Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most dramatic tragedies, making the most tensed work that he’s ever done. The play was written during the reign of King James 1st, at a time where England was not an industrial, scientific and urban society as it is now, therefore the themes of the book have striking relevance to the time, however may be considered to have a certain unnaturalness by the modern audience. Witchcraft was a widely believed concepts, also King James felt threatened by them which resulted in ruthless killing of wrongly accused women.
Macbeth is a noble warrior with great acknowledgment for his significant contribution to wars, however influenced by ambitions of him and his wife, Lady Macbeth, along with three eccentric witches that escalate immoral attributes leading to ghastly murders.
Dramatic tension is a vital aspect to the ways in which scenes are conducted and as this play was written when Shakespeare was at the height of his power consequently it is integrated in the play very well.
Act 2 Scene 2 is a remarkable part of the play, compelling, as it does, the audience sympathize with the cold-blooded murder Macbeth. Despite the fact that the audience do not observe the murder of Duncan, a vast amount of techniques are used to dramatise tension in the scene. The scene itself is quite tensed, Macbeth returns after killing Duncan, with his weapons where Lady Macbeth get anxious with the fear of them getting caught.
The weapons are then placed on the drugged guards so they are considered the culprits. The scene has the audience thinking about the consequences of this crime so it increases the amount of tension in the scene. Moreover, the Jacobean audience may be very surprised, to some extent aggravated because the assassination of a King was a massive crime bearing in mind of his superiority and power, as well as relevance in the society. In comparison to the modern audience might be less dramatic however they may be more interested for the reason that they see the play as an entertainment, as a result the dramatic tension may decrease.
The play being one of Shakespeare’s mature tragedies reflects the rich and diverse language used. Macbeth’s “sorry sight” shows that he’s “infirm of purpose”, this create a series of misconceptions between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth hinting that they may end up in a serious quarrel. The exchange of dialogue shows that their impatience may lead someone to be suspicious of them which increase dramatic tensions as a result of unpredictable circumstances in the future. Macbeth’s transition from a noble warrior to a criminal is shows through his speech, his immediate reaction after committing the crime is calling it a “deed” which implies that he considered it a holy and morally right action conversely he then make religious comments admitting that he “could not say Amen”, which conveys the awakening of his positive inner conscience.
Moreover this could be seen as juxtaposition as the religious confession may be made to make his crime seem less ruthless. This augments the amount of dramatic tension as a result of the increase in suspense, and is further supported by the pace of the scene by short sentences. The effects on the Jacobean could be that they are more sympathetic to the condition of Macbeth because of his religious reference and how guilty he feels where as for the modern audience the sense of evil is surely intensified but it doesn’t dictate the events; there is no tragedy at all as he is not an unintelligent character and has the sense to create a distinction between the right and wrong paths, therefore it is entirely his mistake that require no sympathy. Moreover, the Jacobean audience believes in supernatural witches and are most likely to blame them it is possible build up more hatred and fear of the witched internally leading to significant amount of dramatic impact and tension on them.
Shakespeare also creates dramatic tension through a good use of diction in Macbeth’s dialogue. He uses polysyllabic Latin-like vocabulary “multitudinous” and “incarnadine” which contrasts with monosyllabic “green one red”. This implies the enormity of his offence and how greatly he’s trying to fight inorder to get over it despite knowing that nothing will “wash this blood” compelling him to build hatred for himself. This elaboration of the killing may seem very significant to the Jacobean audience, and it could be argued that it was done to raise moral awareness against the biased killing of vulnerable women, however may also be done to shows the influence of witches being unstoppable making a greater amount of hostility for them. The rise of his Macbeth’s moral feeling dramatically increase tension as both types of audience get hints of his destruction.
Another techniques used to increase dramatic tension is symbolism connected with imagery. Blood create many gruesome images in the mind of both modern and Jacobean audience. This could be interpreted in many ways, where it could be taken literally as blood shed in war and murder; used for creating a sense of mayhem and hazard; and finally to represent the evil of Macbeth.
This form of imagery creates a dreadful atmosphere in the scene which again increases anxiety and tension. The killing of Duncan could be argued to symbolise the a Christ-like figure killed by his disciples, as the play was written with Christian and Biblical context therefore is more likely to be interpreted by the Jacobean audience and rather literally by the modern audience. The symbolism technique is much harder to understand there I think that the amount of tension it actually correctly effects the audience of the time.
Not many SFX are used in the play but they seem to make the scene more suspenseful because it highlights the critical situation they are facing. The most important effect is the knocking that is very threatening effect on both the audience and the characters. “Hark! More knocking” – they continue to hear sounds which increase the speed on the scene making them full of apprehension. The modern and Jacobean audience might want Macbeth to get caught but the suspense in the scene dramatically appears very heart-throbbing in comparison to earlier where he expressing his grief is rather light hearted.
The structure is also relevant to the building up of tension however not really that effective compared to language. A much like two fold structure is shown in the scene were we see both his aggression for killing Duncan as well as the regression. Another example is Lady Macbeth’s who provokes ill-feelings of greed to overthrow Duncan because of the lust for power and Macbeth’s fear of the adverse situation he may have to face after. The structure is specifically designed to create sympathy for Macbeth as the change in the feel of the scene from dreadful to regretful which makes the scenes unexpected hence increase the tension.
To conclude, I would Shakespeare’s conducts the scene that has a social and moral significance to the time it was published. However the effects seems to deteriorate within the modern audience because of the type of environment everyone experiences. Shakespeare uses many different techniques to increase tension and successfully does. The most effective way in my opinion was the extensive use of language that has many symbolic meanings, which dramatically increase the tension in the scene as well as adds very appropriate morals. The play was very significant to the time where many innocent women were being killed because of witchcraft and this scene unfortunately does signify that however the tension in the scene for the Jacobean audience was probably a lot.
Cite this Discuss how Shakespeare creates tension in Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth
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