Macbeth full quote analysis scene by scene

Act 1 Scene 1 One of the ways that Shakespeare presents the witches as disturbing, supernatural beings is through the use of pathetic fallacy. The stage directions refer to ‘thunder and lightning’ which connote evil and foreboding.
‘Desert place’ and metre A1S1 Shakespeare immediately introduces the theme of deception with the ambiguous line ‘when shall we three meet again?’, here Shakespeare’s deviates from his traditional iambic metre to trochaic tetrameter perhaps to foreshadow that the witches will deviate from morality and truth. Moreover the metre implies that the witches have deviated from wider society through their rejection of the conventional iambic or prose metre. The idea of deviation and alienation is emphasised through the fact that the Witches meet in a ‘desert place’, the adjective ‘desert’ denotes that the heath is removed from the abundance and warmth of the court, this may be seen as a reflection of the Witches rejection of Christian morality. Alternatively the ‘desert place’ may represent the Witches deviation from a reproductive role indicating a similar ‘barrenness’ to the landscape, sequentially their inability to conceive or unwillingness to may be the driving factor in their actions as they are unable to achieve power under patriarchal and feudal models.
The structure of A1S1 The alien nature of the Witches is emphasised through the structure of the first scene, during which each of the Three Witches speaks three times, the reduplication of three advances triune imagery, this is paired with the use of rhyming couplets invokes both finality and power of rhyme.
Reverse parallelism in A1S1 Similarly, Shakespeare constructs the Witches to demonstrate that the suppression of women leads to chaos, this is exemplified in the chiasmus ‘fair is foul, and foul is fair’, the reverse parallelism and inversion of the language may represent the ways in which the Witches invert the natural order and come symbolise the subversion of what is morally good, the Witches are the agents of a chaotic world.
‘Foul’, ‘Fair’, ‘Filthy’, ‘Fog’ Alternatively Shakespeare’s use of the paradoxical language and oxymorons of ‘foul’, ‘fair’, ‘filthy fog’ may illustrate that the Witches have abnormal logic which is ambiguous and deliberately confusing. This use of equivocation is reinforced through the image of ‘filthy fog’ which suggests that the dirty, disgusting, wicked and immoral are ubiquitous, always present within society but obscured from vision. The malevolent atmosphere is furthered through the fricative alliteration of ‘f’ sounds, highlighting the violence of the Witches.
‘Fortune’, ‘fate’, ‘valour’ The Captain’s description of Macbeth in battle highlights two key characteristics: his bravery and his violence which are emphasised through the introduction of the theme of fate. ‘Fortune’ and ‘valour’ are both personified as virtues that Macbeth either rejects or is the vassal of. Macbeth is described as the recipient of ‘disdaining fortune [which] show’d like a rebel’s whre’. Explicitly fate is described as being on the side of rebels but the negative connotations of the gendered noun ‘whre’, perhaps suggest that the corruption of women is responsible for the Scottish Civil War. We may take this to be a suggestion of the power of the witches over mankind, perhaps they have previously exploited the former Thane of Cawdor, alternatively, the noun ‘wh*re’ may hint at a figure similar to what Lady Macbeth. Ironically Macbeth becomes ‘valour’s minion’, he has become the manifestation of bravery, however, when he meets the Witches, he shows no such honour, instead he becomes the vehicle of his own ‘vaulting ambition’.
‘Smoked with bloody excecution’ Shakespeare employs vivid imagery to capture Macbeth’s violence and power on the battle field, his sword is described as having ‘smoked with bloody execution’ denoting that the blood on Macbeth’s sword is so hot that it is evaporating in the cold Scottish air. Similarly the verb ‘carve’ illustrates Macbeth’s precision as a soldier, invoking the idea of butchery. However it subtly connotes that Macbeth does not see his victims as fully human, like meat to be ‘carved’ the enemy are depersonalised. In this interpretation we may question if this idea extends beyond the battle field, like meat, the death of the enemy may only satiate Macbeth’s bloodlust for a short period of time. What distinguishes Macbeth’s bloodlust in the field to wider society is that his conscience vetos a desire for violence yet, on the battlefield the killing is viewed as justified and therefore morally acceptable, perhaps the Witches only stimulate Macbeth to rationalise his violence, thus believing it is justified.
‘Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe’ The Captain describes Macbeth as having ‘doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe’, the lexical repetition of ‘double’ complements the description of Macbeth’s relentless assault on the enemy but also alludes to the theme of deception. ‘The foe’ is taken to be the Norwegian army, however this is not confirmed, an alternative reading may imply that this line is constructed to foreshadow that will be Duncan that is Macbeth’s enemy, further supported by the later lexical repetition of the Witches’ line ‘double double toil and trouble’.
‘Two spent swimmers’ Shakespeare introduces the motif of drowning through the Captain’s description of the civil war: ‘doubtful it stood as two spent swimmers, that do cling together and choke their art’. This simile refers to ‘two spent swimmers’, initially these figures seem to represent the exhausted Scottish and Norwegian armies, however, the idea of “drowning” in blood is a recurring motif throughout Macbeth’s reign, perhaps simile is constructed to foreshadow the moral decline of the Macbeths
Epithet and the reversal of fate of Macbeth in A1S2 The scene ends with Duncan giving the honour of the Thane of Cawdor to Macbeth. Here we see another positive epithet for ‘noble Macbeth’, echoing the opening epithet ‘brave Macbeth’. Shakespeare grounds this epithet in antithetical parallelism ‘what he hath gained noble Macbeth hath won’, the reversal of the parallelism may convey the reversal in fortunes for the two thanes.
The Witches’ distain towards society Shakespeare shows the resentment that the Witches have towards society through their characterisation of a sailor’s wife. The Witch says ‘ she munch’d, munch’d, munch’d’ […]”aroin’t thee witch!” the rump-fed ronyon cries’, the texture of the language, the repetition harsh sounds of ‘munch’d’ and the ‘r’s create the impression that the wife is one of the ‘swine’ that the previous witch has just killed.
