The Lasting Appeal of William Shakespeare's Macbeth

The Lasting Appeal of William Shakespeare's Macbeth

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The Lasting Appeal of William Shakespeare's Macbeth

In this essay I am going to explain why 'Macbeth' is still such a
popular play to watch. This play has many different appeals that have
made it so popular even though it was written 400 years ago. I am
going to tell you about the different themes, staging and how rhymes
and language come into effect. These points will prove why 'Macbeth'
has had such a lasting appeal.

One of these appeals is the fact that there are so many themes in the
play; this keeps the audience interested throughout the whole play.
One of these themes is ambition, this is the main theme as it drives
most of the passion that they play has as it makes the eventual
downfall of Macbeth. Ambition makes him kill the king as after
thinking of all the reasons not to kill Duncan the two things keeping
him even thinking about it is ambition and Lady Macbeth, but Lady
Macbeth can get him to kill the King by the ambition being there in
the first place. 'I have no spur… but only vaulting ambition which
o'erleaps itself' (I, v, 25-27). These lines prove why ambition plays
such a big part as in the end it gets Macbeth killed, without this
there wouldn't be a plot as none of the murders would take place.

Lady Macbeth wants him to be King so that she can be Queen although
she doesn't act as though she wants to be feminine 'of direst cruelty;
make thick my blood' (I, v, 41), 'unsex me here' (I, v, 39) and 'come
to my woman's breasts and take my milk for gall' (I, v, 45-46) except
in 5, 1 when she is the opposite. In Act 5 scene 1 Lady Macbeth is a
lot more feminine than she has been in earlier scenes. This is shown
by the following lines, 'all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten
this little hand. O, O, O'. (I, v, 42-43). Lady Macbeth is referring
to the hand that she had got King Duncan's blood on.

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This is a more
'lady like' view than the view she had earlier when she said to
Macbeth 'Go get some water and wash this filthiness off your hands'
(II, ii, 49-50) and 'a little water clears us of this deed' (II, ii,
70). These two sections of lines completely contradict themselves as
one says nothing will ever wash the blood off of their hands and they
will forever have the murder in their thoughts. Whereas the other says
that if they just wash their hands then all of the blood will come off
and they will be cleared of the murder, the filthiness will just wash
off. In the stage directions it says that Lady Macbeth enters holding
a taper. This shows that she is scared of the dark but the strong and
unwomanly Lady Macbeth in earlier scenes wouldn't have needed a taper
because she wouldn't be scared of the dark. Lady Macbeth plays such a
big part in the play because without her harassing Macbeth, he
probably wouldn't have thought twice about killing Duncan. This is
good for the play as without the presence and evilness of Lady Macbeth
then the play wouldn't be as good. Lady Macbeth being such an
important character adds appeal to the play because it creates tension
as sexism is a modern occurrence and it is good for a wife to have
such power over her husband.

Another is good and evil and the continual struggle between them. This
is shown by Lady Macbeth saying to Macbeth 'look like the innocent
flower, but be the serpent under't' (I, v, 63-64). This is saying that
he should look like he is innocent and good but really be as evil as
Lady Macbeth. In this passage she is also trying to convert Macbeth
from being good to evil so he kills the King. Another section that has
evil in it is the witches' prophecy (I, iii). When the witches make
the prophecy you don't know if you want to trust them or not because
they are witches who are capable of evil and supernatural occurrences.
When this play would have been first performed witches would have been
real supernatural beings that would have been believed in. In
Shakespeare's lifetime if you were thought of being a witch who had
amazing unnatural powers, you could have been executed like hundreds
were, because witches were morbidly feared Saying this, the witches
did not make Macbeth kill Duncan; they just gave him the information
that he needed to have to become evil and to kill him. Macbeth could
have chosen not to believe what the witches had prophesized but just
to have ignored it. Also in Act 4 scene 1 the witches cast a spell and
meet Macbeth again and receive three more prophecies, this time with
Hecate with them. They change the day to night and cause thunder and
lightning to occur. This proves that the witches are very abnormal.
The modern audiences still remain fascinated by the good, evil and the

You could also say that sex is a theme in Act 2 scene 3. This is the
only scene where the porter appears. Sex is mentioned a lot, this
maybe because the porter is under the influence of alcohol as he says
'it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance' (II, iii,
24-25). He also says that it is 'an equivocator of lechery' (II, iii,
26). This scene is after just after the scene where Macbeth kills
Duncan so it could be put in the play for many different reasons. The
first is the fact that there has just been a very serious and tense
scene and the audience needs a space for laughter. Secondly if it is
being performed on stage then the Macbeths might need time to change
into their nightgowns? Thirdly it could be linked with older plays
where a porter at Hell's mouth admitted sinners to the torments of
Hell, 'th'everlasting bonfire' (II, iii, 16). Lastly in could be
referring to the opening of the gates of Hell, 'porter of Hell-gate'
(II, iii, 1-2). This scene could have been put in to relieve the
tension; it would make the audience relax. This humour could add to
the appeal of the play.

