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Does Act 1 Prepare The Reader For The Rest Of The Play? Essay, Research Paper
Write about the dramatic effectiveness of act 1 and how it prepares the reader for what is to come.Macbeth is a tragedy written by the playwright William Shakespeare in the year 1606.
The story tells of a young man called Macbeth who is given three prophecies by three witches and kills the king in an attempt to make them come true. The moral to the story was that in the end Macbeth went crazy and died painfully therefore showing that people who tried to kill the king would suffer.
The time that this play was written is important for two reasons. The first is that at the time when it was first performed people would have believed strongly in witchcraft and evil. To them it seemed extremely realistic and frightening and therefore the whole play would have had more of an effect on audiences then than modern day viewers whose beliefs are different.
The second reason is that James 1 was king at this time and just one year before an attempt on his life had been made in the form of the well known Gunpowder Plot. The play helped dissuade anyone from trying to defy the divine right of the king and so helped keep him safe while royals and nobles regarded Shakespeare better for the plot.
The very first scene of the play is that of three witches standing in a desolate area chanting and cursing in stormy weather. Straight away the audience has been given a very dramatic picture and has seen the very first of the evil in the play. The weather creates an uneasy atmosphere showing that evil is present and also signifies rebellion in the kingdom. As the witches are talking in riddles and rhymes Macbeths name is mentioned. This suggests that Macbeth is cursed right from the very beginning as he has already been associated with the evil of the witches. Because the audience would have known this they can tell that the rest of the play will be based around sinister and evil goings on and Macbeth is going to be in the middle of it all.
In scene two the audience are given an idea of what Macbeth was like before the witches interfered. Here he is described as a leader, loyal to the king and brave.
This shows that before meeting the witches Macbeth was a good honest man and therefore all his actions form here forth were the influence of the witches? evil.
The audience would have first seen Macbeth in scene three as here he and Banquo enter the heath where the witches are. Macbeth is soon told of the three prophecies but at the time is still his loyal self and denies even the possibility that they could come true. He seems bewildered to think that he could become king and says that there is already a king. The thought that he would have to kill him had not even entered his head and the evil had no effect on him until he hears that he is Thane of Cawdor and the first prophecy had come true. Macbeth starts to think that if one came true then the others could to. However he tries to deny this and calls the thoughts?
?horrid image? ,?horrible imaginings?.
This shows that there is still a good side to Macbeth although the witchcraft is beginning to take over. The audience would have been able to see that Macbeth is getting slightly more evil by the second and so it should come to no surprise to them that by the end of the play there is not an innocent bone in his body.
The next scene shows Macbeth attending a formal occasion at Duncan?s castle. Here he finds out that Malcolm is heir to the throne and he immediately begins to plan on killing him and this is an unsubtle clue to the audience that Macbeth is becoming more sinister and Malcolm will be killed soon in the future.
Lady Macbeth is seen for the first time in scene five. She is found reading a letter from her husband telling her of the prophecies and the awful thoughts he has been having. Being a woman the viewers would have expected her to try and dissuade Macbeth from any plans he may have had. However Lady Macbeth say that Macbeth is?
?too full o?th? milk of human kindness?.
She is saying that she thinks Macbeth is too kind and weak to kill the king and that he will need her help to do so. She asks God to??unsex me here? meaning she wants all her womanly charms taken away so hat she will have no fear in committing murder.
From this scene and the next the audience can tell that Lady Macbeth is evil. She is his first ally in the planning of the murder and a strong influence over him. Therefore you can tell that her evil will arise later in the play.
In scene six Lady Macbeth talks to King Duncan and is complimentary. However she is simply using advice she had given to Macbeth that he should?
?Look like th? innocent flower, but be the serpent under?t??
This tells the audience that whoever may look innocent in the play is not necessarily so and the caring sincere sides of Lady Macbeth and her husband are simply false fronts in the scenes to follow.
The last scene of Act 1 is of Lady Macbeth trying to persuade Macbeth to commit the murder. She uses three different techniques to do so and begins by using herself as an example. She uses vulgar comparisons such as saying that she would easily kill her own baby if she thought she had the need trying to show him that she would do what is needed to get where she wants, so he should too. When this doesn?t work Lady Macbeth resorts to insulting Macbeth?s manhood and claims that he will be a lesser man if he can?t go through with it. By doing this the audience will now associate Lady Macbeth with witches and their evil, as it was believed that witches used to make men impotent therefore threatening their status and power. As a third persuasive technique Lady Macbeth uses Macbeth?s love for her against him saying that if he kills Duncan he will be proving his love towards her.
From the beginning of this scene Macbeth is quoted to say?
?We will proceed no further in this business.?
However by he end of Lady Macbeth?s speech he says?
?I am settled and bend up.?
This shows how easily Lady Macbeth can invoke her evil on Macbeth and hints that if she can convince him to do this there are no limits to how far she can push him so there may be worse to come later on.
Over all I believe that three main factors influenced Macbeth into killing Duncan. The first was Lady Macbeth, as she represented the evil in other people. She had a lot of control over Macbeth and provoked him into the killings. On the whole she is more to blame for the deaths than Macbeth as she is naturally sinister and always has been where as Macbeth was influenced by the second factor, the witches. I believe that the witches were mostly to blame for Macbeth?s actions as they gave him the reason to kill Duncan. However I think that the third factor that influenced Macbeth was the greed and bloodthirsty ambition inside him. The witches may have provoked his actions by setting him goals and implanting the idea of what could happen but it was his own temptation that drove him to the murder.
All of these factors are still there at the end of act 1 and it is obvious that they will reappear in the other acts to follow. The audience knows that Lady Macbeth will be near to him a she is his wife so more of her evil will rub off on him. They also know that once greed begins it can spiral out of control so it is likely that Macbeth will have to do more and more to get to his aim.
In conclusion I think that act 1 does prepare the audience for what is to come. The audience have seen the evil just coming out in Macbeth and know it is set to grow and grow, they also know which people influence him and just how much control they have over what his actions. The viewers have also heard where Macbeth is said to end up and know that he is unlikely to stop at anything until he is king therefore they should be prepared for what is to come.
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