Macbeth – Discuss the First Four Scenes
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It is evident that within the first four scenes the key themes of the play have been established that the play is very dramatic and tragic.
The witches are introduced in the opening scene. There is a very dark and stormy atmosphere, giving it a creepy and eerie start to the play. The use of pathetic fallacy is representing the witch’s evil and mysterious powers. The witch’s world seems chaotic and they are also described as freaky and surreal characters which also matches there nature. This gives a magical and supernatural feel to the audience. The three weird sisters also have many powers which make them seem stranger and more grotesque. Some of their powers are to change the weather, look into the future and corrupt the environment, these all have the potential to cause drama and conflict throughout the play.
We know they have these powers, as in lines 1-2 it reads, “When shall we meet again? In thunder, lightning or rain?” This is showing they have the ability to change the weather. This may also refer to their dark side, as all these sources of weather are thought to be evil. We are also aware they have the power to tell the future, as in lines 47-49 it says’s, “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!” this is showing the witches as reciting his future.
Many people used to believe in witches in Shakespeare’s time, this would have helped intrigue the audience and make them anxious to find out more. Another reason they may be drawn into the play is because the witches target Macbeth and the audience is aware it shall cause conflict later on in the play.
Shakespeare’s second scene is very different to his first,
as scene one starts off spooky and mysterious, but scene two is more ordered and structured as well as being tragic and dramatic, as there is a bloody battle between the Scott’s and Norwegians.
Macbeth is said to be a well respected and brave man. He is perceived as a hero, a noble and valiant soldier. As said on line 17, “For brave Macbeth- well he deserves that name.”
However, as the play progresses, his loyalty towards his king shall be tested. He is aware of the punishments for being a traitor, but does not take this is an early warning, yet the audience does.
Macbeth is overwhelmed with his ambition, therefore can not resist the temptation.
The third scene is also different to the previous scenes but on the other hand, it still has the mysterious, magical and eerie feel of the first scene, but this time the witches use there powers against Macbeth.
It is the first time the witches meet Banquo and Macbeth. They inform Macbeth about his future telling him he shall be Thane of Cawdor and better still the king. However, in the future, Banquo’s descendants shall be king. Macbeth seems to congratulate Banquo, however I believe inside, he is very disappointed.
I think the witches are evil, as in act 1, scene 3, on the second line, it says that they have been “killing swine.” This implies they kill for fun. It also sounds as if she was boasting to her companions as if it was a competition. As they are discussing about what they have been up to, the first witch calls them over and orders them to see what she has. She is then said to pull out “A pilots thumb” and once again seems to be bragging. Shakespeare is showing they are capable of anything, as they also tempt and torment Macbeth and Banquo to challenge there faith.
Many people were highly religious around the time the play was written and slaughter was a deadly sin, as animals are god’s creations as well as humans. So therefore, they would assume the witches had an evil nature (a formidable force).
I also believe they have power over Macbeth as the witch’s tell him his future and he naturally believed every word they said. This means they could have told him anything. I also believe he is afraid of the witches and their powers as well as himself.
I think he is fearful of them, as they are capable of telling the future. Therefore, they could even tell him when he shall die. Witches were also thought to be evil and if they were capable of telling his future he may be afraid of what other powers they may have. It also freaked him out, as it’s not everyday you see a witch.
The witches then vanish after Macbeth commands them to stay, this may show they depend on each other only and no one else can tell them what to do, as they have greater powers. It may also show their supernatural side, as if they just walked away it would not have the same effect.
The reason he is afraid of himself is very different, as in lines 135-140 it reads, “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? Present fears are less than horrible imaginings. My thought whose murder yet, is but fantastical, shakes so my single state of man that function is smothered in surmise, and nothing, is, but what is not.” This shows he is afraid the temptation of being king could drive him to killing King Duncan and therefore scares him.
