William Shakespeare’s, Macbeth presents the theme of evil through the characters in language, structure, and form. The tragedy, set in the 11th century in Scotland, investigates the evils of ancient society such as supernatural creatures, ambition, and what was expected in women. Evil could now be defined as profoundly immoral and wicked, in that era, this was amplified since it included mere social standards which could be regarded as absurd nowadays. Throughout the play, evil is presented in the characters, as it consumes them and makes them do drastic things.
For example, it is presented not only by the supernatural creatures starting the plot but also by Lady Macbeth when renouncing that she is the woman she is expected to be and stripping Macbeth of his manliness. However, most importantly the evil is demonstrated inside Macbeth, his hubris, which corrupts him by using his ambition to steer him to kill the king or lose his humanity.
Shakespeares ability to manipulate the values of the audience with the use of setting and superstitious characters sets the evil tone and creates an anxious atmosphere within audience members.
Firstly, the setting described the battlefield: thunder and lightning: instantly brings the audience’s attention to connotations suggesting blood. In 1600, society believed strongly in the existence of supernatural beings and the superstitious actions sent from hell. Therefore, the use of the witches and dark atmosphere would surely excite and scare the audience due to the tragic outcome it was bound to lead to. Among the strongest believers stood King James, writer of Daemonologie and ruler of the time.
Shakespear could be said to be evil to suggest a tragedy from the beginning and not allowing the audience to relax instead they watch in angst waiting for the end. Since lightning comes from the Greek god Zeus, the audience is aware of the doom of Greek tragedies. This beginning scene blatantly foreshadows the worst emphasized with the introduction and dialogue of the witches. The use of pathetic fallacy in; In thunder, lightning, or in rain?: shows Shakespear is able to take a pure form like nature and make it seem evil. These literary devices show a huge power in his writing as he creates conflict within the audience by changing their perception of pure and good from the beginning. Furthermore, how they speak in rhyming couplets proves they are not ordinary human beings like noblemen which speak in iambic pentameter. The fact the first scene introduced the worst physical form of evil in society panics the audience, due to its form can only get worse. Moreover, the part the witches play in Macbeths transformation plot is crucial. Their words are what starts the path of Macbeth to his evil downturn. However, not only the witches can be held accountable for all actions, but one must also consider Lady Macbeth and even Macbeth’s interior evil, heightened by the weird sisters.
Lady Macbeth presents evil by rejecting society and her feminity and personifying the first sin by Eve. In the encounter with her husband after his letter, she states look like thinnocent flower, But be the serpent undert, she suggests he must ruthless like her; the serpent. In Jacobean times, religion was extremely significant, therefore the use of the mirroring of the first story of Genisis with Eve as Lady Macbeth threatens the audiences views on women. Like Eve, she poisons Macbeth’s mind by manipulating her and being dominant. She uses this evil power to tempt Macbeth with instead of an apple, ambition. This sense of deception is a key feature of evil. She is presented as the serpent for being the opposite to society’s expectations. In the Jacobean era, women were characterized as feminine, following commands, and against violence, in essence, the flower therefore the audience would have been shocked by these statements. However, she is the complete opposite, unsex me here, represents her urgency to renounce her femininity to become as powerful as possible. Macbeth is manipulated by her constant attacks against his masculinity such as When you durst do it, then you were a man.. Because in that century, masculinity was very important when representing a man, she goes against Gods planned nature when being dominant. The effects of evil are ironically presented in Act 4, Out damned spot!. Out, I say! One, two.. This dramatic teqnique reflects her mental state since she strays away from the noble speech of iambic pentameter. Her rattled shape is emulated in her surroundings as Hell is murky, implying she has submerged into a distorted and cloudy, like her mind, nightmare. It could be argued the couples thirst for power has generated their own hell where they are plagued with guilt. Shakespeare inexplicitly condemns women by suggesting their insanity is caused by their attempt to subvert their femininity to become the male version of themselves. The fate met by Lady Macbeth illustrates this. Even though it is not for the same reasons, Macbeth suffers a similar development.