The Witches an power However, even the Witches’ plan to take revenge may be futile, reflecting her helpless station in society. A sieve is a small boat and the Witch announces that she is going to sail it on her own, which is presumably unlikely to happen. The simile ‘like a rat without a tail’ perhaps reinforces the notion that she is powerless because, without the use of a tail, the rat is imbalanced and rendered disabled. The idea of helplessness is reinforced through the epizuxis of ‘I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do’, a delineation that the Witch is unable to name what action she will take once she meets the sailor showing her ineffectiveness.
‘Such foul and fair a day I have not seen’ Like the Witches, Macbeth is introduced as a character that deviates from the natural order as his first line is an echo of Witches incantation ‘such foul and fair a day I have not seen’. The antithetical adjectives ‘foul and fair’ coexist together within the same sentence implying that Macbeth has certain duality of nature. Such duality is evident in the intertextual link to the Witches ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’, here Shakespeare employs chiasmus, such inversion of the language may represent the ways in which the Witches invert the natural order and come symbolise the subversion of what is ethical. The verbal echo of ‘fair and foul’ creates a parallel between Macbeth and the Witches, this may connote that Macbeth believes in a subverted ethical system. This idea is reinforced through another form of parallelism in ‘cannot be ill, cannot be good’, the juxtaposition of ‘ill’ and ‘good’ is reminiscent of the opening ‘foul and fair’, perhaps this illustrates the cyclical nature of Macbeth’s thought pattern, showing that these thoughts are not merely an introduction by the Witches but a fundamental part of his psyche. Alternatively, we may see the Witches as a manifestation or projection of Macbeth’s subconscious evil intent.
‘All hail Macbeth that shalt be king hereafter’ Shakespeare introduces loyalty as imperative to the success of a king. This is exemplified through the Witches greeting ‘all hail’, a roman salutation and intertextual allusion to the line ‘hail Caesar’ of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Caesar may represent the figure of the tyrant as he held power that was not legitimised by the people or by the senate, consequently he was assassinated by senators in 44 BC. This allusion indicates that Macbeth will resemble Caesar in a tyrannical dictatorship, however, it also posits that a ruler’s power is contingent on their subjects reciprocating loyalty, thereby validating power. This message may have been intended for King James, acting as a signifier that he should ensure the loyalty of his court if he was to have a successful reign.
‘Why do you start and seem to fear things that sound so fair’ This duality of nature may be represented by the Witches and by Banquo. After the first meeting with the Witches, Banquo immediately asks ‘why do you start, and seem to fear things that do sound so fair’, the verb ‘start’ implies that Macbeth has been shaken by the meeting, perhaps to the extent that he is subconsciously considering regicide. Further, Banquo’s perceptiveness lends itself to the idea that Banquo is a manifestation of Macbeth’s moral consciousness, following this, the Witches may be seen as a symbol of Macbeth’s evil intent.
‘Let’s after him […] he is a peerless kinsman’ ‘Let’s after him […] he is a peerless kinsman’; this line indicates that just as Duncan misplaced his trust in the old Thane of Cawdor, he is about to do so again.
Duncan’s leadership One of the interesting ambiguities that Shakespeare creates is that Duncan is an ineffective ruler. Under his leadership there has been a civil war, during which he ‘built an absolute trust’ on the disloyal Thane of Cawdor, indicating that he has failed as a ruler to see men who may be ambitious before he is betrayed. Additionally he has high, noble sentiments, ‘more is due than all one can pay’, but these sentiments are frequently in contrast to his decisions ‘Malcom, whom we name thee hereafter the Prince of Cumberland’.
Duncan and the court ‘But stars of nobleness , like stars, shall shine on all deservers’, this simile conveys the universality of Duncan’s gifts, they are not confined within his family but are owed to ‘all deservers’. Duncan’s good nature is reinforced through the use of sibilance which overwhelms this line.
The letter in Macbeth The letter is written in prose, perhaps to allude to the influence that the Witches have had on Macbeth’s psyche. Macbeth’s acceptance of his ambition is evident in the powerful verbs chosen by Shakespeare ‘burned in desire’, ‘stood rapt’.There is a definite sense here of the love that Macbeth feels for his wife, she is his ‘dearest partner in greatness’, and he does not want her to ‘lose the dues of rejoicing, by being ignorant of what greatness is promised thee’.
shalt be king hereafter Lady Macbeth’s use of the modal verb ‘shalt’, in ‘shalt be what thou art promised’, shows her certainty that Macbeth will be king.
The dagger in Macbeth The ‘dagger’ that Macbeth visualises before he assassinates Duncan may symbolise the division of the self that regicide causes, his ambition causes him to split from his conscience.
‘What thou wouldst highly, though wouldst holily’ Shakespeare’s use of chiasmus, ‘What thou wouldst highly, though wouldst holily’, complements the way in which Lady Macbeth feels that Macbeth’s desire of ‘high’ status is antithetical to his wish to be moral, to be ‘holy’. The use of inversion hints that she believes this to be an inversion of the correct approach to ambition, which requires ‘the illness to attend it’.
‘wouldst not play false, and yet wouldst wrongly win’ The contradictions of Macbeth’s character are evident in the lines ‘wouldst not play false, and yet wouldst wrongly win’. Lady Macbeth asserts that Macbeth does not want to cheat, deceive through ‘play[ing] false’ yet he wants to ‘win’ something that he has no right to, the crown. The oxymoronic nature of these two clauses indicates Lady Macbeth’s belief that Macbeth’s position is illogical and naive.
Lady Macbeth and euphemism Despite the clarity of Lady Macbeth’s beliefs regarding ‘what needs to be done’, throughout her soliloquy, she uses euphemisms such as ‘thus’, ‘that’, ‘it’ and ‘the nearest way’ to refer to the murder, regicide is too horrific to name explicitly.
Lady Macbeth’s power ‘valour of my tongue’ The synecdoche ‘my tongue’ represents the entirety of Lady Macbeth’s character, more particularly her ‘valour’. It is significant that Shakespeare draws the audiences attention to Lady Macbeth’s ‘tongue’ as this represents that her ‘valour’ and power is concentred wholly in her words.
‘Make thick my blood’ ‘Make thick my blood’, the noun ‘blood’ would have been associated with the theory of the four humours, blood was associated with affection; to thicken the blood would restrict this.
