How does Shakespeare create a sense of evil in MacBeth?

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In MacBeth I will be looking at how a sense of evil is created. I will look at how the characters in the play portray this evil, but also the other aspect that portray evil, such as the language used and the evil deeds that are committed. From the beginning of the play it is apparent that the Witches will be a main source of evil.

The reason why the Witches create so much evil is that Witches where notoriously evil. But as well as being evil, the Elizabethans believed in Witches. Witches were interrogated and sometimes killed even by educated people. People believed that Witches were a genuine threat to them. So when a Witch was seen on the stage a great sense of evil would have been portrayed.

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In the first scene the Witches meet is on the moors in thunder and lightening. The moor is a very cold, harsh, lifeless place. Thunder and lightening are uncontrollable forces of evil. As a result of this the atmosphere create is defiantly of severe evil.

The Witches language is extremely potent. And helps us to understand what they think, and are really like.

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair”

Shakespeare uses this phrase to express to the reader how twisted the play really is. It shows that the Witches hate nice things and love evil things. “Fair is Foul” is an oxymoron and shows us that thing, are not what we think they are. The idea that things are not what you think they are creates a sense of unease, and not knowing what is good and what is bad, whom you can trust and whom you can’t. This is with out doubt represents evil.

The first time that the witches and MacBeth meet is very important as it predicts and perhaps provokes what will happen in the play. “Hail to thee thane of Cawdor” and “That shalt be king hereafter.” This is what the Witches

say when they greet MacBeth. MacBeth does not believe this and thinks it impossible and the Witches liars. But when he finds out that the King is staying over his wife says that it is too good an opportunity to miss.

As a result of this MacBeth kills King Duncan. ” I’ve done the deed”. MacBeth uses euphemisms, this tells us that he does not want to emit to what he has done, so even though MacBeth has killed someone that does not mean that he is necessarily evil, before he killed the King MacBeth said, “We will proceed no further in this business” so at this point he did not want to kill the King but what changed. His wife Lady MacBeth could have driven him in to doing it. Or maybe his inner ambition got the better of him. From the play it seam apparent that Lady MacBeth, although she did not actually stick the daggers in was very much responsible for the Kings death. Maybe even more so than MacBeth. Lady MacBeth said “Such I account thy love” this basically is Lady MacBeth’s way of persuading him to do it. She is saying that if he loved her he would do it.

“Look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t”

This is a very important phrase as the flowers represent beauty, peace and heaven the snake represents evil and hell. The reason why the snake represents evil is because in the bible the Devil comes to earth as a snake. The Elizabethans were very religious and the snake would be a very powerful figure to them. The idea that MacBeth will appear to be like flower but really a snake suggest that he appear to be good but really be evil. This also agrees with the idea of

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair” and things not being as they seem.

The Witches use horrific language “Gall of Goat, finger of birth-strangle’d babe”. Although these things are not evil in them selves they help add to the evil atmosphere. The idea of a caldron and horrible ingredient also confirms that they are strange and mysterious and makes the Witches seem more wicked and evil.

Towards the end of the play a different type of evil seems to be present. It is no longer horrific but desperate. Phrases that back this up would be “I have liv’d long enough” MacBeth becomes desperate and has nothing left to do but to fight. As far as he is concerned he might as well be dead. MacBeth blames the witches for mixing their words around deliberately so he would not understand, he calls them “juggling fiends” The witch changed MacBeth from a hero to a traitor. He was once a loved solider but now he is a despised outlaw.

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”

This means that now even the Witches think that MacBeth is evil. But that does not necessarily mean that he is evil. If we look back to when it all started there is a chain of murders right up to MacBeth’s death. He was responsible for all of them except his own. Which he considered taking him self. But maybe MacBeth is the victim in all this too. The Witch and his wife might have been pushing him along and once he was started there was no going back. It is very likely that Lady MacBeth felt guiltier than MacBeth; this would explain why she killed her self before MacBeth thought of killing himself.

“all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”

This tells us that there is nothing that can be done not even “all the perfumes of Arabia” can get rid of the smell of death. This is a very powerful quote as it represents the feeling of MacBeth and Lady MacBeth after they killed King Duncan and until the end of the play.

Not only is there fear in MacBeth’s castle but there is fear all other Scotland. This is shown in a conversation between Donalbain and Malcolm.

“There’s daggers in men’s smiles.”

This means that they do not know whom to trust. People look kind and friendly on the outside but underneath they are evil and ready to stab you in the back. This represents a great sense of unease and chaos in the whole country. And

again is an extension of “Fair is Foul”.

I conclude by saying that I do not doubt that the Witches were the main source of evil in MacBeth. But as well as being evil they spread it onto other people e.g. MacBeth. I’m sure that without the influence of the Witches MacBeth would

not have killed King Duncan and the evil ball would not have started rolling.

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