Also during this time there were many more occurrences when witches and heretics were burnt at the stake than at any period in history, because people believed they manufactured plagues, pestilence and famine through their ‘black magic. ‘ When Shakespeare was writing the play, he wanted to impress the king and interest his audience on his stage, the Globe Theatre. Shakespeare did this by including the supernatural in his play. Both king and populous have always been intrigued by the horror of witches and the supernatural, but not as much as in the period of the 16th and 17th centuries.
This was probably because of people wanting to be religiously purer and remove disease from society. In the 16th century many events occurred that were bizarre and impossible to explain so were blamed on the supernatural. Before James gained the crown of England as well as Scotland, witchcraft was already on the people’s minds. In 1563, parliament made law that making murder by witchcraft was punishable by death. Forty years later, any use of witchcraft was punishable by death. These laws were made by a protestant parliament, to protect the monarch from Roman Catholics, as witchcraft and rebellion went hand in hand.
To prove to the public that witchcraft existed and was destructive to the cause of humanity came about through the death of the Earl of Derby in 1594. He was thought to be the victim of witchcraft. This also told the public that witchcraft and other such evils could affect any individual, or any class. This alarmed the king, and paranoia crept in. He had already burnt 8’000 people at the stake in Scotland, so it was obvious he would burn others. Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, was accused of conjuring spells against James. The most prime and famous example of witchcraft in England, however, occurred in 1590.
This was when James and Anne were sailing from Denmark to Scotland. The ‘Witches of Berwick’ were supposed to have tried to destroy Anne and James at sea by conjuring up storms and strong winds. As it has already been said, the Shakespearean audience believed a wide range of old wives tales. This made James write his book on the supernatural, Demonology, in 1597. Shakespeare may have consulted this on writing Macbeth. He also thought of audience reaction when writing Macbeth. The Shakespearean audience would of reacted in terror to the fact that there were three witches in front of them.
In Shakespearean times, people believed in all manner of things, and thought that any witch is evil and would cast horrid and malicious magic on them. Nowadays the audience reaction would be almost a complete contrast. In the scale of things, the audience nowadays would not find it particularly scary, with perhaps the exception of infants and younger children yet still quite thrilling and weird. The audience nowadays does not have to be terrified of witches and ‘black’ magic, as this is not a prime concern to them, unlike terrorism or nuclear war for example.
However, despite these differences in society and contrasts of opinion, the supernatural still has the same effect on the audience. The supernatural generates interest, and entices people to watch the production. The weird appearance of the witches, who are mainly women with facial hair, would scare an audience in the 17th century yet genuinely poke some kind of confusion and thought into a 21st century mind. Obviously, one does not regularly see any women who are sporting beards, let alone three simultaneously. Shakespeare opens the play powerfully by introducing the three witches.
This is powerful because of their strong yet evil magical powers that they have. The audience will start thinking whether or not the witches will use these powers, so dramatic tension is created. This scene is not only powerful, but also surreal, because of the witches’ unusual appearance, having beards and wearing tattered clothes, which make them look unusual and alien to earth. Banquo expresses this in a later scene: ‘What are these, So withered, and so wild in their attire, That look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ earth, And yet are on’t? The witches also confuse and interest the audience by their rhythmical and alliterative chants in the first scene.
The chants are confusing and contradict each other. The three witches chant: ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair. ‘ ‘Foul’ and ‘fair’ are both contrasting phrases, ‘fair’ being good and ‘foul’ being evil. What they are generally telling the audience is that good is evil and evil is good. This would shock some and confuse others. Either way, all the audience will think about what the witches have just said and listen to what they say next, trying to search for a solution to their problem.
The language in this phrase makes it lively and gritty. The alliteration is there, and the inconsistency of their phrases which make them a paradox. The audience has already been told of chaos and bloody battles, in when the second witch proclaims: ‘When the hurlyburly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won. ‘ This battle could be of two fronts- Macbeth’s soul or his victory at Fife against the Thane of Cawdor and Sweno, the king of Norway. This could be giving an early indication to the audience that the weird sisters are possessing Macbeth, whoever he is.
The witches have already chanted: ‘When shall we three meet again, In thunder, lightning, or in rain? ‘ This tells the audience that the witches have an evil influence, as they only meet in bad weather. This could also tell people that the weird sisters might conjure up these floods and storms. At the end of the scene when the witches leave, they all say: ‘Hover through the fog and filthy air. ‘ This is showing that they hover through the air as a mode of transport, which is magical, and suggests a dwelling evil presence.
