Textual Analysis Of “Macbeth” Essay
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In the literary world of fiction and creativity, reader audience often pays attention to the plot, development of characters, the presence of various themes and motifs emphasising the main purpose of the story narrated. It is often forgotten that text and its details create diverse imagery and atmosphere of the story and strengthen characters’ development. Paying attention to the detailed analysis of the text gives an opportunity to explore author’s intention and purpose of the story in a more advanced and sophisticated manner. Thus, the aim of this paper is to conduct a detailed textual analysis of Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth.”
The use of “double”
Except for the first mentioning of double when Macbeth and Banquo are mentioned in 1.2 “doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe,” there many other occasions when the word “double” is used (1.2). It is further used Lady Macbeth addresses Duncan and emphasises the honour of his presence t their family: “All our service,/ In every point twice done and then done double” (1.6.1-5). The next use of “double” is shown in the next scene where Macbeth thinks on the matters of his intentions regarding Duncan:
“He is here in double trust:
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself ” (1.7. 12-16).
Further, “double” is used when Macbeth addresses Macduff: “But yet I’ll make assurance double sure/ And take a bound of fate. Thou shalt not live” (4.1.86-87). Then, in the next scene, it is used for the last time: “that palter with us in a double sense” (5.8. 20). The use of “double” in the play has a certain sequential order emphasising the development of meaning. In this regard, the first two quotes are aimed to create the impression of increased efforts of a person to achieve certain goal. They also suggest the presence of duality in one’s motives for the certain actions. Although Lady Macbeth argues that her and her husband’s intentions are nothing but to be of service, the audience knows that it is just pretence and that their efforts and intentions are dual in their nature. Thus, the author uses “double” in order to emphasise the distinction between character’s real intentions and pretended ones.
This duality is further strengthened by Macbeth’s inner turmoil regarding the conflict between his dual duties to the king and his intentions. The given above passage shows the duality of Macbeth’s duty and also the duality of his own attitude to what he intends to do. He is both eager to get the crown and also wants to remain true to his warrior loyalty to the king. Thus, the initial double efforts and intentions are further developed in this passage. The next quote addressed to Macduff about “double sure” is intended to show the presence of doubt in Macbeth’s personal judgement of his own actions. In this regard, from one perspective, he intends to secure his place on the throne; from another perspective, in terms of his warrior valour, there is a little use of killing another honoured warrior, although it would be politically useful.
Finally, the last quote is a climax of the duality of Macbeth’s existence and motives for his actions. In this regard, the author shows the realisation of the duality of fate and one’s role in it. In other words, Macbeth realised that one part of his dual motives and intentions was the wrong one and that just as he was treacherous and two-faced with Duncan so was the fate with him. Overall, it can be concluded that the use of “double” and the sequential location of those quotes in the text are aimed at emphasising the evolution of the character in understanding the duality of human actions and motives. It also shows that the choice between two intentions inevitably leads to a different fate. Thus, Macbeth’s choice of personal gain over warrior’s duty led to his collapse instead of valour.
Similarities between Macduff and Macbeth
In the first encounter with Macduff, he seems to be the same as Macbeth when he first met witches. He appears to be a devoted warrior of his kind, who fulfils his duty and does not care about anything else but valour on the battlefield and fulfilling his duty. He speaks only in terms of his main purpose. His phrases are short and strict, yet they reflect certain duality of his actions just as in the case of Macbeth: “He did command me to call timely on him./I have almost slipped the hour” (2.3. 19-20). He both shows what his duty is but also that he is a mere human being that can make mistakes and might not like certain aspects of his duty, which is further shown in his characterisation of the duty of hosting the king: “I know this is a joyful trouble to you,/ But yet ’tis one” (2.3. 22-23). He is sincere in stating that hosting a king is both an honour and trouble. It is a practical confession of a dutiful warrior and king’s vassal. Irrespective of this critical confession, Macduff is a dutiful servant and is sincerely shocked by king’s death: “Confusion now hath made his masterpiece/Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope” (2.3. 40-41).
On the other hand, Macbeth is shown in his new evolved personality of a traitor and not warrior he used to be. He shows none of sincerity in his words; he only speaks politely in order to prevent any suspicion. Regarding the burden of hosting the king, he says “The labor we delight in physics pain./This is the door” (2.3.23-24). Unlike Macduff, Macbeth is no longer warrior and a servant of the king, he knows that he no longer serves anyone but himself. That is why his phrases are very cold and strict; the same is his reaction to Macduff’s announcement of king’s death: “What is ’t you say? “The life”? ” (2.3.43). The difference between Macduff and Macbeth in this scene is that the first one is sincere in his duty to the king and the second one is only playing the role of a servant, who knows he had betrayed his king.
Looking across the play, it can be argued that the primary distinction between Macduff and Macbeth is that they observe the world from different perspectives. Macbeth irrespective of the stages of the development of his personality or rather its degradation is always self-centred. He is paranoid about Banquo as a threat to his rule:
“He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valor
Whose being I do fear, and under him
My Genius is rebuked” (3.1.56-59).
