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Introduction to Shakespeare’s Macbeth John Worston, Macbeth and Banquo Meeting the Witches Introduction to William Shakespeare’s Macbeth 4 The Meanings of Macbeth 4 Brief examination of the historical context of Macbeth – 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 individuals 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 commonplace. 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 Confessor. 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 Scotland 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 Macbeth 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 newspapers. 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 hereafter” 4 Visions – “Is this a dagger I see before me?” 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 reasoning. – 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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