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Sinikka Kurri what this? The reason was an uprising against King James I in His opponents conspired to kill the king, the queen, their oldest son, and members of Parliament by exploding barrels of gunpowder beneath the House of Lords and the adjacent royal palace. However, before the conspirators could execute their plan—scheduled for Nov.

They tortured him until he disclosed the details of the conspiracy, which became known in English history as the Gunpowder Plot. He went to the gallows in January After his death, his body was carved into pieces and displayed in public as a warning of what happens to anyone who tries to overthrow the king. Deceit In Macbeth , evil frequently wears a pretty cloak.

But the Macbeths soon discover that only bad has come of their deed, and their very lives—and immortal souls—are in jeopardy. Other quotations that buttress this theme are the following: On the battlefield, Macbeth is a lion and a leader of men. But when the witches tempt him by prophesying that he will become king of Scotland, the lure of power is too strong for him to resist and he decides to commit the most heinous of sins: Later, however, his conscience gnaws at him and his resolve weakens. Lady Macbeth then steps in and, like a demon from hell, fortifies his resolve with strong words.

Together, they make plans for the murder. Guilt Guilt haunts the evildoer. When they hear knocking moments later at the castle door, it is the sound of their guilt as much as the sound of the knocker, Macduff. Presence of Mysterious Forces Mysterious, seemingly preternatural forces are at work throughout the play. The presence of the otherworldly begins when the witches confront Macbeth and Banquo with prophecies. A short while later, Macbeth hallucinates: His wife explains to the guests that her husband is unwell.

When Macbeth meets with the witches again, they conjure apparitions of an armed head, a bloody child, and a crowned child, each of which make predictions about events to come. English essayist and literary critic William Hazlitt said the following about the influence of fate and the supernatural in Macbeth: Reynell, Vengeance After the murder of Duncan, revenge becomes an important theme. Banquo introduces this theme after Macbeth's henchmen strike him down.

With his dying words, Banquo tells his son: Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly! Later, Macbeth thinks he sees the ghost of Banquo. Worried that the apparition is a harbinger of revenge against him, he tells Lady Macbeth, "It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood" 3. But Macbeth does not wait for revenge to visit him. After learning that Macduff is urging Duncan's son, Malcolm, to take Macbeth's throne, Macbeth has his men murder Duncan's children and wife.

Malcolm then tells the grief-stricken Macduff, Be comforted: Shakespeare was particularly adept at creating vivid imagery. Darkness Shakespeare casts a pall of darkness over the play to call attention to the evil deeds unfolding and the foul atmosphere in which they are taking place. At the very beginning of the play, Shakespeare introduces an image of dark clouds suggested in words spoken by the First Witch: Their conversation centers on the blackness of the night and on sleep: U of Michigan, pages Blood as a Symbol of Evil Shakespeare frequently presents images of blood in Macbeth.

Sometimes it is the hot blood of the Macbeths as they plot murder; sometimes it is the spilled, innocent blood of their victims. It is also blood of guilt that does not wash away and the blood of kinship that drives enemies of Macbeth to action. In general, the images of blood—like the images of darkness—bathe the play in a macabre, netherworldly atmosphere.

Here are examples from the play: Holt, page Adam and Eve Critic Maynard Mack , who taught at Yale University, and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud both noticed that Lady Macbeth resembles the biblical Eve in her eagerness to tempt Macbeth to eat forbidden fruit in this case, murder and that Macbeth resembles Adam in his early passivity.

Supporting their views are these two passages in seventh scene of the first act, in which Lady Macbeth goads her wavering husband: After the witches play to his ambition with a prophecy that he will become king, he cannot keep this desire under control. He realizes that Duncan is a good king—humble, noble, virtuous. But he rationalizes that a terrible evil grips him that he cannot overcome. Ordinary language that does not contain a figure of speech is called literal language. Language that contains a figure of speech is called figurative language.

Figurative language is also sometimes called imagery because it often presents an image to the mind. Shakespeare was a master at creating memorable figures of speech. Following are examples from Macbeth. Alliteration Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds, as indicated by the boldfaced letters below.