The air they travel through is ‘filthy’, as fog was considered bad air. The soul was thought to have been sucked out by the fog. Act 1 scene one has many purposes to the play of Macbeth. It could merely announce the time of the next meeting of the weird sisters: ‘When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning, or in rain? ‘ Or it could set a sinister scene for the rest of the play, creating suspense, and worry over the unknown person called Macbeth, as the witches engage in activities with destructive purpose.
The next scene in which the supernatural is present, Macbeth finally appears. Macbeth has been talked about, by not only the weird sisters in act one scene one, but also Duncan and his advisors in act one scene two. The audience may be concerned about Macbeth’s well being, as he is linked to the three witches. The audience might also think about whether Macbeth’s appearance is demoniac, as if the witches have possessed him. The witches open the scene by asking each other what evil deeds they have been doing since their last meeting in act one scene one. The 2nd witch says: ‘Killing swine.
The witch is probably suggesting that she was killing a farmers stock of pigs, probably to ruin his livelihood and force him into suffering. After being prompted by the 3rd witch, the 1st witch says: ‘A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap, And munched, and munched, and munched-‘Give me,’ quoth I. ‘Aroint thee witch’, the rump-fed ronyon cries. Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o’ th’ Tiger; But in a sieve I’ll thither sail, And like a rat without a tail, I’ll do, I’ll do and I’ll do. ‘ The first witch is expressing that she has a short temper, and expects to have it her own way, by getting things on demand.
In this case, she wanted to have some if not all the chestnuts in this woman’s lap. The woman told her to get out, and as the witch describes the woman, she is an overweight scabby wretch who is rather spoilt. The woman’s husband is a sailor, and the witch says she will kill the captain of the ship. This was quite true, as the captain of her husbands ship, the Tiger, sunk near Milford Haven in 1606 after its Captain died mysteriously, probably of supernatural causes. This was the talk of London for some time, so the first witch must be telling the audience that she has a vengeful and malicious nature.
To prove that the witch did do the deed, she says: ‘Here I have a pilot’s thumb, Wrecked as homeward did he come. ‘ This is also proof that the witches are malicious, scheming old hags that only want to harm and hinder, not to help people as they might say they would. When the witches see Macbeth, they get excited and start chanting: ‘A drum, a drum! Macbeth doth come. ‘ And then: ‘The Weird Sisters, hand in hand, Posters of the sea and the land, Thus do go about, about, Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine, And thrice again to make up nine.
Peace, the charms wound up. ‘ This will definitely scare the audience, as the witches have wanted to meet Macbeth for probably malicious reasons since act one scene one. This dramatic tension has exploded into raw fear for him as the witches cast a spell when the unknown man named Macbeth arrives with his friend, Banquo. Macbeth says: ‘So foul and fair a day I have not seen’ This could mean one of two things. Macbeth might have been possessed by the witches, as he has echoed what they said in act one scene one, lines 11-12.
Alternatively, it could mean that Macbeth is describing the battle against the Norwegians at Fife. I would consider it most likely that Macbeth has been possessed, as the witches cast a spell on Macbeth before he arrived on the scene. When Macbeth and Banquo notice the witches, they are bemused, but not worried by them. Banquo clearly expresses this: ‘What are these, So withered, and so wild in their attire, That look not like the inhabitants o’ th’ earth, And yet are on’t? ‘ Both Macbeth and Banquo are obviously confused by the witches.
They do not even know whether they are living creatures or not: ‘Live you, or are you aught That man may question? ‘ Which Banquo then asks. They obviously do not know what kind of creatures the witches are, let alone whether they are alive. The pair also do not know whether the witches can speak or not, as Macbeth asks: ‘Speak if you can. What are you? ‘ Then the witches speak three of the most famous lines in Macbeth, which predict the rest of the play:
‘All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! ‘ ‘All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! ‘All hail Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter! ‘ What the witches have said here is very extraordinary. The first line, which expresses Macbeth’s current title, is extraordinary as one would not normally know a mans full name, probably not that if he is a Thane or not unless he was dressed formally of course. The first line is correct, so Macbeth probably thinks that whatever they say next is completely believable. The witches then chant the second line, which tells him that he is Thane of Cawdor. This is not a surprise to the audience, as they had already learnt that in act one scene one.
