Act one.‘Desert place’ creates a sense of isolation and wildness. Lack of morality. Moral depravity. ‘Otherness’.The absence of moral orientation. The aridity of the place reflects the moral emptiness of the witches.A student suggested that the otherness of the terroritory also reflects the supernatural powers of the three witches, as it is unnatural in its separation from society.A contaminated place where ‘fair is foul’. The subversion of values foreshadows Macbeth’s predilection for evil. He is susceptible to this contaminating paradox because he meets the witches in a place beyond society. His first words show his deep connection to the witches even before he literally meets them. ‘ So foul and fair a day I have not seen.‘ Dramatic irony as the audience recognises the synchronicity between the evil witches and Macbeth.Desert place, A place beyond moral government and control. Ironically, Banquo’s fate is irrevocably linked to that of the witches. In a way, they sign his death warrant metaphorically in the third scene.Duncan’s first words, ‘what bloody man is that?‘ Are heavily ironic as he fails to recognise his fate is sealed with ‘blood’. When Cawdor dies a brave traitor, Duncan bestows the title on Macbeth, thus exchanging one betrayal for another. Lacks worldiness?‘Brave Macbeth‘. The good version of Macbeth is linked to his valiant behaviour on the battlefield. This aspect returns at the close of the play when Macduff kills him. Also, foreground the excellent reputation of Macbeth before he succumbs to temptation. Macbeth thus ‘falls’ morally into darkness after his encounter with the witches who make him ‘start’ as they seem to recognise his secret ambition to be King.When Macbeth given the title of Cawdor, Banquo’s words give sinister weight to the witches games, ‘ the devil speak true.’ The prescience of Banquo. Recognises the poisonous implications of the witches’ supernatural ‘soliciting’.Macbeth use of the first ‘aside‘ gives an insight into his secret yearnings. ‘Present fears are less than horrible imaginings.’ He is unsettled : agitated imaginatively and ethically by the witches’ prophecies.Duncan dangerously innocent after hearing of Cawdor’s brave death.” There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.”How effective is Duncan as a ruler? Names Malcolm as heir and then says he will stay with Macbeth in his castle. Fate? Foolishness?‘ Stars, hide your fires.‘ Macbeth feels exposed. His secret ambitions may be obvious to those around him. Guilt. Secrecy again.Nightmarish world of duplicity and dark desires.
Act One Scene Five.Lady Macbeth reading a letter.Very important dramatic device. Allows audience access to her intimacy with Macbeth and the way she processes the subtext of the letter. Creates anticipation.Why does her husband write to inform her of the witches? Plants the seeds of his own machinations in her mind before he arrives home. If they are close, surely he knows her likely reactions? ‘ My dearest partner of greatness.’ Flattery. Highly persuasive and knowing. ‘ full of the milk of human kindness’ does this seem literally true? Macbeth a warrior. Yet establishes the depth of their intimacy and their dependency. Macbeth is possibly priming his wife for the advice he needs to hear, namely that he should kill Duncan and not wait for the Kingship to fall more naturally into his hands.A messenger announces the King’s impending arrival.‘Thou’rt mad to say it.’ Coincidence seems fateful. Designed.‘The raven himself is hoarse that crow’s the fatal entrance of Duncan under my settlements’.Portents. Foreshadowing murder. No amount of warning can stop the inevitable.An insane desire for power. ‘Unsex me here’. Wants to be an undermining being so she can defy the traits of her sex.
‘My dearest love, Duncan comes here tonight’. Code? What is really communicated? Really suggesting that they should assassinate the King. Indirect. Both manipulate each other and this seems an essential aspect of their passionate relationship.
The dominance of Lady Macbeth could be exciting for them both? ‘Leave all the rest to me ‘. The warrior on the Battlefield follows his wife’s orders and impulses at home? Highly transgressive. Maybe he enjoys her power? Would offend audiences at the time, however. Female subversion of male authority. Unnatural. Lady Macbeth a monstruous woman.Heavy irony. Banquo remarking on the guest of summer. ‘Martlet …The air is delicate’. Appearances and reality. Subterfuge. Dramatic irony as we know the connotations of Duncan’s stay. His foolish trust as a guest of the conspiratorial couple.Scene 7.Very important scene as we are privileged to overhear Macbeth’s procrastination over the murder.’ If we’re done when ‘ tis done’.Ruminations reveal Macbeth is torn morally. The threat of damnation. We’d jump the life to come. Avoid retribution if there is no hell.‘We’ ll proceeded no further in this business’. Macbeth Falters. Moral high ground. Seeming hiatus. Or direct invitation to his wife? Cajoling him again?Lady Macbeth intervenes. The brutality of her speeches about dashing brains out of suckling baby.The murder of Duncan is their terrible creation. Murder a bloody consummation of their affection. Maybe compensates for their evil?Her teasing him about manliness reaches deep into his psyche. Perhaps issues around his potency?Jittery. Their closeness makes him vulnerable to manipulation. But could be mutual. He wants her to persuade him? ‘ I’d we should fail? ‘ connection between violence and eroticism.Plot agreed. Fundamentally flawed as simplistic. Lady Macbeth lacks imagination and fails to recognise that recognise her plan overlooks the intelligence of the other nobles.