‘Murdring ministers’, ‘sightless substances’ The strange nature of the spirits is conveyed through Lady Macbeth’s use of alliteration, ‘murdering ministers’, and consonance of sibilant sounds, ‘sightless substances’.
The power of the supernatural in Macbeth Lady Macbeth does not call on the power of the Witches, she calls them ‘spirits’ this causes the audience to question the motive of the ‘spirits’ as it is a neutral term. Interestingly, their power is derived from ‘tending on mortal thoughts’, this is an admission that supernatural power is not legitimate, instead it is constructed in the minds of superstitious societies. By extension, we could argue that Shakespeare’s aim is to change Society’s view of women. The conventional view may be to suggest that Lady Macbeth’s suicide is retribution for her cruel actions but this could be an attack of the patriarchal power structure because she turns to suicide because she has been denied power.
Femininity in Macbeth Additionally, Shakespeare makes a direct assertion that the ability to be ‘cruel’ is not inclusive of women. In distancing herself from femininity by calling on spirits to ‘unsex’ her, Lady distances herself from the expectations of a woman, using ‘cruelty’ to reflect the archetypal politically ambitious man. The fact that Shakespeare reverts to this, signals that women are unable to access the power that men have without dispensing of their womanhood.
The motif of darkness Lady Macbeth embraces ‘thick night’ as it can hide her intended crimes. ‘Night’ is associated with evil yet it is sought by Lady Macbeth. She seeks absolute and foul darkness, using the superlative ‘dunnest’, to mean darkest, and ‘pall’, a cloth spread over a dead body. The metaphor ‘blanket of the dark’ further illustrates Lady Macbeth’s evil intent, a ‘blanket’ often comes with connotations of warmth and comfort yet here t Lady Macbeth derives such comfort from ‘darkness’.
‘To cry hold hold’ The quote ‘to cry ‘hold, hold” is a deliberate foreshadowing of Macbeth’s final lines ‘damned be he who first cries ‘hold hold, enough!”, he echoes Lady Macbeth’s final words, this means that Macbeth is influenced by his wife. This points to a psychological explanation for his behaviour not the fact that the Witches have manipulated him as much as may first appear to be, she is equally powerful, if not more so.
‘Look like the flower but be the serpent under’t’ Deceit is further portrayed by the image ‘look like the flower but be the serpent under’t’. The noun ‘flower’ is associated with femininity, it derives its worth from it’s aesthetics, in this way it is analogous to the role of women in a patriarchal society such as the Stuart and Jacobean eras.It is deeply ironic that she asks her husband to embrace aesthetics as it is explicitly rejected in her earlier quote ‘unsex me here’. ‘Flower’ also suggests passivity and weakness, this view of Macbeth is antithetical to the ‘brave Macbeth’ and ‘valour’s minion’ (version of Macbeth expressed by The Captain during the 2nd scene). The word serpent is an intertextual allusion to genesis in the bible where Satan poses under the guise of a snake
Macbeth and euphemism Shakespeare construct’s Macbeth’s soliloquy to demonstrate that his plan to commit regicide is deeply unsettling. Macbeth’s disavowal of regicide is created through the euphemisms ‘it’, ‘consequence’, ‘these cases’, ‘bloody instructions’, ‘the deed’, ‘the taking off’ and ‘the horrid deed’.
‘If it were done then ’tis done, then ’twere well t were done quickly’. ‘If it were done then ’tis done, then ’twere well t were done quickly’, this is a biblical allusion to the line ‘that thou doest , do quickly’. Shakespeare draws a parallel between Macbeth as the betrayer of a King and Judas as a betrayer of Jesus.
Macbeth and loyalty During Act 2 Scene 1, Macbeth directly challenges the feudal system ‘our will became the servant to defect; which else should free have wrought’. The nouns ‘servant’ and ‘defect’ are juxtaposed to illustrate that Macbeth believes that loyalty to ones king and, is ‘defect’, a flaw in the feudal system that should be challenged. Macbeth’s criticism of the feudal model is that its hierarchies create an oppressive system, loyalty is contrasted with the state of being ‘free’, thus Macbeth believes that he will gain ‘free[dom]’ by ‘defect'[ing] from Duncan’s court through regicide. However, this is a deeply ironic revelation, Macbeth believes that becoming king will ‘free’ him from the servitude of satisfying the ‘will’ of the king, however, he fails to realise that his status as king is contingent on maintaining the ‘defect[ive]’loyalty of his subjects. Macbeth fails to realise that it is loyalty to the king that stabilises the feudal system and will keep him in power. Additionally, Macbeth views kingship as ultimate freedom and as a self-serving title, he is ‘spurred’ by personal ambition, not loyalty Scotland.
Banquo and the association of women with evil In the second act Banquo demonstrates that the Witches are on his mind through the personification of the moon as female, using the pronoun ‘she’ in stating that ‘[the moon] goes down at twelve’. In the Stuart period it was believed that events in the greater world of nature were reflections of the actions of man, the fact that Banquo makes the association between the moon going down, and the consequent blackness of the sky, deliniates that he senses the dark role of women in the evil affecting the wider macrocosm. Perhaps he subconsciously associates darkness not just with the Witches, but with Lady Macbeth.
Banquo’s suspicion about Macbeth In response to his suspicions, Banquo instructs fleance to ‘take my sword’ using the imperative verbs ‘hold’ and ‘take’, passing on the ‘sword’. The sword’s function is to act as both a weapon of self defence and of attack, the act of passing it onto his son is a mark of Banquo’s characterisation of Fleance as a warrior and perhaps a unconscious realisation that Fleance may need to protect himself against a paranoid attempt to remove him from the throne by Macbeth, who suspects by the prophecy that he is to succeed him as king. Alternatively the characterisation of Fleance as a warrior may not be defensive but offensive, he may take Macbeth’s kingship by force.
