Total Effect of "The Tragedy of Macbeth"

Total Effect of "The Tragedy of Macbeth"

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The Shadow
     “The Tragedy of Macbeth”, written by William Shakespeare, gives the reader an impact of the horror at the darkness in humans. In the story, the most dominant literary element is the theme. The theme brings out the impact of horror, while the other literary elements support it. One of the most evident quotes that made me think of the horror of darkness in humans was said by Macbeth, “Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires…” This quote showed that Macbeth was heavily influenced by his ambitions.
     The theme, being the most dominant literary element, shows how the darkness in people has been drawn out. Themes such as appearance versus reality, attempts to control the future, human responses to supernatural powers and loyalty show how we can be easily taken over by the evil in us. After the death of King Duncan, Macbeth tries to convince himself that he did the right thing. He murdered his king in cold blood and regained his consciousness for a brief moment. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?” this quote, also spoken by Macbeth, gives the reader a sense that he regained his ego and was exposed with extreme guilt. It also gives a sense that he was possessed by a demon. This can be backed up by the theme of human responses to supernatural powers. Although the witches contribute greatly here, I would want to talk about hallucinations first. (In psychology, hallucinations are a form of supernatural powers.) The soliloquy in Act II Scene I show Macbeth hallucinating of an imaginary, bloody dagger. “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle towards my hand?” This was his illusion of what was upcoming, the murdering of King Duncan. This illusion gives the reader a sense that he is possessed by his alter-ego that he is going to kill the king. The witches foretold the future, and that their prophecies of Macbeth let his own “shadow” take over himself. Being that Macbeth went crazy from murdering his king, he also became aware that this murdering might also happen to him. This he decided to try and control his future – well, at least in several attempts, but always ended up half done. “To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus…” this quote shows that Macbeth is in fear, and he tries to overcome this fear by eliminating anyone that was a threat to him.

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In the end Macbeth lost himself, his life and his loyalty. Loyalty was very important in the times of Macbeth. During his period, if you weren’t loyal to anyone, you had just put yourself in risk. Macbeth, at first, was loyal to his king, but the prophecies of the three witches – along with the “persuasion” of his wife – swayed his loyalty, and inspired him to murder King Duncan.
     A good story cannot stand alone with a theme to create such powerful impacts of horror; several other elements help support the theme. The plot and setting helps create the total effect greatly because both of them are critical elements of the story. The plot of the story lets the reader get exposed to numerous bloody, murder scenes. “Still it cried “Sleep no more!” to all the house: “Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more: Macbeth shall sleep no more.” This quote from Macbeth draws the reader into the horror. Likewise, in the setting, light was never to be mentioned. [In the midst of a great storm of thunder and lightning…] This excerpt from the very first words of Macbeth shows that the gloomy and horrific atmosphere has already been set since the first scene of the story.
     The characters of the story also contribute to the total effect. Soliloquies of the protagonists show how several internal and external conflicts give the reader an impression of the horror at the darkness in mankind. “Out, damned spot! Out I say!” Lady Macbeth, who was sleep-walking, subconsciously showed her internal conflict of the murder of King Duncan. Also Macbeth and his illusionary dagger show that he is struggling with the evil within. Finally, the irony in the story contributes to the total effect by the prophecies of the witches. The witches’ prophecies – in riddles – made Macbeth seems as if he were invincible. “Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn the power of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.” Spoken by the apparition of a bloody child this clearly tells the reader that Macbeth was undefeatable. “[Macbeth] “… I bear a charmed life, which must not yield to one of woman born.” [Macduff] “Despair thy charm, and let the angel whom thou still hast served tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped.” This dialogue shows the irony, where the witches’ prophesized that Macbeth was undefeatable, he was slain in the end.
     “The Tragedy of Macbeth”, as I conclude, impacts the reader at the horror of darkness in people. The story uses the theme as the most dominant literary element, and other literary elements supporting it to bring out the total effect of the whole story. On a different view, if Macbeth had been a more persistent person, all this tragedy would not have happened to him. If he had not killed his king, or believed the witches, the story would not end up this way. But since it is a “tragedy” of Macbeth, he has deserved for what he has done.
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