I also think he wants to know more and will go through great lengths to find it out. We know this as in lines 69-77, where the witches are telling there futures, he replies, “Stay you imperfect speakers. Tell me more. By Sinel’s death, I know I am Thane of Glamis, but how of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives a prosperous gentleman and to be king stands not within the prospect of belief, no more than to be Cawdor. Say from whence you owe this strange intelligence, or why upon this blasted health, you stop our way with such prophetic greeting? Speak I charge you.” He sounds as if he is intrigued in what they are saying and wants to find out more as he orders them to stay. He shortly realises the Thane of Cawdor is due to be executed and as the King was impressed of how he fought in battle, he appointed Macbeth Thane of Cawdor. This means two of the three predictions made by the witches had come true, so therefore he wanted to find the witches in order to ask them more questions about how he would become king.
The fact he shall be Thane of Cawdor seems to overwhelm him, as in line 117 it reads, “Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor: the greatest is behind you.” This means the greatest is yet to come. This would intrigue the audience as they are aware that there shall be further conflict within the later scenes of the play, as he will stop at nothing.
He is developing an inner conflict, as he is overjoyed with the fact he shall be king, nevertheless he is not sure whether to trust the three weird sisters. He kept having murderous plots over killing King Duncan. This is a dramatic device. Within the later scenes of the play, his evil side shall take over and he is driven to murdering King Duncan.
Macbeth and Banquo decide it would be best to leave it to chance, as chance is what made the witches target Macbeth and shall decide his fate to be king.
The fourth scene begins with King Duncan reporting that Thane of Cawdor has been executed, due to betraying his country. He goes on to thank Macbeth and Banquo for their heroism in the battle. King Duncan continued to announce that Malcolm shall be The Prince of Cumberland, for his nobility and loyalty. As in lines 37-42 it say’s, “We will establish our estate upon our eldest, Malcolm, whom we name hereafter The Prince of Cumberland, which honour must not unaccompanied invest him only, but signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine on all deservers.” This show he was honoured and respected by many however, he may have been favoured over others to be appointed The Prince of Cumberland, as he is King Duncan’s son, so therefore he could have been biased.
Macbeth congratulates Malcolm, but I believe is deeply upset, as he now stands between Macbeth and the crown. Plans are then made for King Duncan to dine at Macbeth’s castle. I believe the reason for this is because Macbeth may be getting ready to murder King Duncan and if his last meal was with Macbeth and they were seen having a joke, he would be an unlikely suspect.
King Duncan’s virtuous behaviour towards Macbeth may be as they have fought along side each other in previous battles and therefore learnt to trust each other, this would also help Macbeth in looking an unlikely suspect to murder the king. This makes it more dramatic as he is more likely to get away with it. It also says in the previous scene that Macbeth is a well respected man. We know this as in line 14 it reads, “O worthiest cousin!” This also shows how highly King Duncan thinks of Macbeth.
There are also many dramatic ironies within the play to intensify the drama and convey Macbeth.
Firstly the audience is aware that Macbeth shall be king and shall stop at nothing. However, the characters from within the play are unaware and think he is generally happy for Malcolm’s achievement. They have no idea he shall be king except Banquo, as he was present during the time the witches confronted them. He is also said to be very loyal, but the audience knows his loyalty shall be tested throughout the play. He was also growing murderous intentions towards king Duncan, this may intrigue the audience as they know there shall be conflict in the later scenes of the play.
Within scene four, Shakespeare emphasises the early threat made by the three weird sisters within the opening scene of the play, that appearances can be deceptive.
Once Malcolm is announced to be heir to the throne, Macbeth has murderous plots to overtake King Duncan. Lady Macbeth also had the desire for Macbeth to be king, so tried to persuade him to act as soon as possible. So therefore, in Act 2, Scene 1, he executed his plan grabbing a dagger and marching to King Duncan’s chamber where he slept. He plunged the dagger through the king’s heart and then carried on to where the servants slept. He killed them both in an attempt to frame them, however meanwhile, Malcolm and Donalbain ran away, as they believed they would get the blame.