Then comes the shock. Macbeth is then told that after becoming Cawdor, he will become the King of Scotland. This turns Macbeth into an image of horror. He is probably so surprised by these statements, that all he can do is look shocked. Banquo tries to kick some sense into Macbeth: ‘Good sir, why do you start, and seem to fear Things that sound so fair? ‘ But unfortunately, Banquo realises Macbeth is already gone into a world of his own thoughts: ‘My noble partner You greet with present grace, and great prediction Of noble having, and of royal hope, That he seems rapt withal.
Banquo and Macbeth both believe that the witches are telling the truth, so Banquo asks the witches: ‘If you can look into the seeds of time, And say which grain will grow, and which will not, Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear Your favours nor your hate. ‘ Banquo is asking the witches what the ‘seeds of time’ will do for him. The ‘seeds of time’ were involved with the growth of spirit and matter, which was from tiny seeds planted in the ground by God. Evil spirits were thought to have the power to predict and foretell how these would develop.
He thinks that Macbeth is not the only one who gets great rewards. The witches tell him: ‘Lesser than Macbeth, and greater. Not so happy, yet much happier. Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none. ‘ The witches foretell that Banquo will not be King of Scotland, unlike Macbeth, yet his sons will be kings. This is particularly true, as Banquo’s descendant was James 1st of England at the time the play was written. Macbeth and the audience are both shocked by what the witches have revealed to them. Both want to know more, as they are confused by the witch’s riddles.
Macbeth needs to know when he will become enthroned, and how he will go about it. He asks: ‘Stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more. ‘ However, the witches vanish, probably because they may have spotted Ross and Angus on the horizon, or they just want to create the dramatic tension that acquires that burning question on what will happen next, and whether it will be good or bad. When the witches go, the pair considers what has just happened, whether it really happened or not. Banquo expresses this feeling of surrealism: ‘Were such things here as we do speak about?
Or have we eaten on the insane root That takes the reason prisoner? ‘ After this, Ross and Angus arrive with an important message for Macbeth: ‘He Duncan bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor;’ This takes Macbeth and Banquo aback. Banquo is particularly alarmed, as he realizes the true evil power of the witches: ‘What, can the devil speak true? ‘ Macbeth wants to know why he has become Thane of Cawdor, as he probably still has a slight disbelief in the witches. He feigns his surprise by expressing:
‘The Thane of Cawdor lives. Why do you dress me In borrowed robes? Finally, Banquo expresses his doubt over the witches intentions with Macbeth: ‘That, trusted home, Might yet unkindle you unto the crown, Besides the Thane of Cawdor. But ’tis strange: And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s In deepest consequence. ‘ Banquo is saying that despite the rewards they might get, the witches will betray them in the end. The pair will be worse off; being less than before they received their titles. Banquo then turns to the messengers, and Macbeth goes into a soliloquy.
He tells the audience that it is obvious that the witches are telling the truth, but does not know whether they are good or bad. He wonders why he does not think they are good, as he says: ‘If good, why do I yield to that suggestion, Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair, And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, Against the use of nature? ‘ Macbeth is also pondering how to become king, and considers murdering the present king, Duncan. However, he has second thoughts: ‘My thought, whose murder yet is fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man, that function Is smothered in surmise, and nothing is But what is not. Banquo notices Macbeth, and calls him over: ‘Worthy Macbeth, we stay upon your leisure. ‘ Macbeth then feigns his feelings again, as he does not want Ross and Angus to know about the encounter with the witches: ‘Give me your favour: my dull brain was wrought With things forgotten. Kind gentlemen, your pains Are registered where every day I turn The leaf to read them. Let us toward the king. ‘ As soon as Ross and Angus walk away, Macbeth and Banquo discuss when they are to meet again: ‘Think upon what hath chanced, and at more time, The interim having weighed it, let us speak Our free hearts to each other.
‘Very gladly. ‘ ‘Till then enough. Come friends. ‘ Macbeth had such strong feelings with his meeting with the witches that he decided to write a letter to his wife, Lady Macbeth. He writes how the witches told him he would be king, and how he doubts their intentions. Lady Macbeth believes this, yet does not think Macbeth can actually achieve kingship: ‘Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be What art thou promised; yet I do fear thy nature, It is too full of the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way.