The structure of A2S1 The determiner ‘my’ is placed before the noun ‘sword’, however, it is not placed before the earlier ‘boy’. This demonstrates that Banquo associates more closely with the sword than his own son, this may suggest unconscious resentment towards his son, indicating that Banquo resents ‘get[ting] kings but [being] none’. Jealousy is hinted in the entirety of this scene, from the outset Shakespeare’s traditional ten-syllable iambic pentameter is broken. Banquo’s language serves as a continual reminder that the natural balance has been disrupted; ‘She goes down at twelve’ is six syllables long, echoed by Fleance’s reply ‘I take’t, ’tis later, sir’. Banquo’s next passage continues a disrupted rhythm, a clear signal to a contemporary Shakespearean audience that, just as the iambic rhythm is disrupted, the balance of good and evil is disrupted also, just as the divine right of kings and the natural order is about to be broken by the assassination of Duncan.
Lady Macbeth’s false confidence in A2S2 Act 2 scene 2 opens with Lady Macbeth’s aside ‘that which hath made them drunk hath made me bold/what hath quench’d them hath given me fire’. Lady Macbeth’s use of antithetical parallelism suggests that she views her responses as antithetical to those of men, she does not experience drunken behaviour and satisfaction but is emboldened and impassioned by the alcohol. However, she breaks iambic pentameter with the next line ‘Hark! Peace’ which denotes her paranoia. The paranoia of the Macbeth’s is further illustrated through stichomythia, structurally reflecting their tension and uncertainty. This is complemented by the frequent use of interrogatives.
‘These hangman’s hands’ Shakespeare suggests that Macbeth feels justified in killing Duncan through the rationalisation that he was committing tyrannicide rather than murder, this is emphasised through the metaphor ‘these hangman’s hands’, which connotes that Duncan is a traitor or tyrant himself. Hands act as a symbol of agency and power.
‘White heart’ Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s experience of the murder is initially presented as paralleled, their hands are ‘of [the same] colour’. The ‘colour’ refers to Duncan’s blood, here blood acts as a natural symbol for guilt, indicating that the couple share equal responsibility for the murder of Duncan. However, this interpretation is immediately rejected by Lady Macbeth through the use of the dash, which links Macbeth to cowardice and ‘shame’, this is reinforced through the natural metaphor of a ‘white heart’, carrying with it connotations of purity, innocence and cowardice. Alternatively the division of the line may reflect Lady Macbeth’s desire to separate herself from her husband and to assume a distinct role in society yet this intention seems to be overshadowed by the murder. We may interpret Lady Macbeth’s statement (‘my hands are of your colour’) as remnants moral conscience with the dash indicating that her attempts to emasculate Macbeth are projections of her evil intent fighting to dominate her admission of guilt as signalled by blood. In this interpretation Lady Macbeth’s attempts to defy traditional gender roles are interrupted by horror realisation that she has taken away life, indications that she still retains elements of a femmine, maternal desire to preserve and create life. Perhaps Shakespeare construct’s Lady Macbeth’s character to superficially subvert gender roles, though she may appear to be a dominant and subversive woman, in reality she is unable to escape her unfulfilled role as a mother. In presenting this idea Shakespeare compounds the patriarchal idea that all women are fated to be tied to the domestic sphere.
‘You do unbend your noble strength’ In Act 1 Scene 7 Macbeth resolves ‘[he is] settled, and bend up each corporal agent’, Lady Macbeth mocks his anxiety throughout referring to his earlier confidence ‘You do unbend your noble strength’.
Macbeth’s sense of reality is warped after Duncan’s assassination The idea of appearance as a manifestation of guilt is immediately present after the murder of Duncan. Shakespeare suggests that a person’s sense of reality is distorted after committing murder, Macbeth’s exemplifies this saying: ‘my hands pluck out mine eyes’. Macbeth’s hands may symbolise his agency yet these hands are stained with blood, thus his desire to blind himself may be taken as a way for him to escape his conscience as he presumes that he will be free from guilt when blind to the choices he has made. Alternatively this implies that Macbeth’s sense of reality is distorted by murder, he no longer views the world in Christian terms.
Lady Macbeth and aesthetics Moreover, the idea of sight is also referenced by Lady Macbeth. She insists ‘the sleeping and the dead are but as pictures’, and that Banquo’s ghost is just ‘the painting of your fear’. Lady Macbeth associates the aesthetics of ‘pictures’ and ‘paintings’ with passivity, perhaps a rejection of her patriarchal socialisation. She is mindful that patriarchal systems reduce the worth of women to aesthetics and fertility, forcing them into passive positions, thus to increase her power in society she sees aesthetics as distinct from reality.
A2S2 ‘I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withall’, a homophonic pun of ‘guilt’ as ‘gild’, meaning to paint with gold. Lady Macbeth implies that Duncan’s blood was divine and valuable like gold, thus the servants are now more valuable in his blood.
The porter scene The Porter foreshadows the suicide of the greedy through his satirical reference to ‘the farmer who hanged himself on the expectation of plenty’.
Reactions to Duncan’s murder ‘A sacrilegious murder hath broke ope the Lord’s anointed temple’- an extended metaphor of the King as the temple of god on earth, an allusion to the Divine Tight of Kings. The image of a dead king is horrific, Macduff describes he effect as that of looking like a ‘new gorgon’, this may link to the later decapitation of Macbeth…the weaponisation of his previous tyranny.
Act 2 Scene 3 Shakespeare presents Macduff in opposition to Macbeth, questioning his motives from an early point: ‘wherefore did you so?’The homophonic pun on ‘breach’ connects the enormous hole in the fabric of existence created by Duncan’s murder and the clothing ‘breech’ of the daggers that were the cause of the murder. ‘Where we are, there’s daggers in men’s smiles’, an echo of Lady Macbeth’s ‘look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under’t’. ‘The near in blood, the nearer bloody’, the parallelism reinforces the idea of connection between relatives and murder. Macbeth may be the nearest relationship to Duncans sons and therefore the most bloody.
Act 2 Scene 4 Shakespeare uses the semantic field of the theatre (‘the heavens’, ‘act’ and ‘stage’) to convey the idea of the microcosm of a performance in the human realm having repercussions on the macrocosmic scale. The violent verb ‘strangles’ reinforces the effect of the microcosm on the macrocosm as the violence of Macbeth is echoed in the natural realm.
