English Literature Macbeth Essays
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Hi guys, I was wondering if anyone would be able to give me any pointers, possibly any suggestions as to what band my essay would fall into. And maybe even possible ideas etc.
How do you respond to the view that the supernatural elements in Macbeth represent Macbeth's own internal struggles?
The Supernatural elements in Macbeth can be seen to represent Macbeth's internal battle between good and evil, externalised in the setting, and his internal struggle with guilt and madness, presented by his visions. However, it could also be argued that the supernatural elements, such as the "weyward sisters", the visions and darkness overhanging the play, are rather forces of evil which sway Macbeth further into the darkness.
The supernatural element of the 'weyard sisters' have an extricable link to Macbeth, or "weyard son". They can be argued to be an externalisation of Macbeth's evil thoughts. This link is emphasised as Macbeth's first words "so foul and fair a day I have not seen", mirrors the witches "fair is foul and foul is fair" chiasmus. The witches can be seen as an externalisation of his repressed transgressive desires, which when presented to the forefront of his conscience "doth unfix [his] hair" and makes his "seated heart knock at his ribs", suggesting that the idea of Duncan's murder is not a foreign notion. However, this link may be explained by their power over him, this is introduced as they isolate Macbeth instantly by mentioning his name. A Jacobean audience would have held a strong fear of witches, believing that the witches held power over Macbeth. This suggests that this belief forms a more adequate explanation of the strong link between the witches and Macbeth.
Furthermore, the visions such as the dagger, can be seen to be a representation of Macbeth's guilt before he commits the murder of Duncan. The "dagger of the mind" highlights the fragility of his conscience, the gouts of blood which appear foreshadows the violence and blood to come. Blood even becomes a symbol of his madness and guilt as he is unable to wash the blood off his hands "my hand would rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine" representing his never ending guilt and inability to cleanse his conscience. The dagger, the "false creation" represents his conflict as to whether he should carry through with the act despite his sub conscience warning him of the consequences. This conflict is further emphasised as it is revealed in stage directions [he draws his dagger] which as a "valiant" soldier proves to be his first instinct in face of danger, further emphasising his uneasiness about the deed. However, it is justified that the dagger, rather than being a representation of his internal struggle, is a vision crafted and implanted by the witches to play with his mind and draw him to the deed. This is emphasised as the dagger is positioned "handle toward the hand", inciting him to evil. this is an extension of the idea that the witches use their forces of black magic to present to him a prophecy to "trade and traffic" with "riddles and affairs of death" thus they play with Macbeth, where the dagger is simply a ploy they use.
Moreover, the vision in the form of the ghost of Banquo, similar to the "air drawn dagger", represents Macbeth's guilt in murdering "noble" Banquo. This is suggested as only he can see it, this isolates him, further illustrating how he isolated himself from the other characters and notably, Lady Macbeth, allowing her to be innocent of the knowledge". This technique reveals how the ghost is a product of his conscience. Furthermore, the audience is able to see the ghost also, indicate by stage directions [Enter Ghost of Banquo], this induces sympathy, furthering the effect of it being a product of his guilt, also enhancing the terror. On the other hand, it may be elicited that the vision is as Lady Macbeth states the "very painting of [Macbeth's] fear" rather than his guilt. This is to say that the vision of the ghost represents Macbeth's fear that Banquo is still alive, a fear rooted in the fact that his children would overthrow his throne. However, it is more convincing to Macbeth's state of turmoil and restlessness that the vision represents his struggle facing the guilt of murdering Banquo.
Moreover, the supernatural elements of darkness in the setting, presenting the battle of dark vs. light, representing the internal battle of good vs. evil in Macbeth. This battle is evidence as his initial refusal "we shall proceed no further", then committing the act "I have done the deed", even his use of language conveys that he is aware of the gravity of his crime and that he will be judged. Moreover, he constantly shows remorse "wherefore could I not pronounce amen" after committing acts of transgression, or evil. This element of good vs. evil is often represented as a fight between light and darkness, a theme which is manipulated in the play. the darkness in the setting is often at battle with the 'good' light "dark night strangles the travelling lamp" the use of murderous lexicon parallels Macbeth's murderous thoughts. Furthermore, the description that the "darkness does the face of the earth entomb" represents the violence and the all consuming nature of darkness and evil, this is significant as it related to Macbeth's internal struggles with evil and its ability to forsake his "human kindness".
Furthermore, in order to perform evil Macbeth calls upon the darkness of night, all transgressions in the play are committed under the darkness of night. The darkness not only represents his dark desires, but acts as a cover for him to carry them out " Stars hide your fires, let not light see my dark and deep desires". Although, not only acting to conceal but also plays a role as an active dark force of evil "nights black agents to their preys do rouse". In this manner, in the battle between dark and light in the play may not simply represent Macbeth's internal struggles, but it becomes a supernatural force which is called upon an used by Macbeth in order to commit murder and further his ambitious plans.
Succinctly, another way in which Shakespeare uses supernatural elements to externalise and reflect Macbeth's internal struggle, is in the chaos and disruption of Nature following the murder of Duncan. This chaos in Nature "the earth was feverous and did shake" represents Macbeth's internal struggles after committing an act going against his human nature, the fragility of his conscience and human nature struggles with the aftermath of committing this "sacrilegious murther", emphasised by the personification of the earth becoming 'feverous', an illness common to humans seen in descent to madness, while the 'shakes' emphasises Macbeth's frailty. This guilt and transgression is reflected by the chaos in Nature. Alternatively, this could e argued to be the natural worlds reaction to an unnatural deed. Macbeth disrupts the natural order, going against the Divine right appointed by God as a consequence of the transgression "thou seest the heavens as troubled by mans act". This would be taken as inherent to a Jacobean audience, as God's reaction to the murder of the King would have created suspense and terror. Therefore, has a greater significance in explaining this supernatural element.
To conclude, the supernatural elements in Macbeth can be seen to represent Macbeth's internal struggles, with the ability of deepening the understanding of Macbeth's conflict in his conscience. In this manner, the visions and setting become significant. However, this explanation is not enough to fully explain all the supernatural elements encountered throughout the play.
Thanks so much guys x
hi i think this is a really good essay overall, what i would say is i think you need more clear links to the gothic. So when you're mentioning good vs evil, explicitly say that this adds a gothic atmosphere to the play etc., this will help examiners clearly see you're engaging with the gothic contexts i also think at the end of each paragraph just add a sentence that basically just states what the paragraph is adding to the argument overall, so like " therefore, this shows that the supernatural element of Banquo's ghost, to a large extent, represents Macbeth's own internal struggles". The essay is great btw, i just think little things like this are useful 'pointers' to examiners that you're hitting all the AO's.
We will proceed no further in this business.
He hath honoured me of late, and I have bought
Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,
Not cast aside so soon.
Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?
And wakes it now to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time,
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting I dare not wait upon I would,
Like the poor cat i'th'adage?
I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more is none.
What beast was't then
That made you break this enterprise to me?
When you durst do it, then you were a man.
And to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. Nor time, nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both.
They have made themselves and that their fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn
As you have done to this.
If we should fail?
But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we'll not fail.
Act 1 Scene 7