The quote above is saying that Macbeth is too loyal to Duncan and is a brave servant of him. She says he would not dare to do anything disloyal, as he is too kind to kill in cold blood. Therefore, she starts to think that Macbeth cannot murder Duncan alone, and believes he needs help from the evil spirits: ‘Thou wouldst be great, Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it. ‘ Lady Macbeth is saying that evil must accompany the rise of Macbeth, that he needs ‘metaphysical aid’. The audience at this point think Macbeth is still a loyal soldier that has had the surprise of his life.
Unfortunately, his appearance as a courageous soldier will soon be lost, and replaced by a cold-blooded murderer. Lady Macbeth does not think that Macbeth is ready to murder Duncan and ‘cheat’ his way into the Scottish monarchy, but would not mind if someone did ‘it’ for him: ‘That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false, And yet wouldst wrongly win. ‘ Lady Macbeth then repeats herself by saying: ‘All that impedes thee from the golden round, which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem to have thee crowned withal. Lady Macbeth and the audience are shocked to hear that Duncan is coming to Macbeth’s castle, which almost immediately indicates Duncan’s fate. As she now awaits Duncan’s arrival, she starts to prepare. As soon as the messenger leaves, Lady Macbeth starts to pray to the devil and find metaphysical aid for Macbeth.
She realises that all she can do is tempt Macbeth into the murder of Duncan, and not carry it out herself: ‘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;’ The spirits Lady Macbeth is calling ‘tend on mortal thoughts. This could either mean they are the thoughts that scare human beings, or are thoughts of death. By asking the evil spirits to ‘unsex’ her, she wants the supernatural to remove any maternal instincts from her, which would mean she would be horrid to children and babies. By filling herself from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty she is removing any kindness she has, which would terrify the audience as she would have no kindness even towards someone who had been kind to her.
She would also do many other things to make sure she is ready to tempt Macbeth: ‘Make thick my blood, Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between Th’ effect and it. ‘ Lady Macbeth is telling the audience that she wants her blood curdled so the flow of vital spirits in it is stopped, and no messages may reach her heart to stir up pity. This would produce a response of disgust and fright from the audience, as she would have no remorse over killing, especially in cold blood.
She does not want any natural impulses of pity to stop her from killing Duncan, her purpose. ‘Come to my woman’s breasts, And take my milk for gall, murd’ring ministers,’ Lady Macbeth is saying that she wants her milk to be replaced by gall, whether the milk might be of ‘human kindness’ act 1, scene 5, lines 15-16 or the milk a mother gives to a child. Either way, removing milk and replacing it with a substance that is meant to promote rage and malice is a terrible thing to do even when calling the evil spirits.
Lady Macbeth finishes her soliloquy by saying: ‘Come thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my knife see not the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry ‘Hold, hold! ” She is telling the audience that she does not wish even the knife to see the deed that has been done. This scene was to introduce Lady Macbeth to the play, as she plays an important part in killing Duncan. It was also used to proclaim Duncan’s fate, so the murder is not a surprise.
The next scene is used to plan the murder, at the start Macbeth wants to take a leading role, and at the end of the scene, he is a nervous wreck. Therefore, he does not want to kill Duncan. This is where Lady Macbeth’s ‘metaphysical aid’ comes through. She attacks Macbeth’s pride, by hurling insults at him. It is night, and Macbeth is going to murder Duncan. He then has the famous soliloquy in which he says arguably the most popular line in the whole play: ‘Is this a dagger I see before me, The handle toward my hand? ‘ Macbeth can see an imaginary dagger, directly in front of him.
It floats in mid-air, and does not let Macbeth get a decent grasp of it: ‘Come let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. ‘ This vision can mean many purposes. It could be a hallucination from Macbeth; perhaps it could be him getting cold feet from the feeling of murdering in cold blood. However, a more likely explanation is that the supernatural made this image so Macbeth can commit evil. Macbeth even expresses this feeling of confusion: ‘Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible To feeling as to sight?
Or art thou but A dagger to the mind, a false creation, Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain? ‘ The supernatural is most likely to be involved with this as the dagger is to represent evil, and I am still not convinced that Macbeth is completely evil at this point, and needs the ‘metaphysical aid’ from the evil spirits. These scenes were supposed to show the audience the change with Macbeth, from a brave soldier who kills with ease to a cowardly murderer of his own king who is not even respected by his own wife.