Macbeth is not worried about anything but his own personal rule. He is not thinking in terms of continuation of his bloodline or making what is best for his people and the country. He is driven by his own personal motives. In contrast, Macduff is an ultimate patriot of his country, who was ready to sacrifice his own family and property for the sake of Scotland. He thinks only in terms of what is best for his country: “As if it felt with Scotland and yelled out/Like syllable of dolor” (4.3.7-8). Thus, although both Macduff and Macbeth started as warriors and loyal vassals of their king, they had different personal traits and inner core. While Macduff was a devoted follower of his duty and craved for no more than that, Macbeth was characterised by the inner duality of duty and personal interests, which eventually resulted in his personal destruction.
The Importance of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth scene 3.2
Although it can be argued that this scene is not crucial for the plot development in the play, it remains crucial for demonstrating the development of the main characters and changes in their world perception. In this regard, this scene is vital to show how the fulfilment of one’s evil dreams at the cost of one’s life does not bring any satisfaction or peace. In this dialogue, Macbeth’s tragic fate is shown through his realisation of the on-going necessity to kill everyone on his way to secure the throne. This scene is vital to demonstrate how a single evil deed resulted in the transformation of one’s virtue into the abyss of evil:
“Good things of day begin to droop and drowse:
Whiles night’s black agents to their preys do rouse.
Thou marvel’st at my words: but hold thee still.
Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill” (3.2.54-57).
Furthermore, this scene is a key to demonstrating the duality of Macbeth’s actions and intentions that are shown in further in the play. Through Macbeth’s dialogue with his wife, the author demonstrates how the main character’s strategy of keeping his throne and the mask he and his wife need to wear in front of the public. It serves as certain revelation of the main character’s inner world, since Lady Macbeth is the only person he can trust under those circumstances. The true feelings of Macbeth and his fear of treason and constant turmoil are expressed through his envy to the dead king Duncan who can finally rest in peace, but Macbeth cannot:
“Duncan is in his grave.
After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.
Treason has done his worst; nor steel nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing
Can touch him further” (3.2.25-29).
Thus, without this scene, the primary message from the author and the true inner tragedy of Macbeth would be more difficult to demonstrate in depth through the rest of the play. This scene with Lady Macbeth serves as a glimpse of Macbeth’s inner struggle. The absence of this scene would create unnecessary disputes about Macbeth’s inner perception of his actions and psychological degradation; it also shows the depth of personal tragedy and its realisation by Macbeth. Regarding the location of the scene, it is ideal because it demonstrates how after crossing the line and taking one’s life, the main character turned from a good and loyal vassal into an evil traitor driven by his own motives. This scene is a borderline between Macbeth before the murder and after, showing his realisation of the fact of the murder and also acceptance of his fate and responsibility as the main villain in the play. Therefore, this scene could be placed anywhere else in the play.
Macbeth’s second encounter with witches
In the second encounter with witches, they were no longer in the position of power of fate as in the first encounter. In this regard, in the first case witches told the prophecy just because they wanted to do so and not because Macbeth asked them. They simply threw the prophecy at him: “All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” (1.3.51). On the other hand, in the second encounter, Macbeth is in charge and is the one who demands another prophecy: “answer me/ To what I ask you” (4.1.61-62). In terms of Macbeth’s fate it can be argued that during the first encounter witches through a choice on him regarding the prophesised fate, while during the second encounter he had already chosen his fate and he was demeaning for the further predictions of its outcome.
Another distinctive change in the witches’ speech in the second encounter is that they make prophecies more metaphorical in order to distort the actual meaning while in the first case their statements were laconic and exact. For instance, the prophecy of Macbeth’s death is given in a very sophisticated and vague manner: “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until/Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill/Shall come against him.” (4.1.96-98). It can be argued that since Macbeth demanded a prophecy, witches gave him it the way he wanted. However, the form in which they demonstrated it to him prove that once he had chosen his fate, there was no turning back, no matter what his will was.
Regarding the change of Macbeth’s speech in two encounters, his initial impression of witches was that they were not real and that they might have been a result of his imagination: “Speak, if you can: what are you?” (1.3.48). On the other hand in their second encounter, he is convinced that they are real because their prophecies came true. They become simple means for him to look into his future and act accordingly. To a certain extent, while in the first encounter Macbeth distances himself from the world of supernatural creatures considering them being a possible illusion or devil’s temptation, in the second, he perceives them as his allies and supporters of his chosen fate, irrespective of their origin: “Whate’er thou art, for thy good caution, thanks./Thou hast harped my fear aright. But one word more” (4.1.75-77).
In general, Macbeth’s speech in the second encounter shows his increased reliance on the supernatural help in his future actions, which can be explained by his growing fear that was mentioned in the last quote above. In this regard, it is shown that Macbeth’s reliance on the real world factors because everything in terms of morality, politics and justice was against Macbeth and his claims for the throne. This shift in perception of witches also demonstrates further degradation of Macbeth’s personality and the loss of any moral framework for actions: “But yet I’ll make assurance double sure,/And take a bond of fate. Thou shalt not live” (4.1.86-87). Thus, Macbeth’s psychological state reached the point where he no longer had a rational judgment of his actions and needed supernatural advice to guide his actions. Thus, irrespective of his demanding tone and change of discourse in the second encounter, Macbeth became completely depended on the supernatural world and by doing so he entirely capitulated to his tragic fate.