The impending civil war in Act 2 Scene 4 Shakespeare foreshadows an impending civil war through as he describes ‘Duncan’s horses [as] the minions of their race’, the best of their kind, have now gone mad and destroyed one another.
‘I fear thou hast played most foully for it’ Banquo’s suspicions about Macbeth’s sudden ascension to the throne open the third act, ‘I fear, thou play’d most foully for it’. Banquo’s concern is emphasised through the consonance of the fricative ‘f’ sounds.
Macbeth’s changing attitude to Banquo Macbeth’s soliloquy is a significant contrast to his soliloquies in Act 1, Scene 7 and Act 2, Scene 1.These soliloquies were dominated by doubt and guilt whilst this is characterised by certainty and anger.’To be thus is nothing; but to be safely thus’, the inversion of the parallelism could convey the incursion of Macbeth’s goals, to be king is pointless unless his crown is secure. Macbeth lists Banquo’s virtues, his ‘royalty of nature’, ‘dauntless temper of his mind’, his ‘wisdom’ and ‘valour’ yet these virtues are obstacles to Macbeth now as he no longer views the world in christian terms.’My genius is rebuked; as, it is said, Mark Antony’s was by Caesar’: Macbeth alludes to classical history: Macbeth is represented by Antony and Banquo by Caesar. Caesar defeated Antony in the civil wars and Antony was warned that Caesar would ruin him by a soothsayer ( a supernatural foretelling paralleling that of the Witches). The fear of Banquo usurping Macbeth is reiterated through the semantic field of infertility, ‘fruitless’, ‘barren’ and ‘unlineal’.
Macbeths soliloquy A3S1 The depth of Macbeth’s grief and guilt is illustrated through the verb ‘filed’, meaning to defile and therefore violate his mind. Additionally, Macbeth continues to use positive epithet ‘gracious’ to describe Duncan, illustrating the depth of his guilt. ‘Put ranchers in the vessel of my peace’, a metaphor for Macbeth’s conscience, the ‘cup’ or ‘vessel’ of his mind, which was once peaceful, is now poisoned by ‘rancours’. Macbeth begins to accept guilt through the use of the verb ‘murder’d’, which contrasts his use of euphemism in previous scenes. This is exemplified that his ‘eternal jewel [life]’ will be given to ‘the common enemy of man’, he has sold his soul to the devil. ‘Rather than so, come fate into the list and champion me to the utterance’. Macbeth calls on Fate as a champion to fight him in a battle to the death. The extended metaphor of the tournament conveys the battle that Macbeth promises to wage to combat the Witches’ fated prophecy. He has accepted some of their foretelling but wishes to challenge those that do not support him.Macbeth now presents himself as the ‘innocent self’, he has become the ‘innocent flower’ referenced by Lady Macbeth. Shakespeare continues to present Macbeth as a great persuader, mirroring the role of Lady Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 7. Just as she questioned his manhood ‘what beast was’t then…’, so Macbeth questions the manhood of the murderers by comparing them to different breeds of dog. Macbeth suggests that just as there are different types of dog, there are different types of men; some are valued whilst others are despised.
Lady Macbeth after Duncan’s murder Act three scene two opens with Lady Macbeth’s question ‘Is Banquo gone from court?’, the mention of Banquo suggests that Lady Macbeth is reflecting on the Witches prophecies and the significance of Banquo. The interrogative here suggests that Lady Macbeth’s role has changed significantly as she now requests to speak to Macbeth. The short length of Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy may mirror her diminished power. The antithetical parallelism of the opening of the soliloquy ‘nought’s had, all’s spent’ is based on hyperbole, there is an extreme contrast between the lack of meaningful achievement (‘nought’) and the enormous effort made to secure the crown through regicide (‘all’). This parallels the dissatisfaction of Macbeth following the murder of Duncan. ‘What is done is done’, echoes Macbeth’s words ‘if t’were done then it were best done quickly’, representing the subversion of power in the relationship. Shakespeare uses the homophonic pun ‘whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace’ to contrast the ‘peace’ of achieving ambition with the ‘peace’ of death.
‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy/than by destruction live in doubtful joy’ There is a sense of insecurity that dominates the soliloquy: ’tis safer to be that which we destroy/than by destruction live in doubtful joy’, the heavy alliteration of the ponderous ‘d’ sound complements Lady Macbeth’s suicidal reflections. Similarly, the use of rhyming couplets is reminiscent of the Witches and the ways in which they stimulated the Macbeth’s desire for the throne. Alternatively the couplets may convey a sense of finality, connecting the words ‘destroy’ and ‘joy’ to indicate Lady Macbeth’s suicidal intentions.
‘O’full of scorpions is my mind dearest chuck’ The constant use of demonic imagery ‘scorpions’ throughout the play highlights that the protagonist’s psyche is now ‘full’ of demonic thoughts, or that Satan has taken control of the figure. Scorpions are creatures full of poison who can not only sting, but kill an individual, suggesting that Macbeth is aware that the acquisition of power is the reason that he suffers. Syntactically, by placing the adjective ‘full’ towards the beginning of the line Shakespeare draws the audience’s attention to the fact that it is the anguish caused by Macbeth’s diminished conscience that is at the forefront of his mind. Macbeth uses gothic imagery: ‘the bat hath flown’, ‘black Hecate summons’ and ‘the shared borne beetle’. Macbeth’s ‘Come seeling night’ is reminiscent of Lady Macbeth’s ‘come thick night’.
‘Tis better thee without than within’. The pleasure that Macbeth derives from Banquo’s death is exemplified in the joke ‘Tis better thee without than within’. Shakespeare’s use of antithetical parallelism jokes that Banquo’s blood is better on the murderers face than in his body.
Macbeth in the banquet scene The similes ‘whole as marbles, founded as the rock, as broad and general as the casing air’ provided a sense of how secure Macbeth’s position and mental state would have been, and how free he would have felt, if both Banquo and fleance had been killed. In contrast, Macbeth is now ‘confined’ by the knowledge of Fleance’s freedom. The verbs ‘cabbin’d, cribb’d, confined’ and ‘bound’ lie in the semantic field of imprisonment, this concept is complemented with the harsh alliteration and the consonance of plosive sounds which further illustrate Macbeth’s sense of anxiety and entrapment.The opening of the scene ‘you know your own degrees’ is contrasted by Lady Macbeth’s command ‘stand not upon the order of your going/but go at once’.