He comes back from the murder quite clearly shaken, not because of Duncan, but because of Malcolm and Donalbain in their room praying. Macbeth expresses this: ‘One cried ‘God bless us! ‘ and ‘Amen! ‘ and the other, As they had seen me with these hangman’s hands. Listening their fear, I could not say ‘Amen,’ When they did say ‘God bless us! ” This means that Macbeth has done such an evil deed that he cannot say ‘Amen’, to a prayer to God. Macbeth then goes on to say: ‘Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more! This must again be an evil spirit calling him. Lady Macbeth tries to calm his nerves at first, but does not really understand why Macbeth is shouting. She asks him to clarify his shouting, from which she gets the reply: ‘Still it cried ‘Sleep no more! ‘ to all the house. Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more. ‘ This statement my Macbeth practically maps out the rest of the play, as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth get sleepless nights and have many hallucinations.
This scene is to wrap up Duncan’s murder, but already show the dire consequences that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth face in the future. The next few scenes are the confusion after the murder, and accusations flying around from one man to the next. The accusations rest with Malcolm and Donalbain. The two flee, not only because they are the considered the prime suspects but because they fear for their safety, as their father’s killer may want to murder them as well. Act three scene 1starts with a soliloquy from Banquo.
He tells the audience of his feelings over the supernatural and its possible evil influence in Macbeth. He has doubts over Macbeth and whether he is so innocent after all: ‘Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all, As the weird women promised, and I fear Thou play’dst most foully for’t; yet it was said it should not stand in thy posterity, But that myself should be the root and father Of many kings. If there come truth from them, As upon thee Macbeth, their speeches shine, Why by the verities on thee made good May they be not my oracles as well, And set me up in hope? But hush, no more.
Macbeth has become king, but Banquo thinks Macbeth has ‘play’dst most foully for’t’, meaning that he plotted to kill Duncan. However, Banquo says ‘it should not stand in thy posterity’, meaning that Macbeth’s family will not last forever, no matter how guilty he might be. Because of that, he decides to not speak about his feelings to other people. This soliloquy is to tell the audience that Macbeth is not getting away with the murder of Duncan, no matter how much he thinks he is. Unfortunately, this was the last scene in which Banquo plays a part, as three men hired by Macbeth murder him.
This is really down to Banquo knowing too much about Macbeth. Banquo says in his soliloquy that he would not talk about the meetings with the witches, but Macbeth thinks that he might. So unlucky Banquo gets ‘twenty trenched gashes on his head’, which is a very nasty death indeed. After Banquo’s death, there is a feast. This is the feast directly after the coronation, so the king and queen have to impress their guests with their lavish food and setting.
Everyone has sat down except Macbeth, so Lennox says: ‘May’t please your highness sit. The party is running completely smoothly until this point. However, the supernatural kicks into Macbeth’s mind and Banquo’s ghost appears. Macbeth is the only person who can see this ghost. First Macbeth reacts so the feast can carry without any worries: ‘Here had we now our country’s honour roofed’ Ross says that he is not here, so Macbeth thinks it could be a joke, and as the old saying goes, one is not amused: ‘Which of you have done this? ‘ Obviously, the Lords do not know what as been done. Macbeth could be saying one of two things.
Either he is asking who murdered Banquo, meaning he is somewhat playing along to cover the real story, or he is asking who played this trick, by putting Banquo’s dead body in his chair. The Lords ask Macbeth: ‘What my good lord? ‘ Then insanity plunges into Macbeth: ‘Thou canst not say I did it; never shake Thy gory locks at me. ‘ Macbeth is actually talking to the ghost at this point, as the ghost is looking at him and nodding his head accusingly. He is saying that he was not the one that actually stabbed Banquo, and tries to find some innocence.
Ross thinks that Macbeth is mentally ill, so he is sympathetic: ‘Gentlemen rise, his highness is not well. ‘ Lady Macbeth tries her hardest to save the situation, but fails. The scene carries on with the ghost reappearing and really scares Macbeth. However, Lady Macbeth realises that she cannot prevent Macbeth from going mad and so sends the lords home. This scene tells the audience that Macbeth is not the strong soldier he used to be, that he is in fact now a nervous wreck. After this scene Macbeth needs some kind of reassurance, that everything will be all right.