Note the boldfaced words. Use of bite and like in a line of poetry constitutes assonance. Like repeats the "i" sound of bite but not the consonant sound "t" that follows the "i. Here is an example: In making the comparison, it does not use like, as, or than. Note the following examples. Here are examples from Macbeth. In making the comparison, it uses like, as, or than. The following boldfaced words are examples of synecdoche. Reynell, Belief in Witchcraft Belief in witchcraft, omens, auguries, ghosts, soothsaying, and everyday superstitions was commonplace among the British in Shakespeare's day.

One confirmed believer in the paranormal was none other than England's King James I. In , when he was the king of Scotland, a group of so-called witches and sorcerers attempted to murder him. Their trial and testimony convinced him that they were agents of evil.

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Macbeth Study Guide

Thereafter, he studied the occult and wrote a book called Daemonologie Demonology , published in This book—and an earlier one called Malleus Maleficarum The Witches' Hammer , , by Heinrick Kramer and Jacob Springer , describing the demonic rites of witches—helped inflame people against practitioners of sorcery. Shakespeare, good businessman that he was, probably well knew that a play featuring witches would attract theatergoers and put a jingle in his pocket. Moreover, such a play would ingratiate him with James, who became King of England in So, about two years after James acceded to the English throne, Shakespeare began working on Macbeth.

When it was first performed, it probably gave audiences a good scare and, magically, swelled Shakespeare's bank account and reputation. The witches, the portents, the thunder and lightning, the ghost of Banquo, and the foreboding atmosphere all combine to cast a pall over the play. Four witches appear in Macbeth—the three hags who open the play and later Hecate, the goddess of sorcery.

But Lady Macbeth is no less diabolical than they. After Macbeth kills Duncan and his wife smears blood on the guards, Macbeth's hired assassins kill Banquo. When Banquo's ghost—or what Macbeth thinks is his ghost—appears to him in the dining hall, the play further darkens and the suspense mounts. Is the ghost real or a hallucination? Will Macbeth give himself away? In the second act, a conversation between a minor character—the Old Man—and Ross further enhance the dark mood of the play with their talk of strange and unsettling events. When Macbeth later meets with the witches in a cavern, the supranormal manifests itself in the form of an armed head that warns Macbeth to fear Macduff.

Then a bloody child prophesies that no man born of woman can harm Macbeth, and a crowned child declares that Macbeth remains safe until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. The predictions of the children ease his fears—until Birnam wood does come to Dunsinane as enemies holding tree branches for camouflage and Macbeth learns that Macduff was not "born of woman" in the usual way but pulled from his mother's womb in a cesarean birth.

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It is unlikely that Shakespeare himself believed in divinations and superstitions, as his ridicule of the supranormal in The Comedy of Errors suggests. In that play, characters attribute confusing mix-ups to the work of magicians and sorcerers. But Shakespeare demonstrates as the plot unfolds that mix-ups and coincidences are part of everyday life. In the opening scene of the play, the three witches introduce the contrary nature of this world with two paradoxes.

In Scene II, the nobleman Ross informs King Duncan that a trusted lord, the thane of Cawdor, is a traitor who conspired with the enemy. In other words, the fair Cawdor is foul. After ordering Cawdor executed, the king confers his title on Macbeth, the hero of the battle.

Macbeth, of course, goes on to commit an even more heinous crime, murder. Why is the world of Macbeth topsy-turvy? Because it reflects the world at large as it really is—not a monolith of white or black but an amalgam of both. It is good and evil, innocent and guilty, honest and treacherous. It is a world of sun and clouds, of calm and storm, of cold and warmth. In Macbeth, Shakespeare holds up a mirror that reflects not only the outward substance of man but also his conflicting inner essence. This mirror reveals glory as blood-stained, safety as dangerous, friends as inimical. For example, critics of the Iraq War say the U.

When the witches predict that Macbeth will become king and that Banquo will beget a line of kings, both men react by speaking contradictions reflecting caution and confusion. Unfortunately, the ambitious Macbeth ignores cannot be good in favor of cannot be ill and bends his mind toward murdering the king. But he is full of doubt, full of fears. In one of the most chilling soliloquies or speeches in all of literature, she prays to be hardened into a remorseless killer: Before admitting the king, Lady Macbeth further prods her husband: In other words, look fair but be foul.


