Dramatic Effects in Shakespeare’s Macbeth Analysis

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‘Macbeth is full of highly dramatic scenes. Choose two scenes and explore how Shakespeare creates dramatic effects through his dialogue, setting, character and plot development.

I have chosen the two scenes, Act 1 scene 3 and Act 3 scene 4 to demonstrate how dramatic effects are used by Shakespeare, as I believe these scenes are the most dramatic and versatile for theatre production as they can be interpreted in spectacular ways. They are also focal scenes of the play.When William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, in the early 17th century, England was under the reign of King James ?. This had a great effect on the content of the play.

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Shakespeare used certain elements that King James would have approved of such as the divine right of kings and the supernatural. These are just a few. So Macbeth has been particularly influenced by its era. During my research into the play I watched one film version produced by Roman Polanski and also a Harrogate Theatre production of the play.

In Act 1 scene 3, Macbeth and Banquo are returning from battle. The weird sisters have congregated on a heath near Forres in wait of them. This is where they planned to meet earlier in the first scene of the play. Upon meeting, the witch’s make prophesies as to the futures of both Macbeth and Banquo.

Both characters take the prophecies differently and soon after, one of Macbeth’s prophecies comes true. He is given the title ‘Thane of Cawdor’. This is the title held previously by their arch rival, the Thane responsible for the disruption of Scotland. Macbeth is left troubled at the end of the scene by the truth of the witch’s predictions.

The witch’s play an extremely important part in this scene and subsequently the whole play. The relevance to the supernatural ties in with the era of the play and the superstitions of the audiences for which the play was written. Persecution of witches was routine and the people of the time had a gruesome fascination for them and anything to do with them. The way they persecuted the witches was barbaric.

King James personally interrogated witches and was more fascinated and fearful of them than most. Shakespeare has intertwined the supernatural into the plot of Macbeth to make it appeal to the large audience of the time. At the opening of the scene only the witches are present. The dialogue that is fired between them forms pictures of their characters.

The conversation between them seems commonplace in their eyes but to us seems shocking. The second witch says that she has been ‘Killing swine’ another that she has punished a sailor for asking his wife to be generous and give him a chestnut by creating stormy weather for his journey.’A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap,..

.’give me,’ quoth I.”Here I have the pilot’s thumb,Wrecked as homeward he did come.’This illustrates the very evil and chaos that the witches are striving to create.

This tale can also be a metaphor to the chaos that Macbeth is going to create when he is the ‘pilot’ of the ship that is Scotland. The witch’s role is to create the atmosphere and basis for the supernatural, evil and chaotic elements to unfold throughout the play. They create the drama of the scene, being triggers for the tainted plot and it is a key scene and foundation for the build up of the suspense and drama of the play. The witches in Act 1 scene 3 can be a focus for dramatic productions.

At the time of the play they were a key feature in arousing the audiences feelings and relation to the play, as witches were a very serious, threatening and real feature of the era, they could be presented like this to create fear for the audience.Chaos is also an image that is followed through and this goes hand in hand with the theme of the supernatural. In all the scenes that chaos creates drama, it is always a supernatural element that triggers it such as in act1 scene3, Macbeth’s change in character and beginning of his turbulent thoughts is created by the witches’ predictions. In Act 3 scene 4, chaos is created at the banquet when the ghost of Banquo appears.

The supernatural plays a very important part of the play and it is a questionable statement that it was fully to blame for Macbeth’s downfall.The riddles in which the witches speak the predictions give the audience something to ponder upon throughout the play. They predict great things of Macbeth, that he will rise from his present status to being all-powerful. This is something that could appeal to people of the time as it does still for people in present day audiences.

The characters of Macbeth and Banquo enter as equals. Macbeth is a successful general. The Captain and King Duncan in the previous scene as describe him as,’brave”valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!’Banquo, one of Macbeth’s closest friends is a honourable Scottish nobleman and was alongside Macbeth in the battle that day.Macbeth’s first phrase in the play immediately links him to the witches and could make him seem connected to them in a supernatural way.

