How did Shakespeare appeal to his audience, both in the 17th century, and in the modern era? Essay

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Shakespeares play, Macbeth, created a big impact when it was written and first performed and it is still popular and well known. So why do so many people still enjoy it? What did Shakespeare do to capture his audience so well?

Act 1, Scene 3 is the scene in which the witches meet again. One tells a detailed story about a sailor whom she is planning to torture. This shows the audience how mean the witches can be so the audience isnt true how trustworthy they are. Soon after, the witches meet with Banquo and Macbeth and they tell them both prophecies; calling Macbeth Thane of Glamis (which he already is), Thane of Cawdor, and they say that he shalt be king hereafter (line 58). At the end of the scene, Ross and Angus come to inform Macbeth that he is thane of Cawdor. It is once theyve left that he realises that one of the witchs prophecies has come true so he starts to wonder about the second one.

Act 5 is the last act of the play and in scene 5; there are two main events. Firstly, he is told by Seyton, a messenger, that his wife is dead. After this, Macbeth has a soliloquy. Then, straight away, a messenger hurries in and tells Macbeth that Birnam Woods are advancing. This is a turning point in the play because at this point, Macbeth recalls the witches prophecy, which said that he was not die until Birnam Woods advanced. The scene ends with Macbeth ordering to ring alarms.

The main characters in Act 1, Scene 3 are the witches, Macbeth and Banquo. The witches seem like a big contradiction. The first witch told a story about torturing a sailor to death because his wife refused to give her chestnuts! This shows just how evil the witches were. However, they called themselves sisters and they worked together. For example, the second and third witches offer to give the first witch wind to help. Ill give thee a wind (line 10). This is contradictory because they have a good side and a bad side so it makes the audience ask themselves if the witches can be trusted. It turns out, at the end of the play, that although the witches told the truth, a lot of trouble could have been avoided if they hadnt intervened because Macbeth would not have had the ambition to be the king.

This is the first scene in which we see Macbeth on stage. So far, he has been portrayed as a brave soldier and noble Macbeth. However, when he sees the witches, he becomes scared. We know Macbeth doesnt want to admit that he is scared because he doesnt say it. However, we can tell because in line 49, Banquo says, why do you start and seem to fear / things that do sound so fair? Banquo doesnt believe the witches at first. He doesnt take them seriously at all and once they have vanished, he asks himself if him and Macbeth had taken drugs: or have we eaten on the insane root, (line 82). When he finds out that Macbeth is actually Thane of Cawdor, he is really surprised and in line 105, says, what, can the devil speak true? The what, shows the audience that Banquo is surprised.

Macbeth is the only major character in act 5, scene 5. However, he changes a lot throughout the scene. At the beginning, he is extremely confident. He says, in lines 2 to 3 that his castles strength / will laugh a siege to scorn. After he hears the cry from offstage, he talks to make the audience feel sorry for him. I have supped full with horrors, (line 13) means that he has had enough horror so he is immune to them. He seems numb to the Queens death. This is really odd because at the beginning of the play, he seems truly in love with his wife. He only mentions three lines about his wife. After this, he starts talking about life. When the messenger tells him the news about Birnam Woods, he becomes really rude and calls him a liar and slave! Very soon after, he appears much less confident than at the beginning of the scene. He even tells the messenger that he can treat him like he would treat the messenger, which is to hang him on a tree until he dies of hunger. Line 39, if thy speech be sooth / I care not if thou dost for me as much

The witches in Act 1, Scene 3 all speak in verse; the rhythm is steady and they speak in rhyming couplets. This shows that they are different and odd to normal people. They also speak to Macbeth and Banquo in riddle. This gives the audience doubts about how trustworthy the witches are. In fact, this turns out to be the main problem in the play because a lot would have been avoided if Macbeth had known the whole and exact truth. As soon as Macbeth arrives, he asks lots of questions. He seems desperate to know more and in his speech in line 68, he pleads the witches to tell him more. He also says everything that is going through his head out loud. This shows the audience that he is confused. In this speech, he also uses a lot of commanding words such as say¦ I charge you¦ you owe¦ speak¦ tell. After the witches vanish, Macbeth starts speaking in really short sentences, which make him seem more thoughtful because we dont know what hes thinking in between his sentences.

