Macbeth

    As one of Shakespeare’s shortest and most popular plays, Macbeth has been acted and filmed in great numbers. It is a play that can easily be transformed to make it relevant for modern audiences. Macbeth is considered a jinxed play. Because of its dark and supernatural elements, professional and amateur actors feel that a spell has been cast over the play. Jon Finch who played the part of Macbeth in Polanski’s film said:

    Witches Witchcraft # People have been accused of practicing witchcraft as early as Egyptian and Roman times. Early Christians persecuted many innocent people who rejected their beliefs for sorcery; as wizards, warlocks or witches. The first recorded victim was Hypatia, a Greek mathematician, astronomer, inventor, and philosopher in Egypt, then a part of the Eastern Roman Empire. She was the head of the Neoplatonic school at Alexandria, where she taught philosophy and astronomy.

    Macbeth # We must remember that **character creation **is a construct; an artefact and central ones do not necessarily represent the author. Characters are either portrayed sympathetically or unsympathetically. The former are called protagonists, heroes or good guys while the latter are antagonists, villains or bad guys. Macbeth goes through a transformation; initially portrayed glowingly as brave and loyal, but then slowly degenerating into a despised evil tyrant. What do the following quotes tell us about the changing perspectives in the character of Macbeth?

    Context and Background - Macbeth # The play Macbeth was first performed for King James VI of Scotland also James I of England in 1606. It is based on Raphael Holinshead’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland dramatising the reign and assassination of the Scottish King Duncan I, in 1040. Duncan had reigned for six years before he was overthrown by one of his generals, Macbeth, who then ruled Scotland from 1040 - 1057 when he was defeated by an English force led by Duncan’s son, Malcolm III.

    Dramatic Technique in Macbeth #  Shakespeare uses a number of clever dramatic devices to keep us engaged in the action of Macbeth. Here are a number of them: The historical Macbeth ruled for about 16 years yet we get the impression everything happens in about a week. It is this compression of time that creates energy keeping us on edge. Some of the action is given to us second hand, such as Macbeth’s heroic battle against the forces of Norway.

    Language features in Macbeth: # There is only one reason why Shakespeare’s plays are still alive and read 400 years after they were written; his mastery of clear, powerful visual language. As we have seen most of his plots are not original, but it is ability to revitalise old stories and histories, shape them into compelling dramas with syncopated plots and revitalise them with resonant forceful language that still appeals to us today.

    Macbeth Performances # Macbeth is Shakespeare’s most performed play. Its popularity is due to several factors, it is short, it deals realistically with issues that are eternal and it contains references to Witches, Ghosts and Murder. Macbeth was first performed in 1606 and there is evidence that King James I attended at least one performance. While directors do not normally adapt the text, they often do update the performances by costumes.

    Themes, concerns revealed through motifs # The meanings of a play emerge indirectly or implicitly via the vicarious personal involvement or identification and empathy of us the responders. Meaning can also be derived from recurring Motifs, which unify the plot and provide clues to the composer’s underlying concerns in creating meaning through patterns of design. Shakespeare embodies the moral relativism of the Post-Modernists. One can never be sure whose side he is on.

    The Tyrannicide Brief # King James I, the father of Charles I, was a Stuart who succeeded Elizabeth I in 1603, staunchly believing in the Absolute Power of Monarchs and the Divine Right of Kings. This is his speech to parliament on 21^(st) of March 1610: Kings are justly called Gods for that they exercise a manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth. For if you will consider the attributes of God, you shall see how they agree in the person of a King.

    Tyranny # *“The road to tyranny is paved with pebbles of silence, fear of others, division, lies, national myths of imaginary threats, and the coarsening of rhetoric.” *Richard Flanagan. Macbeth can be seen as a play that illustrates the acquisition of power by a good man who becomes corrupted by the lust for total unleashed control. As Lord Acton asserted * “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. * The Play illustrates the Latin phrase:* ****libido dominandi*** , an insatiable lust for power and dominance.