How the Personality of a Character Can Change with Or Without External Influence Throughout the Macbeth Play; Analysis

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Throughout the play, Shakespeare displays monumental dramatic potential which is seen through multiple forefronts such as the tone, language and atmosphere of the play. Most importantly, how the personality of a character can change with or without external influence. Act 4 Scene 1 sets an appalling and dramatic precedent in its entirety. The act and scene introduce the three witches, as well as Hecate—the goddess of witches. Shakespeare makes this opening of the scene extremely haunting; from presenting the three apparitions that elucidate the grubby nature of evil to precede this scene to Macbeth conjuring up his murderous scheme to gain the throne of Scotland. It gives the reader insight into the eerie nature of the play and how evil spurred from witchcraft and communal superstitions.

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The scene opens with an ominous backdrop and a lingering, diabolical atmosphere which implicates the horror and violence present within the act. The scene itself is set in a cold, grim and dismal location—just outside Forres and presents the witches concocting with a bang of thunder. What better way to open a scene with a storm brewing as the witches are brewing? The storm itself bringing upon a sharp, rather loud discord and envelops the audience with anxiety and tension as is the normal tendency for such discomforting weather. Furthermore, the witches represent the supernatural and are unbound by the laws of nature. This is seen as a pathetic fallacy, as a major motif in the play is the reoccurring theme of Man v. Nature; A tragedy of human will to power. The consequences of humans manipulating the natural order are seen and provide the scene with a treacherous mood and alarming atmosphere. Already the sinister inception of the scene aids in the dramatic interest intended by Shakespeare.

The primary dramatization of the scene comes from the three gruesome apparitions or “revelations” put forth by the witches to Macbeth. The witches circle a cauldron, mixing in a variety of grotesque, revolting ingredients while chanting 'double, double toil and trouble; / Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.” Shakespeare uses this language and rhyme to add to the dark, covert and wicked recitation of the witch’s chants, deeming them separate from how others in the play spoke; that when one would speak in rhyme it is bound to be the witches. The first of the three rather ironic apparitions is an armored head that warns Macbeth to beware the Thane of Fife; Macduff—this admonition alarms Macbeth, setting the precedent that Macduff will imperil his chances at the throne. The head also symbolizes Macduff’s rebellion; ultimately Macbeths fate as he will later die at the hands of Macduff. The second apparitions mentioned by the witches “Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn the power of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.” The second apparition is simply put, a bloody child, who tells him that 'none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth' This news bolsters Macbeth spirits. This statement foreshadows the later events of the play by stating that Macbeth should be bloody. The deaths that will follow and his descent into tyranny are clear evidence that Macbeth has indeed become a bloody king. Not to mention, this prophecy creates a false sense of security in the mind of Macbeth, ultimately making him lose control and go haywire. On a more scientific note, it shows Macduff was birthed through a caesarian section. The third apparition is a crowned child with a tree in its hand, who says that 'Macbeth shall never be vanquished until / Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill / Shall come against him'.

The cauldron sinks and a strange sound is heard. The witches now show Macbeth a procession of kings, the eighth of whom holds a mirror in his hand the king holding the mirror symbolizes King James who ruled England when Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, and whose family traced its ancestry back to Banquo. As Banquo points at this line of kings, Macbeth realizes that they are indeed his family line. After the witches dance and disappear, Lennox enters with the news that Macduff has fled to England.

Macbeth resolves that he will henceforth act immediately on his ambitions. The threat of a prophecy birthed the innate desire within Macbeth to protect himself at all costs and proceed with the coldblooded murder of Macduff. As stated in the scene “The castle of Macduff I will surprise; Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o' the sword his wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line.” The first step will be to seize Fife and kill Macduff's wife and children. Macbeth decides to act on every impulse, and irrationally so. Ambition and fear have pushed Macbeth that final step: he is no longer targeting just his political enemies, but also their innocent families. Macbeth is now truly a monster, transformed ruthlessly by the witches and the apparitions setting a dramatic and horrifying example. This sets the character of Macbeth in stone, and how is perceived through the rest of the play, quite evidently without the role the witches played this would not be successful. During the seventeenth century, due to numerous superstitions, countless individuals believed in witchcraft, witches and their tales; whether the outcome revealed itself desirable or not. Keeping that in mind it is clear now the main influence in Macbeth’s psychological disorders spurred from the prophetic tales of the witches, and societal beliefs that made it okay to have trust in their prophecies. Another instance of this is seen again when Macbeth plots for the murder of Macduff: “No boasting like a fool;

This deed I'll do before this purpose cool.” This rhyming couplet can be linked back to the witches as it was mentioned by Shakespeare to only associate such language with the witches, therefore suggesting they are once again responsible, if not controlling Macbeth’s actions. Macbeth is also seen to associate murderers as “gentlemen”.

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