After Ross and Angus have left, Macbeth says a lot to the audience (soliloquies). This shows his thoughts and gives the audience audience privilege. This makes the plot seem more exciting. He asks himself a lot of questions in these speeches, which is a change from the constant commanding tone he was using earlier. Lines 131-135, he says, why hath it given me earnest of success meaning, why was I promised a promotion (to be the Thane of Cawdor) then he goes on to ask himself why do I yield to that suggestion¦ meaning, why does it give me such horrible thoughts? The audience do not know what these thoughts are although later, we find out that he couldnt help thinking of murdering King Duncan. At one point, Macbeth even goes into a daze! We know this because in line 142, Banquo says, look how our partners rapt.

At the beginning of Act 5, Scene 5, Macbeth gives a lot of orders (Shakespeare used lots of exclamation marks when writing the play). These show that Macbeth is very confident. In lines 2-4, Macbeth says, Our castles strength will laugh a siege to scorn. This shows he is not just confident in his way of saying things, but also very arrogant and confident that he will win. However, after his wife, the Queen, dies, Macbeths confidence drops. His soliloquy makes the play less realistic because people dont usually talk to themselves however it is still evocative because it clearly shows Macbeths emotions. In his soliloquy, Macbeth mentions that his wife should have died at a more convenient time; line 17, she should have died hereafter. This shows that Macbeth is suddenly completely numb in contrast to him being deeply in love before his wife died. Perhaps, at this pint he is telling himself that he didnt really care about the Queen because he didnt want to show his being upset.

In line 20, Macbeth starts talking about the meaning of life. This is showing he has a soft side and its also the point at which, in my opinion, he really starts to feel sorry for himself and realises the damage of all his mistakes. This section could also be a metaphor because he is comparing life to a play. He reminds the audience that the play is just an unreal story by saying that its just a story told by an idiot. It may be that Shakespeare is calling himself an idiot but I think this is highly unlikely. I think, on the other hand, that Macbeth is calling the author (Shakespeare) an idiot because Macbeths part in the play is not nice (he turns out to be the tragic hero).

Moreover, by saying that an actor plays his character and then is heard no more, Macbeth hints at the end of the story at which he dies. Also, he is near the end of his acting and will probably be seen no more. He is emphasizing this point; perhaps to let people remember him once the play is over. It seems as though Shakespeare wrote this as Macbeths true moments, by himself, on stage as the hero. Macbeths evocative soliloquy, which shows his soft side, contrasts his really rude manner later. For example, in line 34, he shouts liar and slave. Then he quickly becomes less scary as he starts doubting himself and he even tells the messenger that he has the permission to hand Macbeth onto a tree till he dies of hunger. These sudden changes in moods and politeness show that Macbeth has confused emotions.

Equivocation and Evil are the two main themes in Act 1, Scene 3. Equivocation is also the main theme throughout the play. In scene 3, the witches all talk in riddle. This is unclear and therefore a form of equivocation because if the witches told the complete truth, the plot would have been completely different. For example Macbeth would have understood the Birnam Woods riddle. He would have understood that the forest advancing meant an army of soldiers against him. Evil is the other main theme in Act 1, Scene 3. This is the scene in which Macbeth contemplates killing King Duncan. He describes his thoughts as awful and they cant even be spoken; lines 138-139 Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair / and make my seated heart knock at my ribs. However, once Duncan is dead, Macbeth is suddenly able to kill more people more easily. So, what originally seemed very evil became normal for Macbeth.

The Evil theme continues in act 5, scene 5. For example in lines 3-5, Macbeth says here let them lie till famine and the ague eat them up Macbeth said this without second thoughts showing that he does not feel very disturbed about people being killed or dieing horribly. Also, the evil in this scene is based more on Violence and Tyranny. For example, in lines 37-39, Macbeth says if though speakst false / upon the next tree shall hang though alive / Till famine cling thee. This is clearly more gruesome and evil than killing Duncan with a dagger but it is given less importance because killing, by this point, has become more accepted in the play. Another theme in act 5, scene 5 is Appearance Vs Reality. For example, it appears that Birnam Woods are advancing and Macbeth doesnt understand this however, it turns out to an army of soldiers carrying logs. We can tell that no body really understood why the woods were advancing because in lines 32-33, a messenger says, and anon, methought / the wood began to move.