Nature is another theme that is used. Nature is used to explain the
unnatural events of Duncan's murder, 'a falcon tow' ring in her pride
of place was by a mousing owl hawked and killed.' (II, iv, 12-13).
This is used to say the fact Macbeth killing Duncan is like an owl
killing a falcon or a King killing a knight. 'Be the serpent' (I, v,
64) is another occasion where Macbeth is being referred to as a snake.
When the witches go on to the stage they have the ability to change
the weather or to turn night into day, this shows the power they have
over nature. This adds to the appeal of the play because it adds to
the weirdness and overall effect of the play.

Another theme is violence as this play is very violent. There is
fighting all the way through, from start to finish. There is a fight
at the beginning that Macbeth is involved in, this fight cause him to
be Thane of Cawdor. Then in Act 1 scene 5 Macbeth writes a letter to
Lady Macbeth saying that he will be King according to the witches.
This means that Macbeth will have to kill Duncan. In Act 2 scenes 2
and 3 Duncan and his grooms are murdered. In Act 3 scene 3 Banquo gets
murdered and even Lady Macduff and her son are murdered in Act 4 scene
2. In Act 5 scenes 4, 5 and 6 Lady Macbeth, Macbeth and Seyward were
all killed. Violence is very important and key theme as it adds appeal
to the bloodthirsty side of the audience.

The last theme that I am going to cover is the theme of trust and
distrust. This is shown in Act 1 scene 2 when Duncan declares that
Macbeth is going to be Thane of Cawdor as his reward, and the current
Thane will be killed, 'no more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive …
and with his former title greet Macbeth' (I, ii, 63-65). This shows
that the old Thane is unreliable so shouldn't be trusted. This shows
the trust that Duncan has in Macbeth at this time of the play.
Although Duncan has put this trust in Macbeth, later in the play
Macbeth still decides to kill Duncan. This shows the trust that the
King has put in Macbeth was in vain as all it did was kill him.
Another part of the play where trust is used is where Lady Macbeth
persuades Macbeth to kill Duncan. In this passage Macbeth puts a lot
of trust in Lady Macbeth. This trust also ends up in the person who
trusts someone else dying as near the end of the play he is killed
because he killed Duncan. This shows that in 'Macbeth' no-one should
trust anyone else as they could and probably will turn against you.
This causes a lot of dramatic tension as no-one knows who is
trustworthy or untrustworthy. This adds dramatic tension and
excitement which appeals especially to the more modern audience.

The staging of 'Macbeth' would have been very dramatic for members of
the audience, especially the porter's scene as this scene is supposed
to look as though it is the gates of hell. This would look very
powerful on stage as with the porter being drunk it would be funny but
it also has a very serious message to it that Macbeth's castle is like
the gates of Hell. This is a very strong and powerful thought. The
knocking on the door would also make the scene feel frightening
because you can not see where the knocking is coming from. The scene
where the witches' prophesize the fate of Macbeth and Banquo is also
very dramatic because the witches explain what is going to happen to
both of them and then vanish. This causes dramatic tension because the
witches have just told the audience what is going to happen so they
are now wondering how the prophecies are going to happen. Lady Macbeth
sleepwalking and confessing her sins to a doctor and a gentlewoman is
another dramatic scene as it is both Lady Macbeth's and Macbeth's
downfall. Trust and distrust make the play all the more exciting as
the audience don't know who is lying or who to trust. This adds
dramatic tension which adds appeal to the play.

In 'Macbeth the witches use rhyme to confuse and torment other people.
They also use rhyme to cast spells 'double, double toil and trouble,
fire burn, and cauldron bubble' (IV, i, 20-21). This spell is cast
just before they meet Macbeth where they give him three more
prophecies. The witches spell goes into so much detail that it could
be sickening for some people watching. Rhyme is also associated with
evil especially when the witches take it in turns to say parts of the
spell this increases the effectiveness of the spell.

Language also plays a big part in the effectiveness and the lasting
appeal of this play.

In Act 1 scene 5 when Lady Macbeth says 'look like the innocent flower
but be the serpent under't' (I, v, 63-64). This causes the audience to
feel worried about what id going to happen. This adds dramatic tension
which in turn adds appeal to the play. This is a simile which means it
has a hidden meaning. In this case Shakespeare is being cleaver by
saying that you should act innocent but secretly be as evil as
possible without being noticed. This also causes dramatic tension as
the audience could be wondering if Macbeth's evil side is going to be
discovered. Shakespeare also uses soliloquies to great effect. In
soliloquies the character is on stage alone so this means that they
can reveal their true thoughts to the audience. This shows if they are
deceitful around certain characters.

In conclusion I have demonstrated why this play has had such a lasting
appeal. I have highlighted the key points that I thought were
relevant. I have considered various different aspects of themes,
staging, rhyme and language. The themes that I have covered are:
ambition, feminism, good and evil, sex, nature, violence and trust and
distrust. Through these themes the play has been written. The staging
creates a lot of the dramatic tension and sets the scene to create a
good appeal to enable the audience to enjoy it. The rhyme supports the
theme of evil so this particular theme has been exaggerated. Language
has been used to create imagery with the use of similes.
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