Lady Macbeth meets Lady Macduff
At a first glance, the two women have little in common, since their husbands are rivals and stand for different values, so the two women as direct supporters of their husbands should also be entirely different. On the other hand, except for Lady Macbeth being an embodiment of all evils, and Lady Macduff demonstrating sincere female virtues, the two women do have other features in common. First of all, both women considered family to be the core of their lives and argued that the primary role of their husbands was to protect and promote the interest of their families rather than feudal, warrior duties and protection of one’s country. In this regard, Lady Macbeth convinces her husband to kill the king for the sake of their family. She achieves this by appealing to masculine pride of being a man and beholder of his word:
“When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both” (1.7. 49-52).
In other words, she appeals to Macbeth’s masculinity and his family duty of being a great man who could make his family and bloodline go even further beyond time and space. In a similar way, Lady Macduff is also concerned with the family duties of her husband. It is shown in her angry assessment of her husband’s decision to go abroad abandoning his family behind:
“Wisdom! To leave his wife, to leave his babes,
His mansion and his titles in a place
In this passage, just as Lady Macbeth, Lady Macduff challenges her husband’s masculinity and credibility as a head of the family and the ruler of his lands. In this regard, this passage shows that because of his actions she does not consider his as a loyal husband, ruler and father of his children. He loses his masculinity in her eyes. In this regard, both women are shown as strong characters that are ready to do anything for their families, and they both perceive their husbands being less devoted to the family goals and thus losing their primary masculine feature – the ability to protect their families. In a certain sense, by challenging masculinity of their husbands, both women demonstrate strong features of character. If husbands of these two women were not rivals, both women could become close allies, although they have different approaches to achieving their goals: Lady Macbeth would kill for her family’s prosperity, and Lady Macduff would die to save her family. However, both women viewed their families as the only reason for their lives.
One of the particular features of Shakespeare is that he uses inconsistencies and sometimes even opposing features in a single character. In this regard, Macbeth can be characterised to possess the duality of braveness and fearfulness, while Hamlet possesses the contradiction of sanity and insanity. In the case of Macbeth, his initial stage is characterised by the bravery of a warrior who followed his duty. In this regard, he knew exactly what he had to do in terms of his duty: “For brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name –/Disdaining fortune, with his brandishes steel” (1.2.16-17). In this regard, Macbeth’s courage and fearlessness in the battlefield are demonstrated in the context of his duty of serving his king and protecting his interests. The positive side of his virtue flourishes in the context of the normal course of events and duty of the feudal order.
In case of Hamlet, his positive side of the inconsistency also is shown under ordinary circumstances, when the world order seems to follow its normal pace and no trouble is expected to happen. In other words, Hamlet is logical and rational according to his natural features of character that are not distorted by ghost’s revelation. Thus, Hamlet as described to have a normal life as a student before his father’s death. The remnant of that normality and sanity in him shown when he addressed Horatio suggesting that by the time he left the place he would be shown how to drink a lot. In this regard, in both cases of Hamlet and Macbeth, the author shows the positive side of their duality in terms of the normal circumstances before their final decision were made, and the cycle of fate started.
Only after the witches’ prophecy and ghost’s revelation, both main characters are changing from the positive side of their virtue to a negative one, developing inconsistent features with their initial positive virtues. In a certain sense, the author demonstrates how one’s personality can be corrupted under the pressure of circumstances and unexpected factors of supernatural origin. In the case of Macbeth, his first sense of fear starts with witches’ prophecy, because he is afraid that his deepest desires that contradicted his duty and consequent courage would be said aloud: “Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear/Things that do sound so fair” (1.3.52-53). Macbeth develops the feature of fear because he knows that his intentions are against his duty and his initial virtue of warrior bravery. Thus, the author creates the contradiction of features in one character based on one’s facing the duality of the inconsistency of a single decision with one’s previous world overview.
The same is the case with Hamlet, since after ghost’s revelation; he loses the initial clarity of the reality around him. There is no logic in the world that help him understand why his father was killed by his brother and Hamlet’s mother married two months after her beloved husband died. All these events and ghost’s quest for revenge could not fit into Hamlet’s initial overview of the word in its rational framework. He had to invent his own type of insanity in order to accept that reality and cope with it. In a certain sense, both Hamlet and Macbeth accepted the other side of their virtue in order to cope with their decisions and consequent fates that were imposed on them at their birth. In other words, through this prescription of contradiction to each character Shakespeare demonstrates how people can change under the influence of circumstances and how in order to cope with these circumstances they have to change irrespective whether they like it or not. This corresponds to Shakespeare phrase that the world is a stage, and everyone is performing a role.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. London: Palgrave
MacMillan. 2009. Print.
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