; Macbeth
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									Introduction to Shakespeare’s


                                John Worston,
                                Macbeth and Banquo
                                Meeting the Witches
Introduction to William
Shakespeare’s Macbeth
4 The Meanings of

4 Brief examination of the
  historical context of
   – A Macbeth for King James?

4 Witches and Witchcraft
  in Macbeth

4 For next day:
   – Themes and Imagery
   – “The Bloody Man”
The Many Meanings of Macbeth
4 A historical thriller                 4 A play of illusions
   – a fast-moving, action-packed          – the effect of the mysterious or
     murder mystery demonstrating            supernatural on humans
     that crime doesn’t pay

4 A psychological study of
                                        4 A play of ideas or themes
  a murderer’s mind                        – for example, “appearance
                                             versus reality”

4 A play of political and
  social realism                        4 A tragedy
                                           – the fall of a great person
   – how oppressive and
                                             brought about by a fatal flaw in
     hierarchical society can corrupt
                                             their character
Historical Context of Macbeth
4 Shakespeare was a        4 Eleventh-Century
  playwright, not an         Scotland was a violent and
                             troubled country.
  historian. However,
                           4 Feuding families and clans
  he knew that history
                             fought to control trade and
  provided great             territory.
  material for plays:      4 The castle was the power
  war, conflict,             base of each rival war-lord
  ambition, the downfall     (thane).
  of great rulers.         4 Political murder and
                             revenge killings were
The Real Macbeth
4 The real Macbeth was
  born in 1005, the son of a
  ruling family.

4 Macbeth’s father was
  murdered by his cousin.

4 Macbeth married the
  granddaughter of the High
  King of Scotland (Gruach)

  Martin, Banquo and Macbeth on the Heath
Duncan and Macbeth
4 Duncan was the king of      4 Macbeth ruled Scotland for 17
  Scotland at the time the       years, during which time
                                 Scotland became comparatively
  real Macbeth was born          peaceful and stable.

4 Duncan was 38 at the time   4 Duncan’s son, Malcolm,
  of his murder - a murder       invaded Scotland in 1054,
                                 supported by Edward the
  possibly committed by the
  real Macbeth.
                              4 Macbeth was killed on August
4 Macbeth was elected High       15, 1057 and buried at Iona, the
  King of Scotland in 1040.      sacred burial place of the Kings
                                 of Scotland.
A Macbeth for King James?
4 King James succeeded Queen Elizabeth in
  1603 - a Stuart, he was already King of
4 Shakespeare’s Macbeth may have been
  performed for the first time before King
  James in 1606
4 Macbeth contains many echoes of King
  James’ interests . . .
A Macbeth for King James?
4 Banquo (pictured at right)
    – an elaborate family tree of the
      Stuart dynasty suggests that King
      James is descended from a real
      Banquo (Holinshed). In fact,
      Banquo never existed.

    – Shakespeare lays full
      responsibility for Banquo’s death
      upon the Macbeths

    – the change to the traditional telling
      of the story was probably made to
      appease King James, who hated
      King-killers (regicides).

     Henry Fuseli, Macbeth, Banquo and the Witches on
     the Heath
A Macbeth for King James?

                Alexandre-Marie Colin, The Three Witches from
Witches & Witchcraft
4 A witch-mania
  characterized the
  Elizabethan era.

4 Most people believed in
  witches and circulating
  pamphlets containing tales
  of witches and witchcraft
  were the equivalent of
  today’s popular

         Henry Fuseli, The Three Witches
Witches and Witchcraft
4 Witches were said to have “diabolical” powers. They could:
  – predict the future
  – bring on night in the daytime
  – cause fogs and tempests
  – kill animals
  – curse enemies with fatal, wasting diseases
  – cause nightmares and sterility
  – take demonic possession of any individual
  – raise evil spirits by concocting a brew

4 It was believed that witches allowed the devil to suck their blood.
   Accused witches were examined for the “Devil’s Mark” - a red
   mark on their body from which the devil had sucked blood.
Witches and Witchcraft - Misogyny?
beginning Macbeth. . .
4 Trance                              4 Disturbed Behaviour
   – “look how our partner’s rapt”       – “I have a strange infirmity”

4 Changed Appearance                  4 Lack of Fear
   – “why do you make such faces”        – “I have almost forgot the taste
                                           of fears”

4 Inability to Pray
   – “ “Amen” stuck in my throat”
                                      4 Indifference to Life
                                         – “She should have died
4 Visions
   – “Is this a dagger I see before
                                      4 Invitiations to evil spirits
                                         – “Come, you spirits”
Your Journal. . .
4 Consider one of the following
   in a short journal response:
    – Only once (in I, iii., l.5) does
      someone call the weird sisters
      “witches”. Consider alternative
      ways of dramatizing these
      characters and clarify your

    – Compare/contrast two opposing
      points of view about the play:
      Shakespeare is flattering King
      James in his play, Macbeth;
      Macbeth reflects matters of interest
      to the general public of 1605-1606.

                           Macbeth Tartan
For Next Day . . .
4 Close reading of Act I
  (please do this tonight!)

   – Pay particular attention to
     the themes and images that
     are introduced here.

   – Jot down a list of themes
     and images that appear in
     Act I.

   – Be sure to reference scene
     and line numbers!

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