Also, it appears, when Macbeth is talking about the Queen dieing, that he doesnt care and he seems completely numb to any pain. However, I think Macbeth is just putting on a false appearance at this point to pretend he is not upset and hes strong but in fact, I think the reality is that he is very upset but hiding it. Also, going by the riddles, it appears Macbeth is not going to die. He was promised by the second apparition in act 4, scene 1 (line 82-83) that none of woman born / shall harm Macbeth. Both Macbeth and the audience think that everybody is of woman born and therefore Macbeth will not die. However, the reality, as is revealed in the very last scene in lines 15-16 in which Macduff explains that he, was from his mothers womb / Untimely ripped. Meaning that he was born by caesarean section and is therefore going to kill Macbeth.

Throughout the whole play, the staging is important to pass messages on to the audience. In Act 1, Scene 3, the witches enter with thunder. This emphasizes the fact that they are weird and mysterious. Also, thunder is usually thought of as a negative thing so Shakespeare, by making the witches related to thunder, give the audience a bad impression of them. Its as though the thunder symbolises the witches wickedness. Also in line 33, the witches dance together hand in hand and they call themselves The weird witches showing that they are different to normal people. The audience sees the witches as outsiders and obviously would find it hard to relate to them.

Another weird and mysterious part is when the witches vanish after line 78. The withes actions show the audience that they are different and this, consequently, gives the audience doubts about whether they can be trusted as, as humans, we naturally find it difficult to trust people/things we dont know. Contrary to the witches, Ross and Angus are completely normal people, and in fact, they enter normally, with no special staging effects. Macbeth is given speaches a couple of times during Act 1, Scene 3.

At first, he speaks aside in line 117-119 when he marvels at being Thane of Cawdor and Thane of Glamis and he knows that being king is still to come. He also speaks aside in lines 130, 133, 147 and 152. All of these aside speeches make the play more unrealistic. Shakespeare did this because with the play being unrealistic, it can represent the characters emotions more effectively so they play is more evocative. It also means that the audience solely concentrate on the characters and their emotions. This emphasizes them so this play is written about the emotions and the plot is just a way of portraying them.

In act 5, scene 5 the Queen dies offstage. This draws the audiences feelings towards Macbeths emotions and feelings as opposed to the actual death itself. This is important because death has become relatively insignificant by this point in the play because so many people have died. Therefore, drawing attention to the death would not be very effective. However, the audience is very interested in how Macbeth has changed throughout the play so his soliloquies and attention to him are very important in this part of the play.

In the 17th century, Shakespeares plays were more enjoyed by the public because at the time, they also had a social significance. Historians have also been able to learn about life during the 17th century through Shakespeares play as they are closely related to society at that time. For example, in the 1600s there was a big concern about witches. People were extremely scared of them and there were rewards for catching them and horrible punishments for being a witch. This contrasts the play as the witches actually told the truth. The audience is as surprised as Macbeth is when he finds out that he was the Thane of Cawdor. In line 108, Macbeth says, what, can the devil speak true? to show his surprise.

On the other, it was nasty of the witches to interfere and they were the main cause of all the problems so they proved to be as bad as society thought they were. The chestnut story in Act 1, Scene 3 shows the audience just how evil the witches are. This makes the audience feel happy because they have just been proved right about their thoughts about witches. Moreover, during Shakespeares time, loyalty to the king was one of the most important things. Therefore, Macbeths thoughts (line 33) were extremely bad. It would have shocked the audience. This is also one of the main reasons that Duncans death is offstage. It would have offended the King if he were shown dieing on stage.

In Act 5, Scene 5, it is especially surprising that Macbeth tells the messenger that he is allowed to hang him alive from a tree and let him die of hunger because during the 17th century, social status was very important and the Kings status would have been considered to be much greater than a messengers. The fact that Macbeth told the messenger that he could treat him the same, means that Macbeth is bringing his status right down much lower than a King would normally be; to the level of the messenger. In society at that time, this would be extremely different to what everyone was used to so this event would have a huge impact on the audience.

In my opinion, the unreality of the play is the main reason that Shakespeare managed to appeal to his audience both in the 17th century and in the modern era. The plot obviously had more social significance in the 17th century and was therefore probably more effective then but the plot isnt the most important part whereas the emotions our. As our emotions havent changed, the play can still be enjoyed now and the modern audience can still understand, and be affected by the evocative speeches and scenes.

Cami Rothe Form: 10PE Teacher: A. Partington Coursework: Pre 1914 Drama / Shakespeare

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