He says’So foul and fair a day I have not seen.’This is similar to the phrase initially chanted by all the witches,’Fair is foul, and foul is fair;’The fact that Macbeth not Banquo says this phrase adds to the image at the end of the scene of the two friends affected so differently by the witches predictions. This phrase is a paradox, a type of riddle that unfolds as the plot unfolds. The constant riddles of the witches cause the audience to ponder on them throughout the play and delve into the plot to find the various meanings of them.

The witches never lie but their riddles can be interpreted in many ways and, like Macbeth, it is easy to hear only what you want to hear. The witches may have just come across a subject that Macbeth was contemplating in his mind. The nature and power of their predictions is ambiguous, just like the publics thoughts on witches at the time when they were questioning their reality.The witches speak first to Macbeth and give him his predictions.

‘All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!”All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!”All hail Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter!’The witches seem to have caught Macbeth at a vulnerable moment, when he is fresh from battle and killing enemy soldiers. The first thing Macbeth says after the prophecies is:’Stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more.’This hints that he has taken into consideration the predictions that the witches have just said and believes them enough to want to hear more. The impression is created that these thoughts previously troubled Macbeth’s mind before the witch’s arrival and the witches merely highlighted this and brought it to the forefront of his mind.

The nature of the power that the witches have over Macbeth is left unknown. Banquo introduces the image of clothing that is carried on throughout the two scenes as a link. A metaphor is used to indicate the way that Macbeth has been given robes taken by a traitor, the former Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth doesn’t feel that the robes are his.

‘…why do you dress meIn borrowed robes?’This could indicate that Macbeth is not worthy of the titles he has taken on and therefore does not fit his robes.

This image is highlighted by the small references to clothing throughout the play such as the pun on the word ‘rapt’ to mean absorbed and enchanted as well as wrapped which means covered. Both meanings of the pun can be associated with Macbeth’s involvement with himself and selfishness in his rise to power.Upon Macbeth’s predictions of greatness, Banquo searchingly asks the witches of his future. They answer,’Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.

Not so happy, yet much happier.Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.’These predictions are in a more puzzling riddle form. This leaves it open for the audience to ponder them and their meanings and also their significance throughout the play.

Banquo reacts in a suspicious manner to the witches’ predictions. He doesn’t seem to have any hidden ambitions like those of Macbeth or certainly not as strong as Macbeth’s, and he doesn’t become insecure after the witches promise his great things unlike Macbeth. He seems more morally directed. It is with the two characters very different reactions that Shakespeare introduces an exciting force to the play.

From here on soliloquy is used to express Macbeth’s inner thoughts. The stage direction ‘[aside]’ is used to give this effect. This helps the audience experience what is troubling Macbeth and help to continue the building of suspense as to how Macbeth is going to cope and tackle his new found fate. Upon the entrance of Ross and Angus, Macbeth finds out that he has been given the title of Thane Of Cawdor.

This is a high point of suspense, as the audience knew from the previous scene that Macbeth was going to be given this title. The drama is created, as the audience are curious to see how Macbeth is going to react considering his noticeable inconsideration already for what is morally correct.’And for an earnest of a great honour,He bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor;’Macbeth reacts by questioning to himself if the witch’s predictions are good or evil. If they are evil then why should two good things come from them?’If ill, why hath it given me earnest of success,’If they are good then why does Macbeth react in such a violent way?’If good, why do I yield to that suggestion,Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair,’We notice that Macbeth introduces the idea of murder, something that the witches never mentioned.

‘My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,’He is already considering becoming king, with no consideration for the important title that he has just received, Thane of Cawdor. He seems mesmerized to reach his new goal of becoming king. The fact that Banquo’s children are predicted to be kings after Macbeth is dead also seems to trouble Macbeth. This leaves the question in our minds of, would Macbeth kill his best friend’s children in order to keep his own in line to the throne? This would have had great effect on the audience of the time, as they strongly believed that witches were completely evil and they also respected the importance of the king.

Murdering the king would be a serious offence. Here is a character questioning these two ideas, something that the people of the time wouldn’t have dreamed of. The audiences would have been inquisitive as to the outcome of this traitor of their strong beliefs. The clothing theme is carried on again at this stage, Macbeth says,’Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?’when he is given the previous Thane of Cawdor’s robes.

