfish ambitions outweigh what is right, which links to the question, and when this happens Lady Macbeth can make him change his mind in an instance. Also in these times the current king was King James I. King James wrote a book called Demonology, this contained information about witches and all the things they will do to promote their evil, for example he considers how witches may force people to do things, punish people and put plagues upon them and predict things that could happen in the future. Shakespeare uses this to his advantage and wanted the king to love his Play, as the king wouldn’t fund him if he didn’t like it. So at the very start of the play the audience is directly introduced to witches that predict that Macbeth will be king and Banquo’s sons will be king after, ‘so all hail Macbeth and Banquo’. Jacobean’s believed in the Divine right of kings which is where the ruler was appointed by God so cannot be questioned and this then links to the witches prophecies and fortifies the King’s suspicions that he writes in his book.
Summer 1969 links quite well to Macbeth and the doubts and uncertainties he has. Straight away in the poem Seamus Heaney tries to make everything seem fine by saying he ‘only worries about the sun’ but there is an underlying theme that he doubts whether or not he should be in Spain when his fellow Irishmen are fighting in his home town. He is uncertain whether or not the action he is taking is morally right, just like Macbeth does throughout the whole play. He too, when asked, says everything is fine when in actual fact he is worried and is scared at what may happen. He is also uncertain about the actions that he takes are morally right, when he kills Duncan for his own selfish ambitions. He begins to doubt whether or not killing Duncan is worth it for the pain and battles that will come. At parts in the play Macbeth actually seriously doubts whether or not he can go through with some of the evil things he needs to do just like in the play when Heaney is told to ‘go back and touch the people’. Both men are uncertain that their actions are right and doubt what may happen if they do or do not do something.
The moral of the poem ‘Dulce et Decorum’ is that there is no morality in war or killing. Just like in the poem all the boys think war will be amazing and a great adventure like Macbeth thinks that by killing Duncan all his dreams will come true when in actual fact it’s the complete opposite. After Macbeth kills Duncan he becomes paranoid and can’t enjoy his newly appointed position as king. This links to the poem in that once the boys get there they realise that it is no adventure but a wasteland of death. This then links back to the question because now Macbeth, like the boys, doubts that he made the right decision and whether it is worth it to have killed Duncan and have to watch over his shoulder every minute for the rest of his life. He is very uncertain that his prophecies will come true but at the same time he believes them because they have all come true so far.
In my opinion the strongest voice in the play Macbeth is Lady Macbeth. This is because she can manipulate Macbeth into doing things he doesn’t want to do, for example when Macbeth says, ‘we will continue no further in this business’ Lady Macbeth then convinces him to change his mind by effectively saying he isn’t a man and isn’t a strong enough person to commit the murder, ‘which will make all his and her dreams come true. The way she does this is by making him feel unimportant and describing him as a coward so he will change his mind to prove to her that he isn’t a coward and is actually a strong person, she says, ‘Wouldst thou have that which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, and live a coward in thine own esteem, letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would”. This shows that Macbeth had doubts and uncertainties right from the very first idea of killing Duncan, but Lady Macbeth being the more dominant role in the relationship almost forced him into doing, this proving she is a lot smarter and more devious than Macbeth. It also shows that the ambitions Macbeth has are only dreams, whereas to Lady Macbeth they are a reality and she wants them to come true more than anything, she is blinded by power and in turn making Macbeth blind to morality.
The power Lady Macbeth has can be linked to the woman in the laboratory because the woman in that poem takes matters into her own hands and kills the woman who is cheating with her husband without a second thought, which is like Lady Macbeth, they both want to have what they want and won’t let anyone get in the way no matter what the outcome may be. The doubts Macbeth have also link to that of Seamus Heaney in Summer 1969 because in one point of view he really wants to kill Duncan to become king but in his heart he knows that it is the wrong thing to do, just like Heaney knows that the thing he should do is go back and help his people but he fears for his life. This links back to the question and shows doubts and uncertainties in the poems and the play.
The language in act 1 scene 1 and act 1 scene 3 creates a lot of confusion throughout the audience making them uncertain what is going to happen in Macbeth’s future. Straight at the beginning of the play the three witches are introduced and talk for their short amount of time in riddles, ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair’, this makes the audience unsure on what is going to happen and what role these witches will play. It sets an eerie atmosphere for the rest of the play because they seem to have an underlying sinister effect on the audience making them uneasy and confused. In scene 3 Macbeth opens the scene with ‘so foul and fair I day I have not seen’. This links to act 1 scene 1 as it is the first thing the witches say. This straight away shows that something is not right and something strange is about to happen. The witches then go on to tell Macbeth that he is going to be thane of Cawdor and king, Macbeth is shocked by this and does not know whether to believe it or not. This links to the question as he is doubtful that the prophecies could be true but also believes them as they have already partly come true, ‘Cannot be ill, cannot be good: if ill, Why hath it given me earnest of success, Commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor: If good, why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair’. This in turn would make it really hard for a Jacobean audience to predict what will happen as part of the prophecies have come true but some haven’t.
Shakespeare’s use of a soliloquy in Lady Macbeth’s Act 1 Scene 5 emphasises doubts and uncertainties within the Jacobean audience, as she is speaking to herself about the letter that she has just received from Macbeth. She doubts ‘yet do I fear thy nature’ the ability of Macbeth being able to carry out such action ‘too full o’th’milk of human kindness’. This implies that he is unable to carry out the role of a man, so she is implying that she may have to step up and do his role for him. Lady Macbeth’s uncertainty is shown ‘not without ambition but without the illness should attend it’ connotes that he has lots of ambition to kill duncan and become king but to accomplish his ambition he must have evil inside him, so she is there to try to persuade Macbeth to commit the murder and follow his ambitions. ‘Come to my woman’s breasts and take my milk for gall’ contrasts to her description of Macbeth who has too much milk, whilst she wants to become a man and take her feminine features away from her so that she can no longer follow the demands of the patriarchal society.
In relation to religion it was a huge impact in people’s lives in those days so the reaction of Jacobean audience of the sound of blasphemy would have quite been an irritating event for them to deal with. In act 2 scene 1 Macbeth has hallucinations of a dagger in front of him. ‘Is this a dagger which I see before me’. This links to the question showing that he is doubting his decision to kill Duncan so much that it is mentally tormenting him to having visions of the murder weapon. The last line he says in his soliloquy is ‘that summons thee to heaven or hell’. This shows that even after he has made up his mind he is still unsure about what the outcome will be. All the time in this speech he is questioning the morality of killing an innocent person for his own dreams and ambitions.
If not for Lady Macbeth in other scenes he would not be committing this murder, but lady Macbeth being the more dominant figure told him what to do and Macbeth followed her every word. Now in act 2 scene 2 we see the first sign that makes lady Macbeth seems weak, ‘had he not reminded me of my father as he slept, i had done’t’. This one sentence shows she is vulnerable because as she compares Duncan to her father you can see that despite her desire for power and the harsh way she treats Macbeth, she sees her king as an authority figure to whom she must be loyal. This implies that lady Macbeth is doubting whether ir not they are doing the right thing and is finally getting a conscience and mentally debating whether to stop or not.
Courtney from Study Moose
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