‘At the pit of Acheoron’ Macbeth meets the Witches ‘at the pit of Acheron’, Acheron being a synonym for the hell. The mention of ‘Acheron’ implies that Macbeth has prematurely descended to a symbolic version of hell, this draws a parallel between Macbeth and Satan as he has descended to hell, where it is immorality that governs reason in place of Christian teachings. The rejection of Christianity immediately brands Macbeth as the figure of the heretic, a figure that was weaponized to maintain the authority of the King and of the Church. Alternatively, ‘Acheron’ may represent Macbeth’s psychological anguish, ‘Acheron’ was originally a part of greek mythology as the ‘river of woe’ in hell. ‘Acheron’ may be seen as a metaphorical denotation of Macbeth’s mental torment which is derived from his status as a heretic.
Hecete Hecate’s verse varies between trochaic tetrameter, trochaic pentameter, iambic tetrameter and iambic pentameter, the huge variation in verse forms may complement Hecate, and the Witches’ complexity and unpredictability as characters. Alternatively, such rhythms are reflective of childhood rhymes, they lack sophistication and the jovial tone is antithetical to the sinister assumptions about the Witches intentions, this suggests that Shakespeare uses this scene to parody the witches and suggest that they are not especially evil, the true evil is Macbeth’s hamartia. Shakespeare’s intention here could be to further parody the socially prevalent belief in the active role of Witches as it is reminiscent of a fictional, childish rhyme.
The witches and the patriarchy In the third act, Hecate suggests that women turn to Witchcraft due to alienation by society. Hecate reprimands and mocks the Witches, stating ‘all you have done is for a wayward son […] who, as others do, loves for his own ends, not for you’ . Hecate suggests that Macbeth is view by the Witches as a ‘son’, the object of care and love, this implies that the Witches aim is not to lead him to tragedy but is motivated by their desire for respect and love. Hecate indicates that love and respect have been denied to them by society (‘as others do’), they are excluded perhaps due to the intersecting patriarchal and feudal systems. Hecate attributes ‘wayward’ morality and ‘sin’ to Macbeth and wider society, they are focused on their ‘own ends’. Ultimately, Shakespeare may be suggesting that the Witches are so valueless that they feel that they must turn to Witchcraft as a source of power and semblance of love and solidarity, exemplified in the image of ‘the Three Weird Sisters hand in hand’.
The witches A4S1 The horror of the Witches is reasserted through choral chants, trochaic tetrameter, rhyming couplets, pathetic fallacy and a sense of communication with animals as familiars, just as they were presented in Act one Scene 1. The use of a spell differentiates both scenes as the horror of the Witches is heightened through the audiences witnessing the Witches producing a series of animal and human body parts. Ingredients extend to supernatural creatures before the horror of human body parts, culminating in the highly disturbing extended description of a finger of a baby strangled by a prostitute in the ditch in which the baby was born. The baby would be damned as a result of being unbaptised, as would the Jew, Turk and Tartar of the preceding lines.
Chaos and the witches The choral chant is a spell designed to double the suffering in the world. The use of the internal; rhyme ‘double’ and ‘trouble’ and the epizuxis of ‘double’ complement the sense of excess and chaos sought by the witches.
The symbolism of the apparitions The ‘masters’ referred to by the Witches refer to those that control their actions, these subsequently take the form of apparitions. ‘Thunder, first apparition: an armed head’: a possible symbol for Macbeth who is later decapitated by Macduff.’Thunder, second apparition: a bloody child’: the bloody child may represent Macduff who ‘was from [his] mother’s womb untimely ripped’. The Witches may be foreshadowing the beginning of a new tyrannical dictatorship through the direction that ‘the second is more potent than the first’. ‘A child crowned with a tree in his hand’: may represent Birnham Wood coming to Dunsinane.
‘None of women born shall harm Macbeth’ In the line ‘None of Woman Born Shall Harm Macbeth’ Shakespeare deviates from the iambic metre of the previous line (‘Macbeth Macbeth beware Macduff’), shifting to trochaic tetrameter, this deviation in metre, alludes to deceit because they deviate from the truth as they do metre.
Loyalty in Macbeth Shakespeare juxtaposes Lennox’s criticism of Macbeth with the revelation that Lennox is the Lord accompanying Macbeth in Act four Scene one, in which he is sole companion of Macbeth. Shakespeare portrays Macbeth as utterly alone, with no-one that he can fully trust.
Macbeths actions and emotions The very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand’, the parallelism conveys the strong link between Macbeth’s emotions and actions. The determination is evident in the list fo those he will now kill, that immediately follows. Macbeth further reflects on the need for action rather than procrastination, echoing Act One, Scene Seven: ‘Words to the heat of deeds to cold breath gives’ in the statement ‘this deed I’ll do before this purpose cools’.
‘Give to th’ edge o’ th’ sword’ ‘Give to th’ edge o’ th’ sword’- This metaphor serves to distance Macbeth from the consequences of his commands because he does not directly kill them. He does not say how he will perpetrate the murder, or even hire assassins to finish the job so he personifies the sword as the recipient of this gift of the wives and babes. The gift is not given by Macbeth but the assassins. The edge of the sword is reflective of the edge between sanity and madness in Macbeth’s psyche This quote marks Macbeth’s transition from cruel dictator to sociopathic killer as he goes beyond rational and politically strategic actions to actions of unwarranted cruelty.Shakespeare uses iambic pentameter, to keep this metre intact he abbreviates the, of and the to fit all the killing into one line, this reveals that he is overloading his sentence with different atrocities which is reflective of the huge levels barbarism that Macbeth is ordering. This provides further justification that he needs to be removed from the throne. The line is 11 syllables to break the rhythm of iambic pentameter and signal distress.Wife and babes- vulnerabilityBabes- The use of the word babes is reminiscent of Lady Macbeth’s earlier quote ‘how tender it us to love the babe that milks me:I would…dash’d the brains out had I so sworn, as you have done this’, this is almost a fulfilment of her statement, it is doing more than she expected- overkill
‘I am in this earthly world; where to do harm is often laudable, to do good sometimes accounted dangerous folly’ ‘I am in this earthly world; where to do harm is often laudable, to do good sometimes accounted dangerous folly’, the parallelism reinforces the allusion to ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’, Lady Macduff knows that the world is wicked.