This reassurance cannot be from a normal mortal, as they do not know of Macbeth’s link with the supernatural; any who do e. g. Lady Macbeth just ridicule him and think of it as a weakness, that he is not as much of a man anymore. Act 3 scene 5 is the next part in which the supernatural is involved. It is a short scene, and does not really affect the storyline particularly much. This is probably because that this scene was not considered to have been written by Shakespeare. It introduces a new character, Hecate, who is considered to be the head of witches, yet still deputy to Satan himself.
The language in this scene is especially proof. Most of the play is in blank verse, yet this scene is in rhyme, and is not considered as gritty and horrid as Shakespeare. This scene shows Hecate, head of all witches, so she or he is supposed to be evil. However, she is angered by the witches’ actions towards Macbeth: ‘How did you dare To trade and traffic with Macbeth In riddles and affairs of death’ Hecate is telling the witches to stop messing around with Macbeth, to stop telling him ‘riddles’ and ‘thither he will come to know his destiny. ‘ The witches now know that they will have to tell Macbeth what will happen to him.
However, they do this with their own method. This scene will have informed the audience that the play is travelling towards its conclusion, that it is now all or nothing. Despite Hecate has only a small part in the play; she actually is quite a major character in terms of the storyline. Act 4 scene 1 is the next scene in the play for the supernatural. This is the final scene in which the witches take part. The last scenes of the play do not involve any supernatural characters, but they do involve the supernatural indirectly. At the start of the scene, the witches are making a broth.
This involves them dropping items of their interest into their cauldron and casting spells. These items would horrify an audience if acted properly. Many of the items are stomach wrenching and disgusting to the extreme. Examples of this are: ‘Eye of Newt’ ‘Tongue of dog’ ‘Lizards leg’ ‘Howlets wing’ But worst of all: ‘Finger of birth-strangled babe ditch-delivered by a drab’ The 4 body parts of the different animals would be disgusting to an audience as they could have been ripped off when the particular animal was alive. The animals are also considered quite disgusting.
Newts and lizards have quite slimy skin, so the textures of the items are included as a stomach churner. The worst phrase, however, describes prostitute giving birth to a baby in a ditch, and then strangling it to death. This is terrible as the baby is unloved; the mother has no kind of care for it, and so kills it. Murdering babies is possibly the worst crime that an adult could do, as they should know that babies are defenceless, and whenever a baby is crying, a good person has maternal or paternal instincts that would get them to take care of it. I have seen this scene played by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
This scene was dramatically effective, because the witches played their parts very effectively. The three actors gave their parts dramatic tension, especially when Macbeth arrives: ‘I conjure you, by that which you profess, Howe’er you come to know it, answer me. ‘ The witches give him an answer, which involves three ghostly images, or apparitions. Macbeth really needs to know what is to become of him, so says: ‘Call ’em, let me see ’em. ‘ The first apparition is an armed head. There have been various interpretations of this, and there are two examples. This is Macduff.
It warns Macbeth of a Scottish noble, the Thane of Fife: ‘Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth, beware Macduff; Beware the Thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough. ‘ Macbeth is grateful of the warning, and asks for more, probably being why he should fear him. The witches reply: ‘He will not be commanded. ‘ After this, another apparition ascends to inform Macbeth: ‘Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn The power of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth’ This is more of a reassurance to Macbeth, as there are not many people born through Caesarean section, presumably meaning they are not ‘of woman born.
The next apparition is a crowned child with a tree in his hand. He reassures Macbeth by telling him: ‘Be lion-mettled, proud and take no care Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are. Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until great Birnham wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come against him. ‘ Macbeth is almost completely confident he is invincible at this point, that almost nothing can get in his way for a complete domination of the Scottish monarchy. This is not just for now but for years to come. However, the witches promised Banquo would be the father of all Scottish kings after Macbeth.
Macbeth asks them: ‘Shall Banquo’s issue ever Reign in this kingdom? ‘ The witches decide to let Macbeth see the line of Scottish kings, and who was the father. A show of eight kings appears. Regrettably, for Macbeth, the following individual who arrives to indicate who is the father of the line is Banquo. This plunges a dagger unswerving to the pits of Macbeth’s hopes and dreams: ‘Horrible sight! Now I see ’tis true, For the blood-boltered Banquo smiles upon me, And points at them for his. ‘ The scene ends quite predictably, the witches disappearing and Macbeth wanting more answers.
