The sample essay on What Idea Does Shakespeare Introduce In This Scene deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
Shakespeare is renowned worldwide as one of the greatest playwrights that ever lived, and is known for many of his wonderful techniques. However one of the best things about his play Macbeth is the wonderful sense of atmosphere obtained throughout. He does this both in very subtle ways that one may not notice when first watching or reading Macbeth, and in more obvious ways that are clear to all.
In act 1 scene 1 we are first introduced to the witches, they are the first people we meet and would have received a strong reaction from an Elizabethan audience.
The witches are situated in a battlefield, so already a sense of conflict and unrest is being created. There is a storm raging throughout this scene, which carries through the idea of conflict but this time in nature and indicates that these witches have this effect on the world and create strong disorder.
Already we are led to believe that the witches are associated with Macbeth, we know this as the third witch says “There to meet with Macbeth”. We don’t yet know who Macbeth is but from this introduction an audience might assume he is of bad character to be associating with such outcasts.
According to their description the witches look like hags and are deeply unnatural, both to look at, and in the way they affect the their surroundings.
One of the most famous quotes from one of Shakespeare’s plays is the witches ‘chant’, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”. This just paints a stronger picture; that these witches are outcasts and don’t conform to the same rules as the rest of society. It shows they have different values and morals, if any at all. This chant also gives us reason to be wary of the witches and to tread with caution.
Another interesting point about this scene is one of Shakespeare’s more subtle devices, but one that is really very clever. Shakespeare uses ten syllables per line for his characters, but note, in this scene the witches are given shorter lines with only seven syllables. An example of this is the opening line “When shall we three meet again”, it has a completely different rhythm to the lines of his other roles. This is just another way a sense of unrest and unnaturalness is portrayed here. In act 1 scene 2 and we are amidst the King’s camp.
There has been an incident of treachery and lies; this could possibly be seen as a challenge between good and evil; however it would appear good has won over as the traitor is found out. The King was believed by Jacobeans to be a direct link to God that puts the King above everyone on earth. This is known as the divine right of Kings. The first we are told about Macbeth is when he is described as a good honourable man, but we are also made aware of what violence and destruction he is capable of when in battle. He is compared to a lion; majestic and respected, but able to cause devastation incredibly easily if provoked.
The audience watching this probably would have seen this as all the markings of a fine man. A good warrior is looked up to; honour and courage are qualities anyone would admire. There is another disturbance in nature when we meet the witches for the second time in scene 3. We learn of something the witches have done to a human. The witches seem proud of torturing a young man who’s wife happened to upset the second witch. This would have alarmed the Elizabethans, as they would no doubt feel uncomfortable that witches could interfere with human affairs. We are told how petty, cruel and violent the witches can be in this scene.
The second witch moans that a sailor’s wife refused to share some chestnuts with her. She then goes on to brag of the torture they put her husband through. They cast some sort of spell which disallows the sailor from sleeping. Sleep is seen even now as a natural good – as much of a necessity as food and water are, there is also certain innocence about it. Yet the witches have taken it away from the sailor without a moment’s hesitation. They see it as a bit of light entertainment, this illustrates the different morals the witches appear to have to humans. There is definitely an air of dramatic irony about it.
This attack the witches make also shows how evil is associated with an attack on what is naturally good. Within this scene Macbeth is told he is the new thane of Cawdor, as the witches previously predicted. This is an awfully alarming clarification for the audience of its time that the witches can be right. This would be a frightening concept to anyone watching, especially an Elizabethan audience. Act 1 scene 4 sees King Duncan announcing his new successor, Malcolm. Of course this is the obvious choice to anyone else but it is not what Macbeth was expecting.
It comes as a surprise to Macbeth as the witches foretold to him that he would be king. This meant that Macbeth assumed he would be Duncan’s successor. Macbeth has already got evil thoughts creeping at his conscience by now and sparks what is to be a really quite tragic chain of events. Further proof of how Macbeth is starting to contemplate terrible things like crimes against the divine right of Kings is when he says, ” Stars hide your fires” meaning whatever awful things he plans to carry out, he wants the darkness to be his shield.
