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Examine The Role Of The Supernatural In Macbeth Essay, Research Paper

Examine the role of the supernatural in Macbeth?

I am going to examine the role of the supernatural in Macbeth by looking at the main characters, the witches, and apparitions and the way that they affect Macbeth.

During Shakespeare?s time many people were superstitious and believed in witches, ghosts and other supernatural beings. This is greatly reflected in ?Macbeth?

By the late 1550?s Shakespeare had established himself as a playwright. In 1599 he and six other associates founded the globe theatre. The new theatre was an open playhouse in London. Shakespeare and the six others called themselves the ?kings Men? they called themselves this with the permission of King James 1.


Macbeth is a great tragedy that bounds together light and darkness, good and evil, jealousy, guilt, fate and fear. These themes recur throughout the text and without them ?Macbeth? would have been a dull, lifeless play. The use of the witches, visions, the hallucinations, sleep, ghosts and apparitions are all key elements of the supernatural themes in the play and the use of each dramatically influences the style which causes the play to be more interesting, it seems to really bring it to life. The supernatural is also a key feature throughout the play. The first encounter is at the very beginning in Act one Scene one. Probably one of the most important lines in the entire play is said here.

?When the battles lost and won?

Although this says that every battle is lost by one side and won by another there is also the fact that not all winners are wholly victorious. In other words Shakespeare is saying that although Macbeth will win the battle his soul will be lost. Little does the audience know at the beginning, yet this is exactly what happens.

At the beginning of the play Macbeth is told that he will be king, From then on the use of the supernatural is increased as Macbeth is relying on the prophecies that are brought to him by the three witches. As Macbeth is relying on them it seems that the witches are capable of leading people to death. This is shown in Act one Scene three when they talk about the sailor who never slept.

?Here I have a pilots thumb

wreck`d as homeward he did come.?

The image of the bloody knife before Macbeth causes Macbeth to be brutal cold hearted and cause the murder that immediately follows. Blood is a recurring image in this play to denote guilt. Lady Macbeth frets in her sleep of not being able to wash the blood off of her hands since she feels so guilty about the murder.

The two main characters of the play are Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, they are strong characters and they are also well developed. Macbeth at the beginning of the play is an extremely strong ambitious character, yet throughout the play his character deteriorates into a feeble useless man that seems to have betrayed everyone, including his king to whom he was once a loyal servant. He becomes cold and even more ambitious after the murder, which consequently becomes full of fear and guilt, which causes him to commit the murder of Banquo and the rest of the heirs to the throne. It seems that Macbeth is being over confident which leads to his world falling apart subsequently leading to death. Lady Macbeth at the beginning of the play is a wonderful character, similar in strength and direction to Macbeth. Yet perhaps she is stronger than Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is strong, faithful and ambitious. In the early part of the play Lady Macbeth has to convince Macbeth that it is a good idea to kill the King Duncan. Yet after the murder has been committed she changes and becomes frightened and regrets what she has done this causes her to act extremely suspiciously further on in the play where she comes to the point of insanity where she sleepwalks and eventually commits suicide.

?Out damned spot out

I say one; two why

Then tis time to do?t

Hel is murky fie my lord Fie

A substantial amount of speeches in the text are not directly spoken from the character to the audience, but spoken in soliloquy. This adds to the power of the play giving the audience a sense of knowing what is going on, and what the character is feeling yet the rest of the characters do not. In the speeches they make it obvious that fate will come. This is shown particularly well by the witches. The witches not only add to the supernatural, they also act as narrators and give the audience insight in to what will happen further on in the play.

There are many scenes throughout the text which play key roles in the supernatural aspect. Just before Macbeth is about to commit the murder of Duncan he sees a dagger covered in blood.

?is this a dagger which I see before me The handle toward

my hand? Come, let me clutch thee

These visions seem to greatly trouble Macbeth. It is as though if he is to follow the dagger, there will be no turning back.

Once the murder has been committed Banquo has suspicions about Macbeth killing King Duncan in order to obtain the throne.