Scotland in Macbeth Macduff states that with each ‘new mourn new widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows strike’. Macduff wishes to overthrow Macbeth, using the image of Scotland as a wounded comrade to be defended. The syndic list of horrors makes the suffering of the Scots appear endless and the parallelism of the clauses gives a sense of its inevitability. Ross exhibits a very desolate and arid picture of Scotland by describing it as ‘grave’, where ‘good men’s lives expire’ and ‘dead men’s bell rings often’. The use of imagery here and the descriptions relating to the semantic field of death indicates that Macbeth has killed more ‘good men’ than bad. The use of the adjective ‘good’ lacks the vivid detail that Shakespeare allocates to the murders of Banquo and Duncan, it is comparatively bland and vague. This reflects that Macbeth is morally nihilistic and indifferent towards his killing of ‘good men’ and describes his deficiency of concern for the intentions of his target, it shows that he holds personal gain in higher stead than the lives of his former friends.
Corruption in Macbeth ‘A good and virtues nature mat recoil in an imperial charge’, the hendiadys of ‘good and virtuous’ emphasises that even the most positive natures could be compromised by an ‘imperial charge’ (orders from the king). The theme of deception is explored further through a consideration of Lucifer, the highest and brightest angel who fell to wage war on god, becoming the devil.. ‘Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell’, the implication is that Macduff may have appeared to be good but is now corrupted.
A4S3 Malcolm uses the semantic field of hell (‘legions of horrid hell’, ‘horrid’, ‘damn’d’ and ‘evils) to express his incredulity.Macduff suggests that Malcolm could ;convey your pleasures’ whilst appearing chaste (‘cold’), this suggests that Macduff is prepared to deceive, advocating that Malcolm essentially ‘looks like the innocent flower’ in order to avoid the greater evil of Macbeth. The zoomorphism of the vulture conveys the indiscriminate desire of someone lecherous given that the vulture, as a carrion bird, would eat anything. Macduff’s point is that Malcolm is incapable of such lust.Shakespeare uses the asyndetic list of ‘graces, justice, verity, temperance[…]’ required of a king; Malcolm denies that he has any. ‘I should pour the sweet milk of concord into hell, prior the universal peace, confound all unity on earth’, reminiscent of Macbeth’s demand for answers from the Witches, he is prepared to sacrifice universal order to serve his needs: ’till destruction sicken’.Macbeth is describes, once again, as a creature of hell, he is zoomorphically described as a kite, killing Macduffs ‘chickens in one fells swoop’. The image captures the defenceless nature of Macduff’s family in stark contrast to the ruthlessness of Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking The sleepwalking has only happened ‘since his majesty went into the field’, since Macbeth went into battle. In this way, guilt may not be the cause of her somnambulism knowing that she is going to lose her crown and husband. Every night since this event, during sleep, Lady Macbeth has ‘taken forth paper, fold it, write upon ‘t, read it, afterwards seal it, and again return to bed’. What Lady Macbeth writes on the paper is not disclosed, however, it may be speculated that it is similar to the letter that Macbeth sent her during Act 1 Scene 5, a disclosure of the Witches’ prophecy. The mirroring of Macbeth’s behavior may allude to her dysphoria as a woman, after reading the letter she asks ‘mortal spirits’ to ‘unsex’ her there, a rejection of her feminine qualities and [later] physicality, in this new interpretation, she may ask to distance herself from her role as a woman to become analogous to a king, this is the ulterior motive to regicide and perhaps an alternative motive for her emasculation of Macbeth. One of the reasons for this is the impossibility to attain political and social power due to the fact that she is always seen as an extension of her husband and it is her break from this identity that causes a break in her sanity.
‘Be innocent of the knowledge dearest chuck’ Macbeth instructs his wife to be ‘innocent of the knowledge’. The adjective ‘innocent’ suggests that she is not responsible for or directly involved in a crime, however, she orchestrated the plan to kill Duncan, a cardinal sin. Macbeth’s pseudo protection is not from guilt but ‘knowledge’. In this way, Macbeth justifies his denial of epistemic power under the guise of the maintenance of ‘innocence’, a signal that it is the power of kingship that he is denying her. He finishes this denial with the archaic endearment ‘chuck’, though the noun may at first express love, it is in fact condescending because a ‘chuck’ is a little chicken, often associated with cowardice, this serves as a further allusion to the subversion of the power dynamic that had existed in their relationship prior to the assassination and is ultimately a condescending insult, thinly veiled as a term of affection.
Lady Macbeth and light The Gentlewoman continues to demonstrate the continuity of the motif of the taper by saying that the Queen ‘has a light by her continually’. In one interpretation, the light may be symbolic of her fear of ‘the dunnest smoke of hell’, which she summoned in the 5th scene and now rejects, using the taper to see through the darkness. However, the fact that she has a light may be a plea to God, light is symbolic of God, this is not something that evil people do because God is the inventor of Christian morality.
Lady Macbeth and hand washing Shakespeare goes on to explain that Lady Macbeth is seen ‘thus washing her hands’, a symbol again that she is trying to wash away Duncan’s blood, the physical evidence that links her to the murder and is thus rejecting her past behaviour: ‘a little water clears us of this deed’. She has almost succeeded ‘yet here’s a spot’ of blood remaining on her hand. This contrasts with her husband, who has continued the cycle of bloodlust that originated on the battlefield.
