Shakespeare's Macbeth is a play that develops around tension all the
way through. Shakespeare manages to create tension in a variety of
ways in terms of the thematic aspects, linguistic aspects and dramatic
Act II (scenes I and 11) is the part of Macbeth where Lady Macbeth and
her husband (Macbeth) actually carry out their plans and do the deed.
Instead of planning and talking about killing King Duncan of Scotland,
the Macbeths go ahead and actually do it. Tension is built up before
the killing in scene I and also in scene II when Macbeth reappears
having done the "deed". We can see the Macbeths' reactions and
feelings to their crime and if the characters are uneasy or on edge,
then it adds to the tension.
Act II, scene 1, starts off at night, in fact after midnight. In
Shakespeare's time midnight was considered to be the "witching hour".
Shakespeare's use of the concept of darkness is an excellent way of
creating tension because many people have a deep founded fear of the
dark. The darkness can be seen in the language, "The moon is down" and
in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Macbeth an eerie
atmosphere is created through dim lighting. This version of Macbeth
uses pauses and silence by the characters in order to create tension.
Also evil things come from the dark; Banquo says "All the candles are
out", meaning there are no starts in the sky. Banquo finds it
difficult to get to sleep because of "cursed thoughts". This language
shows us that Banquo is obviously very anxious and fear is plaguing
his imagination. The semantic field of sleep is ...
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hath made me bold". She doesn't know whether Macbeth has followed
through with their plans. She waits alone in anticipation on the
stage. This creates suspense and is crucial to the dramatic aspect of
the play. Macbeth on the other hand is off stage. Shakespeare
structures it cleverly so that the audience sees characters on their
own and together. He shows Macbeth's worry through his line, "Who's
there". This shows Macbeth's great concern that someone is there who
might disturb him and identify him as the murderer. Lady Macbeth
starts to become agitated and her optimism is gradually fading. She
wonders whether the plan might have failed - and Shakespeare shows
this by Lady Macbeth saying lines such as "I laid their daggers ready"
and "He could not miss them". These show her real desperation at this
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