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And so, in the night, they murder the king. In the morning, when Macduff knocks at the door, the porter responds tardily and explains that he and his friends were up late drinking. The observations he makes about the effects of drinking are humorous, providing the audience momentary relief from the tension of the previous scenes.

He answers with irony: In the second act, Malcolm says: Day has turned to night, an owl has killed a falcon, and horses have broken free of their stalls to roam the countryside. Then another apparition, a crowned child, tells him that he cannot die unless the trees of Birnam Wood march against him. But Birnam Wood does march against Macbeth—in the form of soldiers using foliage as camouflage.

Macduff then hails Malcolm as the new king of Scotland. This age of kings and castles was born in Europe in the dawning shadows of the Dark Ages. In time, without the might of the imperial Roman sword to protect them, these territories fell prey to Viking invaders from the north and Muslim invaders from the south. By the s, the Muslims had penetrated central Europe through Spain. However, Charles Martel, the ruler of the kingdom of the Franks in northeastern Europe and southwestern Germany, repulsed the Muslims with soldiers granted land in return for military service as horsemen.

Horse soldiers, or cavalry, had the speed and maneuverability to quell the Muslim threat. This arrangement—granting land in exchange for service—was the founding principle of feudalism. The Franks continued to stand as a protective bulwark under Martel's successors, Pepin the Short and Charlemagne. But after Louis I the Pious assumed power in , the Franks commenced fighting among themselves over who should succeed to the throne.

This internal strife, along with Viking attacks, resulted in the eventual breakup of the Frankish kingdom. In , Viking marauders seeded themselves in western France, in present-day Normandy, and took root. By the late s, much of Europe France, England, western Germany, northern Spain, and Sicily had evolved into a land of local kingdoms in which rulers took refuge behind the walls of castles and leased land to people willing to protect and maintain a kingdom against rival kingdoms or outside invaders. The feudal system of offering land in exchange for service then bloomed to full flower.

How Feudalism Worked The king of a domain granted an expanse of land fief to selected men of high standing in return for a pledge of allegiance and military service. These men, who came to be known as great lords or grands seigneurs then awarded portions of their land to lesser lords, or vassals , for a similar pledge of loyalty, or fealty , as well as dues and an agreement to fight the lord's enemies.

In return, the great lord met the everyday needs of the vassals. Knights , highly trained mounted warriors, were the backbone of the great lord's army. Failure by a great lord or a vassal to live up to a commitment, or warranty , was a felony , a crime punishable by loss of the offender's title, land, and other assets.

In severe cases, the offender sometimes lost his life or a limb. The estate on which a lord lived was called a manor. Peasants , or serfs , were attached to the land as property. They paid rents and taxes, farmed the land, and performed many other servile duties. Sometimes freemen also worked the land. The lord exercised full political and social control over his land. The Castle Many of the scenes in Macbeth are set in a castle.

A castle was a walled fortress of a king or lord. The word castle is derived from the Latin castellum , meaning a fortified place. Generally, a castle was situated on an eminence a piece of high ground that had formed naturally or was constructed by laborers. The high ground constructed by laborers was called a motte French for mound ; the motte may have been one hundred to two hundred feet wide and forty to eighty feet high.

The area inside the castle wall was called the bailey. Some castles had several walls, with smaller circles within a larger circle or smaller squares within a larger square. The outer wall of a castle was usually topped with a battlement , a protective barrier with spaced openings through which defenders could shoot arrows at attackers. This wall sometimes was surrounded by a water-filled ditch called a moat , a defensive barrier to prevent the advance of soldiers, horses, and war machines. At the main entrance was a drawbridge , which could be raised to prevent entry.

Behind the drawbridge was a portcullis [port KUL ihs], or iron gate, which could be lowered to further secure the castle. Within the castle was a tower , or keep , to which castle residents could withdraw if an enemy breached the portcullis and other defenses. Over the entrance of many castles was a projecting gallery with machicolations [muh CHIK uh LAY shuns], openings in the floor through which defenders could drop hot liquids or stones on attackers. In the living quarters of a castle, the king and his family dined in a great hall on an elevated platform called a dais [DAY ihs], and they slept in a chamber called a solar.

