Making Sense of MacbethThe Witches • The play contains a lot of opposites: good versus evil, loyalty versus treachery, natural verses unnatural. These contradictions serve to make the atmosphere of the play as confusing as possible. • People believed witches could: • Fly through the air. • Predict the future • Vanish into thin air. • Become your mortal enemy if you refused them food. • Make people mad. • Control the weather. • Cast spells to ensure victory in battle, keep people safe and sound. • Never be trusted because they were evil. • Use animals to carry out tasks for them.
Making sense of the World • These days we know why natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and droughts take place. Science is detailed and precise in its explanations. • In Shakespeare’s time, there was no such science and so people invented all sorts of explanations to explain why bad things happened. • One of the ways they accounted for the unexplained was the idea of witches. Before the rise of Christianity, people strongly believed in witches. • Once Christianity became established, the works of the devil became associated with witches. It was thought that witches were in league with the devil.
Reignof Queen Elizabeth • People wereworriedaboutwitchcraft. • 1564: murder bywitchcraftbecamepunishablebydeath • 1564-1603: in Scotland about 8,000 witcheswereburnedtodeath • The executionofwitchesdidnot stop until the end of the 17° century
King James I (1603 – 1625) • 1590 :the king and hiswifewerealmostshipwrecked on theirjourney back to Scotland • The case wasbroughtto court • A Dr Fian and “the witchesofBerwick” werefoundguiltyoftryingtokillthembyrisingstorms at sea
The King believed in witchcraft • 1597: hepublishedDAEMONOLOGIE • Itdescribedhowwitchesgainedtheirpower and whatshouldbedonetothem
shakespeare • Weknownothingabouthis personal opinion ofwitchcraft • The belief in witchcraftcouldbeusedby Shakespeare fordramaticpuposes at a timewhenalmosteveryonesupposedthatwitcheswerechannelsthroughwhichevilspiritsreachedhumanbeings
The witchesrepresented man’s permanentstruggleagainst the powerofevil • People blamedwitchesfor bad thingsthathappenedtotheminsteadofblamingthemselves
I amThaneofCawdorThisextractshows Macbeth’s evilthoughts and plansafter the witches’ prophecy.
I amThaneofCawdor • Q: At the beginningof the play Macbeth isdescribedas brave and valiant: heis a public hero and a military leader, buthisinnerthoughtsof the scene tellus more abouthim. Whatis Macbeth’s state of mind?
I amThaneofCawdor • A: Hissoliloquyshowshisstrugglewithsomethingunfamiliar and frightening. Hehasto deal with the temptationsthat high public honourwillplace on hisintegrity and heis so ambitiousthathe can thinkof murder in ordertobecomeking. • Heisabsorbed in histhoughts; heisconfused, amazed, bothshocked and temptedtoactby the witches’ prediction, and his mind isalreadyimagininghorribleacts. • Thisis the moment of the birth ofevil in Macbeth.
I amThaneofCawdor “ And nothingisbutwhatisnot”(l.16) Q1: Whatdoes Macbeth mean? Q2: Where else in Macbeth’s speech can youfindexamplesofoppositions?
I amThaneofCawdor • Q1: What I imagineis the onlythingthatexistsfor me; reality and unrealitychangeplaces. The presentis no longerpresent, the futurehastakenitsplace. • Q2: “cannotbeill” “cannotbegood”
I amThaneofcawdor • Q1: Howdoesline 16 echo the witches’ prediction at the end of the first scene? • Q2: What do alltheseantithesesunderline?
I amThaneofCawdor • “ Fair isfool and foolis fair” statesoneof the mainthemesof the play: the reversalofallvalues • Alltheseoppositions and alternativesunderline the moment ofcrisis Macbeth is living from the moment of the witches’ prophecyto the murder of Duncan. • In the languageof the playthere are manyquestions and unresolvedantithesesthatcontributeto the senseofuncertainty
Duncan, King of Scotland , nameshis son Malcomashis successor, and theninviteshimselfto Macbeth’s castle at Inverness. Macbeth sends a lettertohiswifetotellherof the witchespredictions. Lady Macbeth istheninformedthat Duncan isarriving at the castlethatsame night
Act 1; Scene 5: Comprehension • Q1: Whyis Duncan’s arrival “fatal” ? • A1: Itwillbringhimdeath
Act 1; Scene 5: Comprehensioam • Q2: Whose help does Lady Macbeth invoke? Why? • A2: Sheneeds the help of the evilspirits and of the darknessof night and helltokill Duncan. The actionsheisgoingtocommitistoohorribletobedone in full light; hellmustaccompanyit and heavenmustbehidden.
Act 1; Scene 5: Comprehensio • Q3: “unsex me here,…” : whatchanges are necessaryforhertobeabletocommit murder? • A3: Sheorders the spiritstopossessherwithmasculinequalities; shehastogive up herfemininity, hercapacityto bear and sucklechildren. Her body mustbe full ofcruelty, herbloodmustthicken and prevent the passageofcompassion, her milk must turn gall.
Act 1; Scene 5 Interpretation • Q1: Whydoes Lady Macbeth choose the raventoannounce Duncan’s arrival? • A1: Itis a birdofill-omen
Act 1; Scene 5 Interpretation • Q2. Lady Macbeth usesmanyrepetitions. Findexamplesofthisdevice and explainitseffect. • A2: The repetitionof the imperative “Come” makes the speechreally intense.
Act 1; Scene 5 Interpretation • Q3: Whatdoes the metaphorof the blanket (l.16) suggest? • A3: The blanket spread by the dark over the earthimplies a sleeping world. Goodnessistoofrailto challenge the world ofdarkness and horror Lady Macbeth isinvoking.
Act 1; Scene 5 Interpretation • Q4: Whatisyour opinion of Lady Macbeth? Doessheconformto the conventional and submissiverolerequiredofElizabethan, aswellasJacobean women? • A4: Determined, strong, ambitious, wicked , brave, frightening , cold, passionate, demonic, witch-like… Lady Macbeth defiesthatrole, herindipendence and andstrengthofpurpose are uncommon: shecombinessternresolvewithfemininesexuality
Act 1; Scene 5 Interpretation • Q5: Compare the manners in which Macbeth and Lady Macbeth reactto the witches’ prophecy. Are they the same or do theydiffer? • A5: They show quite the samereactionsinceboththinkofmurdering Duncan , although Lady Macbeth seemsmuch more strong-willed