There are several references throughout the play to this simile of light symbolising all that is good, and dark being a hiding place for evil. This means that our darker characters such as Lady Macbeth, Macbeth and even the witches often refer to it. So already in the first act, the struggle between good and evil in Macbeth’s rampant mind means cracks are starting to appear in his character. So Macbeth’s desire for power is causing him to contemplate awful things against the social order; questioning the great chain of being and the divine right of kings.
Where as a striking contrast King Duncan, who has been portrayed as a good character throughout, says, “Signs of nobleness like stars shine on all deservers” this basically means good people get their rewards. So the battle between good and evil, and light and dark is waging. Scene 5 opens with Lady Macbeth reading aloud a letter from Macbeth. However before this scene even really begins something quite odd has happened, so far the sequence of scenes has involved the witches in every other scene, now when it should be the witches we cut to Lady Macbeth.
Is this a link between the witches and Lady Macbeth? The letter is explaining what the witches told Macbeth, about him being thane and eventually king. Lady Macbeth’s reaction to this is quite surprising, she believes he shall be the thane of Cawdor and would be good at it too, but fears that he is “too full o’th’milk of human kindness”. This seems to imply she thinks he is not tough enough and is weak in character. Now this in itself is startling to the Elizabethans, how dare a woman say this about her husband!
Women were meant to obey their husbands and hold no real opinion, and here is Lady Macbeth is calling her husband weak and too soft! She is saying this as of it is a bad thing to show natural compassion. Then after a messenger has come to tell her that the King is coming with her husband she launches into another soliloquy. She summons spirits and says ” unsex me here” she asks them to take away everything that makes her a woman. This is unnatural and quite disturbing imagery being used here. When she says this it shows a very unnatural desire and is proof of her callousness.
If she took away everything that made her a woman she would be unable to bear a child, and yet she seems completely unbothered by this. This shows she has absolutely no maternal instinct, and is therefore lacking in compassion, but she also proves that in other ways. She also says ” come to my woman’s breasts and take my milk for gall” this further demonstrates my point about her lack of maternal instinct. She also refers again here to milk, milk being equated to innocence, a baby depends on it and it is all it needs to live and grow, but Lady Macbeth wants none of it.
Next she goes on to say “come thick night” and “nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark” showing she is evil as she is using this similie of light and dark and good and evil again. The blanket comment is also another reference to sleep. The Macbeths and the witches are associated with evil and destruction whilst good characters like king Duncan are associated with natural goods like food and sleep. Lady Macbeth seems interrupted when Macbeth appears but goes on to greet him anyway.
She tells him he needs to kill the King, and says he should “look like th’innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t” She is saying he should act like the genial host but act cunning as not to raise any suspicions. The ‘look like’ and the ‘but be’ are examples of alliteration which adds a rhythm, urgency and a power to the sentence. It makes the sentence more of a command as well. This could also be linked to when Eve led Adam astray in the garden of Eden, Lady Macbeth is tempting Macbeth to evil now, sinning just like Adam and Eve. Then Lady Macbeth instructs her husband to leave everything to her.
The effect she has on him is quite mesmerising, she can tell him what to do and will hear no word of complaint; she has him wrapped round her little finger. In scene 6 Lady Macbeth welcomes the guests as if everything was perfectly normal. Duncan shows his appreciation for her kindness and hospitality and we are left thinking ‘if only he knew. ‘ Scene 7 is another scene with just Lady Macbeth and Macbeth in. Macbeth is saying to his wife he doesn’t think he can do it, that Duncan is too trusting and it would be wrong. He tells her he simply wont do it, but of course Lady Macbeth persuades him.
She insults him by saying he is not acting like a man and is a coward. He tries to ‘calm’ her by saying if he did it then that would make him not a man. She goes on to say that she would do it and then displays violent imagery and says “How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn As you have done to this” this is a really horrible picture, and she is using this all to prove her point that she would do anything she had given her word to.
This is another example of her unnaturalness and lack of maternity. She tells Macbeth to be brave and do it, and that if he does it right none ever needs to know. And there it ends, and one again Lady Macbeth has got her way. She is quite clever and you can tell she is not satisfied with the system, that she wants a higher status, and that until then she will need to be like the puppet master of the puppet that is Macbeth.