The age of castles ended after the development of gunpowder and artillery fire enabled armies to breach thick castle walls instead of climbing over them. Study Questions and Essay Topics Murdering a king was considered an especially heinous crime in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot in England in November What was the Gunpowder Plot? Did Shakespeare intend the witches to be symbols of something everyone faces, temptation? Each flee to Ireland and England respectively in order to raise an avenging force. Macbeth is proclaimed the king of Scotland.

However, he has not forgotten the second part of the prophecy of the witches. Banquo and his successors would seem to be in line for the crown and Macbeth decides to kill him and his son, Fleance. Macbeth hires men to murder them and in the course of the crime they manage to kill Banquo, but Fleance escapes. At the celebration that night, Macbeth is put into a terror when the ghost of Banquo appears at the dining table. Even as Lady Macbeth attempts to reassure him, Macbeth begins to be rattled. Macbeth returns the following day to the place where he met the witches who foretold the prophecy.

Upon this second meeting, the witches confirm the original prophecy and tell Macbeth further that Macbeth will be invincible in his battle against the forces which are moving against him in the forests of Birnam. Macbeth soon learns that Macduff has deserted him and from here he begins his tragic fall. He attacks and murders the family of Macduff. While Macduff is in England swearing his allegiance to Malcom, he gets the news of the murder of his family. Malcom convinces Macduff that he should take revenge against Macbeth. Lady Macbeth becomes ill and she starts walking in her sleep seemingly in a delirium.

She has fragmentary memories of the details of the murder. The play begins to move quickly after this point, alternating between scenes of Malcom advancing with his army against Macbeth and Macbeth preparing his defense. Macbeth believes he see the woods themselves moving toward his defenses at Dunsinane. He finally squares off against Malcom in combat. As Macbeth boasts of the prophecy that he cannot be killed by a man born of woman, Malcom tells him that he was brought to birth by a cesarean section, thus he was not, strictly speaking, born of a woman.

Macbeth: A Reader's Guide to the William Shakespeare Play

Macbeth, in his arrogance, refuses to believe this and attacks Malcom. Malcom is finally crowned King of Scotland. Macbeth is a powerful and capable general and soldier. However, he falls prey to ambition and he is easily influenced as soon as the prophecy which leads to him becoming Thane of Cawdor comes true. From this point on he is under the easy influence of Lady Macbeth and is compelled to commit murder. Since he has none of the character traits of a king, his only way of dealing with crises is to commit more murder. He second-guesses all of his actions and is never comfortable with his role as a villain.

His ambition and lack of resolve ultimately lead him to over-reach and he walks directly into his own predicted death. The wife of Macbeth, she at first appears ruthless and driven entirely by ambition for glory and power. She goads Macbeth into murdering the king. However, shortly after the murder and violence begin, Lady Macbeth is plagued with guilt and remorse.

This eventually drives her to madness and suicide. She does appear to be genuinely in love with Macbeth, as if her criminal ambition is truly driven by a desire for his success. Yet she is more overwhelmed with the horror of their crimes that Macbeth and cannot sustain the ruthlessness which sets the play in motion. They taunt him and goad his actions which lead to his tragic fall. The witches operate as magic figures in the play much like the oracles of ancient tragedy. He is the counter to Macbeth. Although Banquo is also a brave and ambitious soldier, he pays attention to the prophecy of the witches and follows his duty rather than his ambition.

Representative of an old order to royalty and knightly virtue, his murder is the crime which sets Macbeth on his tragic path. The royal order embodied in Duncan cannot be restored until Malcom takes the throne. He is opposed to and suspects Macbeth from the start. He is the leader of the attack which restores rightful order to Scotland and he is the embodiment of justified vengeance in his fight against Macbeth. He represents the return of order in the play not simply because he takes the throne but because his ascendency follows the rightful order.

That Malcom, though he kills Macbeth, is reticent in the beginning demonstrates his refusal to give in to similar ambitions and criminal tendencies like Macbeth. His restoration of the proper line of kings is an embodiment of natural rights over ruthless ambition.