Macbeth, the protagonist, presents evil as an ordinary man trying to disrupt the laws of religion. His first temptation is introduced with the witches. Firstly, he is drawn to the witches speech immediately, Speak, I charge you. The use of the imperative, suggests he is already giving into danger. Eventhough at first, he is completely opposed to the idea of even considering the prophecy why do I yield to that suggestion and even feels guilty for being disloyal by thinking about it. The verb yield triggers the idea that Macbeth is not as strong and powerful as he seems even with his background. This quote shows he is aware it is wrong but is allowing himself to be corrupted by greed. In the Jacobean era, the divine right of kings meant regicide was an attack against God. God was at the top of the hierarchy, therefore, to disobey him and force the throne on yourself meant he was idolizing the witches and therefore worshiping superstition over religion. The audience starts to fear him more than sympathize with him, provoking catharsis. Seconds after, Macbeth says shakes so my single state of man that function is smotherd in surmise, even though it is a fantasy, the idea of a being king consumes his every move. Overall, his rejection of God and generally religion makes him evil in the audience’s eyes.
Shakespeare uses the instinctive act of greed in his audience to corrupt them by using Macbeth as a model. Furthermore, he uses Macbeth to present evil in his increasing lack of humanity. As position and power were extremely important, the audience relates to the excitement Macbeth feels at the idea coming true. All humans strive to obtain more, they are intrigued because the play they are witnessing is what they dreamed of. Even though, they are aware it is a greek tragedy they cannot help but see how and why it ends, consciously though, they would never admit it. The fact that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth not only believe the prophecy but want to do whatever is necessary to make it come true scares the audience. Macbeth, like Adam is greedy for not appreciating what has already been provided by him from God. When Macbeth has taken the fruit of evil and accepting to kill the king in his soliloquy, he asks, Is this a dagger I see before me. In this quote, we can already see the evil from the witches predictions, his inner ambition, and his wife corroding Macbeths mind, making him imagine murderous things. However, still, at this point, he is aware of his own insanity false creation/ Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?. After Macbeth gives in to more bloody desires like killing Macduff’s family or the equivocation from the witches, Macbeth is plummeting into madness like his wife. In Act 5, Macbeth has renounced all admirable, right and essentially what makes him human with good intentions. For example, Direness familiar to my slaughterous thoughts/ Cannot once start me. This quote proves Macbeth is no longer fearful of consequences or of losing his life, furthermore, his consequences can no longer be blamed on anybody but himself. He confirms this maleficent response with the news of his dead wife. The rhyming scheme at the end of the play of resonates with the witches speech throughout the play (rhyming couplets). This means he has reached his most extreme level of physical evil because he has become equivalent to what that society deemed most villainous: the witches.
The form of this play represents the ancient Greek tragedies of a noble protagonist with a fatal flaw, hamartia, which leads him to destruction. In this case, Macbeth’s ambition (shared with Lady Macbeth) causes him to commit terrible crimes to maintain his power at the expense of his sanity and respect. His inner hubris, the quality of being dangerously confident, not only distorts his morals but one could say it was purely fate. Aristotles vision of tragedy relied deeply on fate. Already in the middle of the play, fate is aparent. Temptation, ambition, and equivocation are embedded deeply into every character. The proximity of the events carried out by Macbeth, one could argue, speeded up destiny. The use of this form suggests that even though each character played a role, they did not have enough control which made the ending ultimately unavoidable.
In conclusion, Shakespeare presents ot only evil but its costs, causes, effects and a personal views by manipulating the audience’s perception of nature and goes as far as to corrupt their protestant views. He uses their beliefs on witchcraft and religion against them to promote hostility by causing emotion and reaction. Furthermore it is presented in the characters flaws which make them evil. For example, Macbeths objectification to the laws of God or Lady Macbeths attempt to subvert her femininity. Through speech, like rythmic couplets, ordinary charcaters are matched in expression to the most evil being wiches. This signifies the rejection of a moral compass and as a result their loss of humanity. Considerning, social norms were expected, any light infraction of these laws would be seen as evil, mixed with religious applications it would be viewed as a sin. Lastly, evil is presented in a historical structure manipulated to include all