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Macbeth… Preparing for Themes

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  1. Macbeth… Preparing for Themes On a sheet of paper, jot down your thoughts about the following statements: • It is impossible to be ambitious and maintain your integrity. • The world is just; if you do something wrong, you will be punished for it. • If somebody is coerced into killing, he or she is not responsible for that death.

  2. Background • English Renaissance-16th to early 17th cent. • Era of great learning and knowledge • Age of nationalism—people were proud to be English • Age of humanism (today’s humanities… grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, philosophy) • Around 1600, there was a growing sense of pessimism—plays began to reflect this.

  3. Background • Elizabethan Era-1558 to 1603 • Plays tend to be sentimental and romantic • More nationalistic • More crossing of class barriers (falling in love) • Comedy of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It • Jacobean Era-1603 to 1625 • More realistic and satirical • More disillusioned and dark • Greater sense of class conflict • Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet

  4. Why the Change? • 1. People were worried about the loss of Queen Elizabeth, who had no heirs. • The Elizabethan era was generally a prosperous age, so losing her wasn’t that great for the country… • 2. James I became King—not as popular as Elizabeth. • She was capable, brilliant, charming, and authoritative… um… he wasn’t.

  5. Background on Macbeth • The real Macbeth was an 11th century Scottish King. He became King after killing Duncan, the incompetent ruler with a six-year reign full of rebellion. • Ruled peacefully for 10 years. • Enacted laws protecting the rights of widows and orphans • Introduced stone construction... great news, particularly during a time period when thatch roofs were intentionally burned…

  6. Background on Macbeth • The realMacbeth had a spotty final 7 years… • Duncan’s exiled sons had grown to adulthood and were plotting to invade Scotland and oust Macbeth. • Macbeth became paranoid, perhaps out of guilt for killing Duncan?

  7. Background on Macbeth • Written to please King James I (formerly King James VI of Scotland) • King James was interested in witchcraft, hence the “weird sisters.” • King James also thought he was descended from Banquo, who is portrayed well in the play • Most likely written between 1603-1607

  8. Themes • 1. Unchecked ambition Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s lust for power • 2. The Burden of guilt“… Cawdor shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep no more” (2.2) • 3. “Nothing is but what is not.”

  9. Watch for these symbols and motifs… • The role of blood • The role of the supernatural • Witches • Ghosts • Hallucinations • Prophecy • Weather (yes… again…)

  10. Superstition… • Some people believe that evil transcends the story and that the play is cursed; there is a fear that uttering its name can cause bad luck. • Therefore, Macbeth is also referred to as “The Scottish Play,”“MacB,” or “The Comedy of Glamis.” • Speak the name in a theater? You must exit, turn around 3 times, and spit or curse.