How does Shakespeare manipulate the audience’s view of Macbeth
How does Shakespeare manipulate the audience’s view of Macbeth

How does Shakespeare manipulate the audience’s view of Macbeth

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  • Published: October 22, 2017
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This depends on the audience, and their interpretation of a hero. Exactly what constitutes a hero has no doubt changed since 1600, although some of the core elements have remained the same. For example, in Shakespeare’s time, a hero had to be – without exception – male. This, although perhaps not strictly true today – due to sexism issues – is usually the case with fictional modern day heroes. Macbeth’s character can be interpreted in different ways, giving directors complete freedom when deciding how to portray the character.

Shakespeare attempts to manipulate the audience into seeing Macbeth as a Machiavellian hero, although Macbeth’s character sometimes echoes a Greek tragic hero – his ambition being his downfall. Shakespeare has used imagery to get across the true feelings or personality of the characters or setting that it relates to. In Act 1 Sc 2, the Captain makes many references to nature, such as “Yes, as sparrows eagles; or the hare the lion. ” He is comparing the relationships between different animals to the present situation on the battlefield, to hammer the true meaning of the scene across to the audience.

Relationships between animals in nature was mostly common knowledge at the time, and so Shakespeare has used this to create very clear cut parties – good or evil. In Act 3 Sc 3, the porter compares Macbeth’s castle to hell itself, as he says, “But this place is too cold for Hell. ” He is referring to the fact that the castle has seen no less than two cold-blooded murd

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ers recently, and that there seems to be no limits to the evil of the place.

This is another good example of Shakespeare using imagery to manipulate the audience’s view of a character or setting, as the setting for the characters can often show their true personalities as well as their speech. On stage, a director could choose to portray an evil character by dressing him/her in dark clothes and dimming the lighting when they are on stage – as black is often associated with evil. Macbeth is often set in a dark castle with thunder, lightning and rain, to build up the spooky atmosphere. Shakespeare has used iambic pentameter to highlight specific words in the speech of the characters.

This can help actors to ‘stress’ certain key words, and get the true meaning of their lines across to the audience. This is only effective on stage, as the play is designed to be acted out, not just read. An example of this would be Macbeth’s soliloquy in Act 5 Sc 5, in which Shakespeare uses iambic pentameter so that keywords like ‘death’ and ‘fury’ are stressed. This gives the audience a clear idea of what Macbeth is thinking, and how his character has changed since the beginning of the play – from a good man to an evil dictator.

Shakespeare also uses this technique as a means of separating different characters into different classes. Those who speak in iambic pentameter are often high in society, such as the King and Queen – and this idea is strengthened by the fact that less socially-important characters, such as the

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porter and maid, speak in blank verse. The unearthly witches, however, speak with three beats in a line, to separate them from the human characters in the play, and create a supernatural air about them.

Even a simple technique such as iambic pentameter can aid Shakespeare in his attempt to manipulate his audience, by separating his characters into different groups, and perhaps even highlighting the differences between them in terms of good and evil. At the beginning of the play, Shakespeare wanted us to see Macbeth as a good, law-abiding man. We see his reluctant attitude towards murdering Duncan through his words and actions, and we see that Lady Macbeth pushes him into it. Shakespeare makes it clear that it is more Lady Macbeth’s ambition than Macbeth’s, that is driving him to murder.

Lady Macbeth is arguably more evil than her husband, and is almost certainly the main driving force behind the events of the play. Her true colours come across to the audience in Act 1 Sc 5, when she refers to Macbeth as a coward as she says, “It is too full o’ th’ milk of humane kindness, to catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great, art not without ambition, but with the illness should attend it. ” Here, she is saying that Macbeth is too troubled by his conscience to take the opportunity available to him, so she decides she will have to ‘encourage’ him.

Macbeth knows that murdering the King is morally wrong, and he shows this in scenes such as Act 1 Sc 7. He says, “I dare do all that may become a man, who dares do more, is none” and “We will proceed no further in this business” which clearly shows his reluctance towards the idea, or even discussing it. It is the inclusion of scenes such as these that help Shakespeare to manipulate the audience, as he wanted the blame to fall on Lady Macbeth’s shoulders, rather than Macbeth himself.

Lady Macbeth taunts him in Act 1 Sc 7 with “Would’st thou have that which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, and live a coward in thine own esteem, letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would'”. This again distracts the audience from the wrong that Macbeth is about to do, and puts Lady Macbeth in the frame as the evil character. Shakespeare deliberately creates a contrast between the nature of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth himself. At the beginning of the play, she is the strong-willed, ambitious person. It is Macbeth who is weak and uncertain.

Shakespeare shows us throughout the play how her character is affected by the murders of Duncan and Banquo so that she goes mad and commits suicide. This helps to humanise her slightly, as up to now she has shown little emotion, as well as distracting the audience from the fact that she is even more evil than Macbeth. Another way in which Shakespeare highlights the fact that Macbeth was driven to evil through his ambitions, is by the use of other characters in the play, such as Banquo. Banquo is much like Macbeth at the start of the play –

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