There is far more guilt inside Macbeth than Lady Macbeth, as they think that Banquo is suspicious they have a banquet and invite Banquo to it in order to divert his suspicions. Prior to this Macbeth however meets Banquo and says

?tonight we hold a solemn supper sir

and ill request you?re presence?

This is the scene where Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?s murderous intent comes to the fore. At the banquet when the first murderer tells Macbeth that the murder of Banquo has been committed he sees a ghost of Banquo sitting at the table in Macbeth?s chair. This caused Macbeth to act oddly making people around him suspicious.

?avaunt and quit my sight

One of the main themes throughout the play is fate. At the beginning of the play the witches make several prophecies about Macbeth and Banquo. While Macbeth tried to stop some of the things happening they happened anyway.

When Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were planning the murder. Lady Macbeth relies upon soliloquy when calling upon the evil spirits to give her the ability to plot King Duncan?s Murder, without such feelings of grief and remorse.

Dirst cruelty make thick my blood

stop up the accens and pazxsage to remorse

That no compunctions visitings of nature shake fell of

nature shake fell purpose at1sc5line 42-57

The Polanski directed version of the ?Macbeth? is quite how I would imagine the play to have been set, I think that certain Acts were staged somewhat better than others, yet I think this is due to my own opinion and not that of others. # In the text Shakespeare uses a lot of imagery to develop atmosphere, mood, and characters. The images give and make a certain impression on the mind of the audience. As it is a play and was written long ago it is now not known exactly how it was originally performed. This causes the play to be different and each person to have a different opinion of it. If I would have chosen a Shakespeare text I think that I may have chosen Macbeth as it has a strong plot and characterisation which I tend to like. When I came to read it and watch it I enjoyed it thoroughly and it was much better than I thought it would have been. I preferred the text by far, as when you read a text you are able to use your imagination, yet when you watch a film the picture is placed in front of you. Also as Macbeth has a lot of supernatural in it, it is very hard to film and get the scene to portray a real enough image. This must have been difficult for Shakespeare as well as he would not of had the help of technological devices. I think that in the witches scenes this was done well. I thought that the banquet scene was also well done. I think that many people would go to the theatre and see this play yet I think that a modern audience would react in a far more different way to how they would when it was staged in Shakespeare?s time, as then the supernatural was a major aspect in life. It really effected people to the extent that people suspected to be witches were hung or drowned. I think now people would go to see the play as they would enjoy it and think nothing about strange prophecies from witches yet back then if that had happened people would be scared out their wits although many people are affected by the supernatural in a way for example by reading horoscopes

The language of Shakespeare is wonderful even though it is difficult at times to understand. Shakespeare is renowned for his great use of language. Shakespeare continually uses metaphors throughout the play comparing something to other things. One occurrence of this is when lady Macbeth refers to ?the milk of human kindness,? and Macbeth refers to life as ?a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage.?

He also uses similes an example of a simile is when Macbeth refers to pity ?like a naked newborn babe.?

Throughout the play Shakespeare occasionally uses personification An example of this point is when Macbeth says that ?sleep … knits up the raveled sleeve of care… chief nourisher in life?s feast.?

Shakespeare uses several instances of irony in this play to give the play some humour and some depth.

Situational irony is used during the play many times due to the predictions of the witches. The witches predict one thing, which happens to come true. However, Macbeth often misinterprets their fortunes and are put in situations of irony.

Dramatic irony is used often during the play. A good example of dramatic irony is when Macbeth plans Duncan?s murder while feigning loyalty to the king. This is dramatic irony since while Duncan does not know of Macbeth?s plans, the audience does.

The play has a very dramatic ending, which really puts together everything that has happened throughout. The first line of the play seems to

In conclusion we must realise that without the sense of the supernatural and the inferences of the ghost, the hallucinations and witches Macbeth would not have been led to do many of the things he did. His character in general would be completely different. The use of supernatural in Macbeth, provides the complete gist of the story. Without them Macbeth could not have reached his downfall. The use of supernatural in Macbeth caused Macbeth to become a darker and more evil person with each supernatural encounter this Caused the whole play to come together.


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