‘Out, out damned spot’ The noun ‘spot’ is defined as a small round mark, showing that she has had a little part in the bloodletting. Using epizeuxis, Lady Macbeth commands the blood to wash off her hands in the command ‘out, out damned spot’. The imperative verb ‘out’ is followed by ‘I say’, the use of the pronoun ‘I’ shows that Macbeth is still fighting to assert her power over the blood, however, her words are monosybilic and are quickly snuffed out like the ‘brief candle’ referenced by Macbeth in the next scene and her diminishing influence following Macbeth’s ascension to the throne is reflected in the short structure of her words. Ultimately, she cannot rid herself of the blood just as she cannot rid herself of the expectations of her enforced by the patriarchy so she tries to escape her gender in the next line: –One: two: why then, ’tis time to do it. This references her signal of ringing a bell twice to show that the servants are drugged and Macbeth is to enter Duncan’s chamber to kill him; ‘why then, ’tis time to do it’ is Lady Macbeth imagining that she has the power that Macbeth did as a way to escape her own lack of power.
‘Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier and afeard?’ Lady Macbeth switches her position once again, but to relive the planning of the murder again: ‘Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier and afeard?’ ‘Fie’ is an interjection to express distaste and disgust, its use implies that Lady Macbeth is disgusted that Macbeth, a soldier is afraid to kill a king. Her disgust now is not merely a tactic to try to persuade Macbeth to kill Duncan but it is the full horror that Macbeth, who has now gained all this power, was, and presumably is weaker than she is, but society has excluded her to the extent that her life has become worthless to her, expressed in the act of her suicide.
‘What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account’ Now her memories are tainted with dramatic irony, ‘what need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?’ Now the Macbeth’s have an army to fear and an authority figure during her monologue who is capable of calling their method of attaining power to account. And yet she is still fixated on the noun ‘power’, further illustrating that her insanity is caused by her frustration at being denied it.
The Thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now? The rhyme of Fife and wife’s rhyme is reminiscent of a child’s nursery rhyme, alluding to the idea that attaining power was a coping method to compensate for the loss of a child. Lady Macbeth suspects that she is dead due to the order’s of Macbeth and this manifests in her concern for them. Macduff’s wife and Lady Macbeth are in similar positions in society, they are both wives of powerful men and are subject to the same patriarchal restrictions. Lady Macbeth’s concern may be more specifically distilled due to the fact that the power that they had left was robbed by Macbeth. Power is taken away from Lady Macduff as she is murdered, just as Lady Macbeth’s is denied by Macbeth. Lady Macbeth’s reference to Lady Macduff’s murder may be a distorted expression of her resent towards Macbeth.
‘Will all the perfumes of Arabia not sweeten this little hand’? Here is the smell of blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.After Lady Macbeth has lamented the loss of her power she goes on to the theme of guilt. The metaphor of the smell of the blood demonstrates how deeply her actions have affected her. Visibly there is only a ‘spot’, but the smell still lingers. Now her language becomes feminine ‘all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand’ showing that she sees herself once more as a woman. The focus on the adjective ‘little’ also refers to what little power, the hand being the metaphor for the power that she holds.
‘Give me your hand’ ‘Give me your hand’, remembering a time when Duncan was killed but it is also an allusion to a ‘hand in marriage’, the partnership that Macbeth has promised, but a partnership that he has reneged on.
‘Some say he is mad; others that lesser hate him to call it valiant fury’ Shakespeare conveys the lack of love for Macbeth in Scotland through the statement ‘some say he is mad; others that lesser hate him do call it valiant fury’, the comparative is not that of antithesis but merely ‘lesser hate’.
‘pour we in our country’s purge each drop of us’ Shakespeare uses the extended horticultural metaphor ‘pour we in our country’s purge each drop of us’ to use the image of the soldier’s blood to water the true monarchy and drown the tyranny of Macbeth.
‘Siege to scorn’ Macbeth’s excessive confidence is evident in the personification of his castle which ‘siege to scorn’, his castle is laughing at, and corning the siege. His inversion of the natural order is conveyed by suggesting that the besiegers will starve rather than the occupants of the castle.
Macbeth and death Despite the slow passage of time, Macbeth argues that this has done nothing to illuminate life bye merely ‘lighted[…] the [passage] to dusty death’. Death does not provide a release from the monotony of life but is merely a return to dust. The alliteration fo the harsh ‘d’ sounds complements the finality and serves to generate a depressing tone.
‘Out, out brief candle’ At her suicide, Macbeth likens Lady Macbeth to a ‘brief candle’. An object associated with the christian church that connotes the image of eternal light and warmth. To liken her to a candle shows that she has been the source of light in his life and has shown him the way to christian goodness. This idea may be shocking considering the bloodiness of his crimes, however, his image of morality is so warped at this time that she is so holy that she redefines this meaning within his perceptual field. The use of epizeuxis to repeat ‘out’ twice, is reminiscent of Lady Macbeth’s quote ‘out,out damned spot’, he is becoming her. Alternatively the central idea of the brief candle may contrast the eternity of ‘tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow’. The tragic significance here is that Macbeth has damned himself for eternity yet he now realises that life is now not only short but empty. The theme of the brevity of life is extended in the metaphor of the ‘poor player’, a ‘walking shadow’ that ultimately ‘signifies nothing’. Macbeth’s nihilism is conveyed through the imagery and series of rhyming couplets that repeatedly signal an end.
‘Before my body I throw my warlike shield, lay on Macduff, and damned be he who first cries hold enough!’ Macbeth’s final sentence is illustrative of his guilt and punishment. Throughout the sentence ‘Before my body I throw my warlike shield, lay on Macduff, and damned be he who first cries hold enough!’ iambic pentameter is maintained, suggesting completion and finality The adjective ‘damned’ serves a triple purpose, it is an expletive but also describes Macbeth’s moral condemnation and turning to the idea that his soul may be damned to hell. Additionally it may be Macbeth is completely unrepentant, he refuses to ask for ‘enough’.The actor may take this as a stage direction, to physically throw his shield away and thus leave himself more physically vulnerable, it can be taken as an invitation for death by giving the advantage to Macduff. This sense of retribution.The fact that Macbeth throws his ‘warlike’ shield away may also be condemnation of war, it was the war with the Norwegians with that has him proclaimed Thane of Cawdor, a catalyst for his ambition, it was war that had given Macduff the opportunity to kill Macbeth and it is war possibly what will kill Macduff so that a descendant of Banquo will become king.

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