DIFFERENT STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT IN MACBETH In most stories the main character or protagonist develops and his or her state of mind changes by the end of the story. The state of mind tends to change at the various stages of the plot including the introduction, beginning excitement, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion. Freytag’s pyramid shows the usual structure for the development of the story and he explains how the protagonist changes and develops at those different stages.
Macbeth, the main character, is confident and satisfied with his kingship in the beginning of the story, but by the climax he feels his reign was worthless and insignificant. In Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, the state of mind of Macbeth parallels with the dramatic structure. The introduction of the play starts with the prophecies of the three weird sisters, who have a mysterious foreshadowing of the future for Macbeth. The beginning excitement or intrusion starts with the initial soliloquy that follows the prophecies of the witches.
Right before this speech Macbeth has returned from a battle, very proud of his courageousness and superiority.
King Duncan praises him for his bravery and the victory. Soon after he and Banquo are approached by three witches who prophesy him to be thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland. Macbeth then starts to think about how he would assume this position, but he almost ends up going to war with himself. The thought of killing King Duncan to become king gives him an assurance of success, but he says, “Why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs against the use of nature? Here he explains that inside he feels nervous and is scared of the horrible image this will give him. Macbeth knows that killing Duncan is going against his nature, but he begins to develop great ambition for these vivid pictures of success that he sees. The imagery he uses about his restless heart shows he usually has a calm nature over making decisions, but this one is much more difficult for him. The next stage in the dramatic structure is the rising action and this soliloquy is one that fits into it. The next speech at the end of act 1 is where Macbeth is dwells upon whether he should commit the deed or not.
Before this soliloquy the Macbeth returns home to Lady Macbeth who is so confident about killing King Duncan and says that she will take it upon her hands. He watches her deceive the king and he sees how it is very wrong to kill this man in his own home. Macbeth begins to feel he doesn’t know what to do, and has come to the conclusion that he doesn’t have any real reason to kill Duncan. He finds that it’s only his ambition to move up in status that pushes him towards the murder. Macbeth also worries about the fate of his soul after committing this crime where he says “But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, we’d jump the life to come. He seems to worry about his afterlife very often in the play and its part of the controversy he faces in this act. Another reason for not murdering Duncan is that it would be wrong to do it in his own home, and that he would be mourned so greatly. Shakespeare uses imagery also to portray his state of mind by talking about the poisoned chalice that he will drink out of if he commits this deed, meaning that he will be killing himself. The next speech is the famous dagger soliloquy, which also is part of the rising action in the dramatic structure. What lead to this soliloquy was the push by Lady Macbeth.
She began to question Macbeth’s masculinity by saying that he would be a real man and have some courage if he would just commit the deed and stop acting like a baby. Then he begins to have these hallucinations of the dagger, which he would kill Duncan with and cannot tell if he’s imagining this or if it is real. He then begins to visualize the goddess of witchcraft disturbing his sleep, but by the end of the hallucination he hears a bell ring symbolizing his invitation to commit the deed. At this point he is so sure that he can and will commit the murder.
Imagery is very important in this soliloquy because it gives a sense of the fake dagger that Macbeth saw. He explains how he can see gouts of Duncan’s blood all over the blade, which shows his guilt for the murder in the future. The next soliloquy is where Macbeth is worried about Banquo and the reign of his sons, which also adds to the rising action of the play. Before this speech the three weird sisters tell Macbeth that Banquo’s sons will reign after him if he does not do something drastic about the situation. Macbeth has in his head that Banquo is taken aside by the witches and is told the eal story that his sons were to prevail the throne. Macbeth then decides that his crown means nothing and he is being deceived from the truth. He develops hatred and says that he will not be the one to set up Banquo’s sons to be King. Instead Macbeth will murder them so that he can have complete control and no person in his way. In this soliloquy he gives the imagery of selling his soul to the devil for Banquo’s sons. Like before he brings up his destiny again saying that he committed the crimes, gave up his fate, and it was all for someone else.
The soliloquy at the beginning of Act five is where Macbeth questions his reign and his old age that is beginning to come swiftly. This soliloquy is also part of the rising action is the closest to the climax. Leading up to this speech is the preparing for the battle against Dunsinane. Macbeth knows that soon his reign will come to an end and that many people are very unhappy with him. He starts to feel regret in this soliloquy and believes he is not the king that he should have been. Macbeth notices that at an old age he should have many friends, be honored by most people, and loved as a king, but he does not have any of these.
He realizes that he does not receive honor from the hearts of his people, but only in their speech. The most important image in this soliloquy is that of the “yellow leaf,” which he uses to describe his old age. It portrays that he is beginning to fall like that of the yellow leaf on a tree in autumn. The climax and most well known soliloquy is the “Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech which reflects upon his failure and insignificance. Before this soliloquy, the first sign of his death, which is that Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane, comes true.
His wife also commits suicide and his reaction was that “She should have died hereafter. ” This part shows his change in the state of mind from the beginning to the end. In the beginning Macbeth had so much trouble committing murder and began to have nightmares about it. Now even the death of his wife doesn’t even stir a thought of mourning in his mind, because he has been engulfed in violence so many times. One of the main points he makes in this soliloquy is that every person has their fame at one point for a brief time, but then they are never heard of again.
Macbeth feels his life has been a waste and that his kingship has accomplished nothing. Macbeth uses the imagery of an actor who walks back and forth on stage for his hour of fame and then is never heard of again, which describes his reign. The falling action is the death of Macbeth and the triumph made by Macduff getting his revenge. The play concludes by Malcom, Duncan’s son, becoming king of Scotland, ad the terrible reign of Macbeth is over. Macbeth’s state of mind from the beginning of the play to the end closely parallels the different stages of the dramatic structure.
In the beginning Macbeth has such a hard time coping with the murder of Duncan and feels he can never wash away the guilt. But before he knows it he has no problem at all killing other people and becomes very used to it. In the end he finds that life is accompanied by one experience with fame and then it ends very quickly. Macbeth is very unhappy with his accomplishments and his lifestyle at his age where he is not honored as a real king should be. This alteration of the protagonist’s state of mind portrays that Macbeth parallels with the various stages of the plot.
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