Also, Banquo describes Macbeth as ‘rapt’ again when Macbeth’s soliloquies are taking place. In this case Macbeth could be described as wrapped in horrifying thoughts.At the beginning of the scene, pathetic fallacy is used to create the scene for the witches, ‘[A heath. Thunder.

Enter three WITCHES]’. This begins the drama of the scene. The whole atmosphere of the scene suggests that something unforeseen and important to the plot is going to take place. The witches themselves then create the climate for the evil.

Macbeth alone then carried forward that idea and turns it into something significant. The tension of the scene is then almost relieved at the end when Macbeth decides to let chance take it’s course,'[Aside] Come what come may,Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.’This rhyming couplet suggests Macbeth’s closing of his evil thoughts but as the audience we are left wondering that if Macbeth has tasted these thoughts, will he be able to get rid of them. The final sentence, I think is significant.

Macbeth says:’Till then enough. -Come friends.’Suggesting to Banquo that they shall discuss the matter after some more thought. He addresses Banquo as a friend.

This becomes significant in the next scene that I going to look at. The foundations for the plot have been set.In Act 3 scene 4 the plot has developed significantly from Act 1 scene 3. It is the height of the dramatic curve of the play.

It is the central scene and is shown by the text length and also length of the scene compared to the shorter scenes also in Act 3. Macbeth is present at a banquet to celebrate his coronation. Macbeth has killed the King and also just sent murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance. Lady Macbeth has proved herself to be a strong and prominent influence over Macbeth up to this point.

At the beginning of the scene the murderers arrive to inform Macbeth that Fleance has escaped but they had successfully killed Banquo. This turns the celebratory feast into a scene of turmoil for Macbeth, especially as Banquo’s ghost arrives on the scene. The banquet scene is a good scene to give way to dramatic interpretation. It can be questionable whether the ghost of Banquo needs to be present at the banquet.

In the Roman Polanski film version, the ghost was present which gives a more dramatic and shocking visual effect. It makes it easier to relate to Macbeth’s psychological state as we are seeing the scene through his eyes. In the Harrogate theatre production, the ghost was not present. This causes the audience to relate to the guests who cannot see the ghost.

This makes Macbeth’s behaviour seem more shocking and his deterioration of character seem more real. Both interpretations are a good source of drama. The supernatural is a theme that can be manipulated well to create drama such as the witches and Banquo’s ghost.The drama begins when Macbeth finds out that Fleance lives.

He had, before been playing the role of the genial host, and then the murderers enter.Macbeth’s change in state of mind can be displayed by the change in language used. Before the murderers bring news of Banquo’s death, Macbeth’s speech is inviting and gracious,’Ourselves will mingle with societyAnd play the humble host’After the murderers bring the news, his speech is hurried and full of fear,’Then comes my fit again. I had else been perfect.

‘This is Macbeth’s reaction to Fleance’s escape. From then on, things go downhill for Macbeth in a short space of time. This makes the scene highly dramatic.The conversation with the murderers adds to the rising action of the scene.

When we discover that Fleance has escaped then Macbeth’s downfall seems inevitable. Another feature of Macbeth that changes is his actions. Before he stood confidently over his guests emanating a powerful image. Afterwards his presence becomes less overpowering and daunting.

Both sides of Macbeth’s character begin to clash, this seems to be triggered by the presence of Banquo’s ghost. His outward side, a proud king merges with his inward side of traumas and thoughts of the crimes he has committed.'[THE GHOST OF BANQUO enters, and sits in Macbeth’s seat.]’Banquo’s seems to appear at the same time that Macbeth makes the point that Banquo sadly is not present at the feast.

This is an obvious lie and it is left to the audience to wonder whether the ghost is a figment of Macbeth’s guilty conscience, hinted at by the fact that Banquo only appears when Macbeth mentions him, that the ghost is really a manifestation in Macbeth’s mind. The ghost could also be a portrayal of Macbeth’s evil nature or even been sent by the witches, the element and theme of the supernatural is carried through in this scene from Act 1 scene 3 as another link. The fact that only Macbeth and the audience can see the ghost makes the scene a point of identification between Macbeth and the audience. This is a way of really involving the audience in the dramatic build up and helping them feel the trauma and emotion of this main character.