This was handy for Macbeth as Malcolm was out of the picture and therefore Macbeth was announced king. This would cause him to look even less of a suspect for the king’s murder. If Macbeth’s first murder was not tragic enough, he decides to get Banquo and his son slaughtered, as the witches told them Banquo’s son would be king in the future and Macbeth obviously wanted his descendants to carry on the throne. This did not go to plan as Banquo’s son escaped from the murderers and ever since Banquo was killed, Macbeth lost his mind and kept seeing visions of Banquo’s ghost.
He then decides to pay another visit to the witches, where he is told three clues, firstly that no-one born from a woman can harm him, secondly that he can’t be beaten until great Birnhim wood comes to his castle and lastly to beware Macduff.
Thinking that Macduff is a threat he goes to have him executed, this was not possible though as he had ran off to England, so he decides to have his wife and kids killed instead.
This obviously infuriated him, therefore he teamed up with Malcolm and conjured up a plan to overtake Macbeth.
Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth was having a guilty conscience and committed suicide. Macbeth was very upset about this as she was the only one he was loyal to. He had already gone crazy after murdering his best friend and the murder of Lady Macbeth caused him to get worse. What he didn’t know is there was an army heading towards his castle. They all used a branch from Birnhim Woods to camouflage against Macbeth. Hence, Birnham wood was going to his castle. When they finally arrived there, there was a big battle between Macbeth and young Siward. This time Macbeth defeated him by stabbing him through the heart with his trusty dagger, but Macbeth was unaware his next challenge was much greater as he had to fight Macduff. Macbeth was under the intention he would win, as he was told no-one born from a woman could harm him, this was true but Macbeth was unaware his mother had a caesarean. Therefore Macbeth was very wrong and found that out the hard way, as after a long battle he was defeated by Macduff beheading him with his sword.
The play ends with Malcolm finally becoming the King of Scotland.
It is evident that within the play, Shakespeare has established that it is a very dramatic and tragic play. We know this as death is the greatest tragedy off all and as there were many battles and murders within the play conflict, was caused. The first sign of tragedy is when Macbeth met the witches for the first time and they told him his future. The reason this caused so much tragedy was because he was having murderous intentions, which would later on cause him to become king. I believe if the witches never showed up he would never be in that situation, as he would have never had something to aim for in life. Once Macbeth had killed king Duncan and his slaves, he thought he needed to get his best friend Banquo and his son killed, as he was with Macbeth when he told him that he was having a murderous plot over killing the King and therefore Macbeth may have found him as a threat. Another reason he needed to kill him and his son is that he wanted his own children to carry on the throne, however the witches had told them Banquo’s descendants would do so. I believe this is one of the greatest tragedies throughout the whole of the play, as Banquo was one of his best friends and Macbeth was willing to give all that up in order to get him murdered for his own safety. In some aspect I believe Macbeth is a coward.
After murdering Banquo, Macbeth turned mad and got haunted by Banquo’s ghost. This was a great turn in the play as Macbeth was once a very powerful man. The next tragedy was when Lady Macbeth committed suicide due to the guilt. Macbeth was then confronted by the three witches once again and told him to beware Macduff. So therefore he believed he should get him killed also. Unfortunately, he was said to have ran away to England where Malcolm and Donalbain hid. The reason for this is as they were going to try and defeat Macbeth, so therefore further drama and conflict would be caused.
As Macbeth could not have Macduff executed, he decided to get the closest thing to him so therefore killed his wife and kids. At this point I believe he thought he wish he had never over come the king as he would not have been in this situation. Macduff and Malcolm then gathered up an army and went to Macbeth’s castle in order to kill him. Once they arrived there was a battle between Macbeth and young Siward. Macbeth ended up defeating him after a long sword fight. After doing so there was then a final battle between Macduff and Macbeth. Macduff however won. This was once again a great tragedy as Macbeth was once a well respected and loyal man but throughout the play was hated by many due to the decisions he made. This shows that power and fame could change somebody because if the witches had never told him he would become king, many deaths would have been prevented, however, once the witches had told him, the ending was inevitable.