Discuss Shakespeare’s use of language in Act 1 Scene 7 to show development in Macbeth’s character (1000 Words)
The following essay will examine Shakespeare’s use of language in the entirety of Act 1 Scene 7. The scene is vital to Macbeth’s character development as well as to understanding of the play. Macbeth’s soliloquy shows us Macbeth’s psyche before the time of Duncan’s death; and this essay will be looking at the use of language in the scene in greatly detail.
Before the witches’ predictions Macbeth was merely a noble soldier free of the lust for power, this was all until he was told of the prophecies. Once awarded the title of Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth’s doubts were diminished as one of their prophecies had come true. The audience is hesitant as to whether or not Macbeth will feel the need to become King. Shakespeare shows us how pivotal the scene is to the play, as it marks a turning point for Macbeth’s character. Shakespeare uses Macbeth’s soliloquy to provide us with a glimpse of the complications Macbeth will face if he makes a decision regarding Duncan’s death. Macbeth himself is in doubt and this is shown when he wishes for “it’ to be done ‘then twere well”. Yet Macbeth is aware of the repercussions of the act and ”upon this shoal of time” there is no escaping the consequences of murdering a King.
The tone in which Shakespeare has introduced the soliloquy in reflects upon the mental instability of Macbeth and provides the audience with major trepidation. Macbeth begins to apprehend this severity of murdering a King’ to whom he was ‘his kinsman and his subject’. In Elizabethan times, a King was usually depicted as a holy and righteous leader figure, thus the audience would feel a sense of shock when they witness what Macbeth may be planning. Shakespeare shows us that within Macbeth, there is a sense of morality which does not provide equilibrium between his good and bad thoughts regarding the murder of Duncan to which he should ‘not bear the knife’, as Duncan has treated Macbeth as his kinsman and such betrayal is inexplicable.
Throughout the soliloquy Macbeth thinks about the repercussions of Duncan’s death as well as public opinion. He comes to the realisation that the news of Duncan’s death ‘shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, that tears shall drown the wind’. He realises that the consequences of Duncan’s demise would be too great and severe, as he is a good and righteous King who people respect. At this very moment Shakespeare leads us to believe that Macbeth will no longer go through with the deed, as at this very moment the audience is shown Macbeth’s insecurity and vulnerability; thus Lady Macbeth entering the scene at this time was fitting.
Once Macbeth’s soliloquy ends, Lady Macbeth enters the scene and approaches her husband and tells him that Duncan has finished his meal giving him the subtle hint that she still wants him to murder the King. Macbeth’s soliloquy gives the audience the idea that he will no longer commit the treason; this is shown when he tells her that he wishes to ‘proceed no further in this business’.
Shakespeare intentionally put Macbeth’s soliloquy at the start of the scene as it will contrast the decision he comes to make later. While a man should be more authoritative than a woman, this is not the case at all in this relationship; Shakespeare tries to show the audience how this specific relationship differs to others in terms of power and control. Macbeth’s current state of denial only fuels her bloodlust even further; this is shown, as Macbeth’s psyche seems to have been manipulated by his wife. This gives the audience a sense of uncertainty regarding what Macbeth will do next.
Shakespeare’s language in the scene is showing the audience the contrast between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in many aspects, the most evident being the language they each use. Lady Macbeth’s use of language in the scene is sarcastic as she questions Macbeth’s manhood and loyalty to her by asking If ‘the hope was drunk’ while Macbeth’s dialogue consists of complex and emblematic speech which greatly differs to his wife’s predominant firm accusations and exclamations.
Lady Macbeth uses violent imagery here, to convince Macbeth to proceed with the killing of Duncan, she then goes on to express her sheer loyalty to her husband by saying ‘How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this.’ She shows her anger to Macbeth in this scene as she still desires for Macbeth to become King, and her Queen. Shakespeare shows the audience her sarcastic and witty side when she compares him to the ‘poor cat i’ the adage’ who wanted a fish but didn’t want to get its feet wet. Lady Macbeth’s outburst seems to give the audience an idea that her strong influence over Macbeth is far greater than they imagined as his conscience seems to have departed due to his wife.
Macbeth has now regained his courage and confidence and seems to be willing to achieve the throne ignoring the moral dilemma which he previously acknowledges. He and his wife come to terms on the fact that they will blame the murder on their servants. Macbeth’s entire character seems to have changed as he is the one telling his wife to hide the truth by saying ‘False face must hide what false heart doth know’.
Throughout the play the pair will manipulate and control many events and occurrences using this single deceitful technique. In this scene Shakespeare shows us the difference between the two characters and the dynamic of their abnormal relationship. One should be there for the other at all times during marriage, yet here; one is only there for the other when times are bad. The audience is given an idea of the vast differences between the two and how they are nothing alike for a husband and wife.
This scene may be, if not, is the most pivotal to the play and for the development of the characters. Shakespeare leaves the audience pondering the morality of Macbeth’s actions and how they can contrast mankind and humanity as a whole. Shakespeare was trying to show the audience how vulnerable humans are and how easy to manipulation we are today. In Shakespearean times people may have been shocked to witness the idea of a man killing his own King, yet today; I believe the philosophical impact of the scene differs greatly. In today’s modern world, with all the killing and corruption present, Shakespeare’s message that humans and mankind can be evil seems to have been proven to great measures over the years.