I consider this scene particularly dramatic because the witches seem to be telling Macbeth his destiny. Act 5 scene 1 is a scene to show how Lady Macbeth has coped with each murder, as she has not been seen since act 3 scene 4, when she was trying to calm Macbeth from his ‘visions’ of Banquo. In this scene she has changed dramatically, as Macbeth has. She used to be a strong willed woman, as she was before Duncan’s murder. She did many things that many men would have the guts to do, let alone a woman with strong maternal instincts. Now she sleepwalks, and imagines as though she is talking to Macbeth.
It looks now she is a nervous wreck, while Macbeth is on an emotional high, after the witches foretelling him to not be killed of someone woman born and when Birnham wood moves to Dunsinane. She echoes what Macbeth has said, being in the same emotion of regret and sorrow: ‘The Thane of Fife had a wife; where is she now? What, will these hands ne’er be clean? ‘ She goes on to repeat herself: ‘Here’s the smell of blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. ‘ Her very last line is possibly intended to be spoken to Macbeth: ‘Come, come, come, give me your hand.
What’s done cannot be undone. To bed, to bed, to bed. ‘ That was Lady Macbeth’s final scene before she commits suicide. In my opinion, I do not think Lady Macbeth killed herself directly because of the supernatural, but that she missed Macbeth being by her side. The pair must have had a close relationship, only for them to be driven apart, obviously by Macbeth’s need to quell the uprising from Malcolm and Macduff. Despite Macbeth’s promises from the witches, Macbeth is found not to be ultimately invulnerable. This is because Birnham wood does move to Dunsinane.
This movement of the wood was under Malcolm’s instruction, who felt that he needed some kind of method to hide his army from the eyes of Macbeth, therefore producing a surprise attack on his castle. This did not deter Macbeth, however, as he had another promise to rely on. The second apparition told him that he ‘could not be harmed of anyone woman born. ‘ Yet, to Macbeth’s misfortune, he fights somebody who is not ‘born of woman’, but through caesarean section. His name is Macduff, the very same person who had his family killed on Macbeth’s orders. The murder of Duncan is not entirely Macbeth’s fault.
In fact, I do not consider Macbeth to have played a major part in the deed. The finger of blame is more towards the supernatural and Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth’s part is pinpointed using the supernatural, so it is really the only party that can shoulder this responsibility. The end of the play ends wretchedly for Macbeth, which is a complete contrast to his beginning. This can also be said about the spectator’s response. He starts as a brave soldier, he finishes dead. He turned into a psychologically ailing coward, who cannot slay and relies on supernatural powers.
The supernatural betrays him in the end, which can be particularly said about Act 4 scene 1. The witches tell him that he will be fine, as long as Birnham wood does not move to Dunsinane and he does not fight a man born from caesarean section. These are equivocations, or statements said to conceal the truth. This is true as the witches would have known if Macbeth had died or not, but told him the exact opposite, to lull him into a false sense of security. This is the evil in Macbeth, the supernatural, which drove to Duncan and Macbeth’s deaths.
The language in Macbeth is compelling, as it is gritty and gives the characters great personalities. The language shows the witches are intelligent and devious, with their contradictory phrases and riddles. The blank verse that Shakespeare uses makes the play lyrical and attractive, and not just a lacklustre story. The language describes Macbeth’s change in emotions to the audience, which is thrilling and quite dramatic. I have seen numerous variations of the play Macbeth. The language in Macbeth is so good that directors can have diverse versions, versions to suit their opinions.
I have seen Macbeth in the Globe Theatre and on video by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Globe Theatres production was low budget, so there were few special effects. The Globe version I considered slightly bizarre, as many representations that I found strange and side tracking to the story. One representation was the famous sword fight between Macbeth and Macduff at the end of the play. In the RSC’s version, the sword fight is done conventionally with swords. I consider this to generate a more dramatic and keener interest in it.
The Globes version was represented with pebbles signifying their lives, and a weird hand tugging that I did not understand. If I directed the play, I would have gone for a more modern approach. Macbeth could be considered just as some kind of Shakespearean current affairs representation. Because of this, I consider that the witches could have some kind of terrorist guise. Biological and chemical weapons could replace the broth. I think this would be more dramatically effective for the audience. I would also get full use out of the lighting and special effects available in a more modern theatre.