Act Two.Torches. The atmosphere of nightmare.‘Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?’Hallucination. The first? Temptation becomes visually solid? Cathartic release. It ratifies his decision. Coalesces his desire to kill.Tension. ‘ to heaven, or to hell.’Jittery. The connivance of Lady Macbeth.Finality.’ I have done the deed’. Inescapable act. Blood. ‘Sorry sight.’‘Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep.’.The sense of innocence destroyed. Foreshadowing of Lady Macbeth’s fate at the end. Insomnia. Haunted by guilt.Regicide put the couple beyond redemption.
Lady Macbeth practical. Her pragmatism fails to acknowledge the psychological implications of guilt.‘Wash this filthy witness from your hand’.. insensitive to Macbeth. Again irony is that she will be mentally ruined by her actions.‘Give me the daggers’. Arrogance. Dismissive of Macbeth. The illusion of power on her part.‘ The sleeping and the dead are but pictures. ‘ she fails to recognise consequences of actions. Trite. And the attempt to slur and blame others, a dismal failure.The connection between Macbeth and his wife. Even their language and choice of image reciprocal. ‘Will all great Neptunes ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?’ Anticipates the repetitive cleaning of hands by Lady Macbeth at the end of the play.
Porter scene.Return to the ordinary world after extremity of the preceding scenes. Knocking at the gate. Reality comes knocking. Only moments of humour in play?Macduff. ‘ horror, horror horror.’ Shows he is a nobleman. Anticipates Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness.The irony of addressing Lady Macbeth ‘gentle lady.’ Shows how dangerously manipulative she is.Banque perhaps a little more astute.‘In our house?‘Lady Macbeth says lamely.‘Too cruel anywhere’. Banquo notices the incongruity of her reaction. Theatrical.Then distrust heightened by Macbeth righteous fury in killing the drugged servants.‘Wherefore did you so?’ Maduff is suspicious.Lady Macbeth faints opportunistically, just when awkward questions being asked.‘Look to the lady’. Macduff. Diversionary tactic by Lady Macbeth.‘There’s daggers in men’s smiles.’ Malcolm and Donalbain flee. Conviction that terror everywhere. Suspicious.Act Three.Banquo voices suspicious thoughts in soliloquy. ‘ thou hast it now, all.‘ Process shows suspects Macbeth has ‘ play’dst most foully for it.’ Yet stays loyal. Contaminating effect of witches. Lack of self protection and judgement?
‘ Our fears in Banquo.‘ Macbeth plotting against Banquo. Isolated Lady Macbeth who is not informed.Excluded out of protection or punishment? Suggesting the end of their intimacy.Irony that in killing Duncan, they really kill their marriage and love for each other. Festering thoughts. Contaminating again. ‘ a fruitless crown.’Murderers. Incites them to kill. Becoming a degraded version of his’noble’ self. Moral deterioration.Associated with the evil of the fall. The serpent. Devil. ‘ we have scorched the snake, not killed it.’‘O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!’Very dark, powerful image. Communicates terrible state of Macbeth s mind and his association of his torment with his ‘dear wife.’ Could be a plea, admonishment and blame. Or all three?Irony of the most miserable wedding feast?‘The table’s full.’‘Never shake thy gory locks at me.’Audience privileged to know what Macbeth is facing. Uneasy intimacy. Exclusion of his wife.‘Are you a man? ‘Suggestion of her potency jibe again a in but also something more existential. That humanity has been drained from the play. Falling into rampant inhumanity and moral collapse.‘What man dare, I dare.’ Mental fit. Why is Banquo haunting Macbeth rather than Duncan? King cannot be degraded on stage or is it that betrayal of Banquo spiritually greater as his best friend?Recurring trope. Imagery. ‘Blood will have blood.’Lennox suspects Macbeth.’men must not walk late. ‘ oxymoronic.’ tyrant’s feast’Tension mounting. Sense of claustrophobia. Moral degradation. Fear.
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