Here we realise how much Macbeth’s character has evolved from Act 1 scene 3 to Act 3 scene 4. We see him becoming more isolated and evil. Banquo has gone from being a friend to an enemy and hindrance to Macbeth’s conscience in the form of a ghost. Macbeth’s change in character is psychologically convincing.

The supernatural powers transform him inwardly.Lady Macbeth is present in this scene and plays an important role as Macbeth’s stronghold. She takes on some of Macbeth’s responsibility and protects him from being found out by his subjects. She uses the tactics of accusing Macbeth of being a coward as she did earlier in the play.

When the guests have left the room, Lady Macbeth states that the night is,’Almost at odds with the morning.’This echoes the previous statement of the witches’Fair is foul and foul is fair.’It seems that this has come true for the couple. Also Macbeth considers the metaphor of wading in blood.

‘I am in blood.”So far, that I should wade no more,”bathe in reeking wounds,’This echoes the speech made by the captain in act 1 scene 2, leaving open the consideration for the audience of how far Macbeth’s fate is sealed. This scene as a whole focuses on the imagery of blood, wounds and gore.’There is blood upon thy face.

”Blood hath been shed.”thy blood is cold,’At the end of this scene these subtle hints prompt the audience to reflect on what has happened and how much Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are responsible for their fate so far. As this scene is the climax for the drama in the play, this phrase prepares for the conclusion and the second half of the action leading up to the rounding up of the plot.Banquo’s ghost is an indicator of many things in the scene.

It represents different hints and images. The ghost can be regarded to sit in Macbeth’s chair at the banqueting table to indicate that Banquo’s children will indeed inherit the throne not Macbeth’s. Macbeth is terrified by the ghost and feels overpowered by it. His speech is full of powerful metaphors describing Banquo to give him a strong image.

‘Approach thou like the rugged Russian bearThou armed rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger.’To the audience, this can be seen as slightly ironic as this powerful ghost has just been killed by the man who now fears it so much. An explanation of Macbeth’s fear would be that the ghost has triggered Macbeth to realise that even in death he may have to live in turmoil, that he may not be at peace. Banquo’s ghost has also come back to accuse Macbeth of his murder, maybe it is at this point that Macbeth realises the horrific things that he has done but knows that it is too late to turn back.

Macbeth’s royal status decreases in the presence of Banquo’s ghost.This change in state doesn’t go unnoticed by the royal subjects who are present in the room. They are intrigued by Macbeth’s behaviour and inquire on what Macbeth is seeing whilst also acting innocent to lessen the embarrassment of the royal couple on Macbeth’s strange behaviour. Having his subjects present at Macbeth’s clear change of state and mental laps creates another element of excitement and drama to the audience.

It indicates a beginning of a lesser focus on Macbeth and his inward turmoils and an increased focus on the larger cast and the question of ‘will Macbeth give himself away? The indication that his subjects may be suspecting something and the absence of Macduff at the banquet creates this new driving force for the play.Lady Macbeth carries along another image of the play at this point. She talks to Macbeth about sleep.’You lack the season of all natures, sleep.

‘This echoes a previous riddle by the witches. They talk about a pilot’s thumb and that his ship is to be tossed and turned until the pilot cannot sleep. This could parallel with Macbeth in the way that he is going to create turmoil for Scotland resulting in him not being able to sleep. Both of these references to sleep indicate an irony in the play considering that earlier Macbeth was in turmoil as he had murdered the sleeping king therefore sleep itself.

Macbeth is now being told to go to sleep.Before the witches confronted Macbeth in act1 scene 3, Macbeth was simple minded and courageous. It was the witches that planted the seed of ambition in Macbeth’s mind but the conditions for it to grow were already there, as we know when we reflect back on his character and compare it to that of Banquo’s. Act 3 scene 4 shows the extent that ambition and power has corrupted and trapped Macbeth and this highlights one of the well known themes of the play, power corrupts, do not let the hunger of ambition take over the sense of what is right.

Other morels to be gained from the play after analysis such as superstition affects human behaviour and also things aren’t always what they seem, as Macbeth found out when he followed the witches’ predictions assuming what they meant with only blind ambition carrying him on.

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Dramatic Effects in Shakespeare’s Macbeth Analysis. (2017, Aug 06). Retrieved from


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