Macbeth – Introduction

Macbeth Macbeth is a play that shows how the lust for power can lead to destruction. This play is as influential today as when it was written, showing the money and power are not the keys to happiness. Macbeth, as many other Shakespearean play, appealed to a variety of audiences in Shakespeare’s time. The supernatural events, the mysterious witches, and the bloody murder scenes entertained the common citizens, while the themes of royalty appealed to the upper class. In fact, the play paid homage to King James’ Scottish heritage, thus giving Shakespeare some adoration by the royal family.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle; life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard not more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. This quot from Act 5, Scene V of the play displays how Macbeth’s greed has corrupted his spirit and has caused a negative outlook on life.
William Shakespeare He was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. The town of Stratford is located in southwest England about 75 miles from London. Mary Arden and John Shakespeare were William’s parents. John was a glove maker and a successful businessman who was a prominent member of the community. William Shakespeare first attended grammar school at the age of 7, where he studied Latin and the classic works of Roman and Greek writers. In November 1582, Shakespeare (who was 18) married Anne Hathaway (who was 26). They had three children. William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1610. Shakespeare wrote during what was known as the Elizabethan Age (1588 to 1603) because Queen Elizabeth I reigned over England at that time. The Elizabethan Age witnessed many great works of literature as well as the expansion of military power in England
Reading Skills Identify the author’s purpose; identify cause and effect relationships; compare and contrast elements; draw conclusions; distinguish fact from opinion; recall facts and details; make inferences; identify the main ideas; identify the sequence of events and predict events; analyze story elements; recognize conflict and resolution; determine the meaning of unknown words and words that have multiple meanings; use context clues to determine word meanings; understand the use of connotation and denotation; recognize basic vocabulary and special vocabulary words.
Setting of Macbeth The events of the play take place in Scotland in the year 1040 AD. Atmosphere and setting are crucial to the play. The story begins in the midst of a storm as three witches are making plans to confront Macbeth. The scenes move from various locations: King Duncan’s castle, King Macbeth’s castle, Macduff’s castle, a cavern, the country near Birnam Wood, King Edward of England’s palace, etc.
Duncan King of Scotland who is a fair and honest ruler
Malcolm Duncan’s son and rightful heir to the throne
Donalbain Duncan’s youngest son
Macbeth (character) General in the King’s army who is led to evil by three witches
Lady Macbeth Macbeth’s strong-willed wife
Banquo A brave and honorable general in the king’s army
Fleance Son of Banquo who Macbeth tries to murder
Macduff Scottish nobleman who leads the effort to remove Macbeth from the throne
Lady Macduff Macduff’s brave wife
Three witches Hecate’s servants who represent the supernatural and use their spells to ruin people’s lives
Lennox A Scottish nobleman who doubts Macbeth
Ross Macbeth’s cousin who joins Malcolm against him
Menteith, Caithness, and Angus Scottish noblemen
Siward Duncan’s brother, the Earl of Northumberland and the general of the English forces
Seyton An officer attending Macbeth as his servant
Plot The groundwork that determines how the events of the story unfold. One event in a plot often builds on another related event. As more events occur, the story builds in intensity. A plot might be compared to the path a person takes in hiking over a steep hill. The path begins on a fairly level plane, gradually rises, encounters difficult obstacles, reaches a peak, and then begins to gradually decline and once again finds a fairly level plane.
Exposition Begins a plot. Where the story is set and the characters in the story are identified.
Inciting Incident It sets the story in motion. The inciting incident can be a physical action, a dialogue between characters, or even a simple sentence. It is intended to arouse the reader’s attention and serve as the hook that maintains the reader’s interest throughout the story
Central conflict The most important element of the plot. Many people think that a conflict must be something like an argument, a disagreement, or even a war. However, a conflict can also be an approaching deadline, differing goals of the characters in a story, or a struggle within a character that causes anxiety or tension. As the details of the conflict are revealed, the action begins to rise as the writer shows how the characters are affected by the conflict.
Climax A moment of intensity which the conflict builds to. The turning point. After the climax of a story, the action begins to subside gradually and the conflicts begin to be resolved
Resolution The writer explains how the characters were changed by the conflict.
Theme The theme of a story is broader than the subject or main idea. A theme is a recurring pattern, style, or motif that is developed in a story. A writer seldom identifies a theme directly, but will use a variety of references within a work to convey an idea to the reader. For example, a writer developing a theme of heroism may refer to a character’s bravery, compassion, fortitude, and determination many times and in various ways throughout the entire story.
Guilt Guilt is one of the themes of Macbeth. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth experience overwhelming guilt as a result of killing King Duncan. One of the most famous examples of Lady Macbeth’s guilt is her obsession with removing spots of blood from her hands. In Act V, she states “What, will these hands ne’er be clean?”
Temptation Macbeth has proven his strength on the battlefield. However, even strong men give in to temptation, and this is exactly what Macbeth does. The witches’ prophecy tempts him to take extreme measures in order to ensure his kingship. Lady Macbeth, instead of dissuading him, instigates and encourages him.
Manhood The theme of manhood is demonstrated when Lady Macbeth tries to keep Macbeth from canceling his plans to murder Duncan. When she says, “When you durst do it, then you were a man” Lady Macbeth wounds Macbeth’s pride by questioning his manhood.
Fear Fear is one of the predominant themes in Macbeth. The fear of being discovered as Duncan’s murderer leads Macbeth to take other extreme actions in order to cover up what he has done
The Supernatural The theme of the supernatural gives an eerie quality to the play. The witches’ prophesies, the appearance of Banquo’s ghost, and mysterious omens add to the drama and cause the characters to act irrationally
Nature Nature as a theme occurs throughout the play and adds to the mood of various scenes. Whenever the three witches enter a scene, they are usually accompaneid by thunder and lightning, which shows the natural chaos they create
Ambition The theme of ambition is seen in the character Macbeth. He is driven by a relentless and ambitious quest for power. The danger of Macbeth’s situation is not his ambition, but rather the action he takes to promote his position
Historical Background Macbeth The tragedy of Macbeth was probably written by Shakespeare in 1606, and it was definitely produced by 1610. James I had succeeded Elizabeth I on the English throne, and William Shakespeare was the most popular playwright in England. His company was called the King’s Men. Shakespeare was writing to please the new king. At the times James became James I of England, he was already James VI of Scotland. Therefore, a play like Macbeth, about Scottish history, was a tribute to him. Macbeth was particularly flattering to James because he was of the Stuart line of kings, and supposedly the Stuarts were descendants of Banquo, who appears in the play as a brave, noble and honest man

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