Macbeth by William Shakespeare
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The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul
A Phantasmagoria; Scene: Conjuring Up an Armed Skeleton
This is one of several prints by Gillray whose subject is the Treaty of Amiens negotiated with Napoleon and the Directorate by the Addington administration and finalized in March, 1802. Like most of Britain, tired of warfare and taxes, Gillray had initially taken a wait and see attitude towards the new treaty ( Sketch of the Interior of St Stephens, as it Now Stands (March 1, 1802), but in prints like The Nursery, with Britannia Reposing in Sleep (December 4, 1802), and The First Kiss This Ten Years (January 1, 1803), this measured support eventually changed to the suspicion that Britain had been lulled to sleep and taken advantage of with promises from Napoleon that would never be kept. In Phantasmagoria; Scene: Conjuring Up an Armed Skeleton, Gillray expresses his most explicit dissatisfaction with the Treaty and its most conspicuous supporters: Henry Addington, Lord Hawkesbury, Charles James Fox, and William Wilberforce.
The scene, as presented, is loosely based on Act IV Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Macbeth where Macbeth seeks out the Three Witches to look into the future and learn of his fate. When Macbeth knocks, the witches are busily adding ingredients to their bubbling cauldron out of which will emerge three apparitions which will provide riddling answers to Macbeth's unspoken questions. The first apparition is an armed head, representing Macduff and his forces.
In Gillray's version, Addington, Hawkesbury, and Fox are the three witches. Prime Minister Addington (on the left) is ladling guineas from moneybags labeled "To make Gruel Thick & Slab"(Macbeth IV.i, 31). On the right, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Hawkesbury is feeding the fire with notes inscribed with the various possessions given up as part of the treaty, including "Egypt," "Malta,", and the "Cape" of Good Hope, as well as others like Switzerland which Napoleon was seizing in a pattern of barely restrained aggression. The Opposition Leader, Charles James Fox, who had long argued for peace with France greets the result with satisfaction. In the cauldron we can see that one of the previous ingredients sacrificed to this gruel was the British Lion itself whose tail and paw seem to be struggling to emerge from the pot. Its bloody severed head lies in the dust of the foreground while a cock with a French bonnet rouge crows triumphantly over it.
Out of the steaming brew which is labeled (top center) "PEACE" the apparition of an "Armed Skeleton" emerges. The trident, shield, and flowing hair identify this as Britannia, reduced to a mere skeleton of what she once was. And in spite of the "Hymn of Peace" being offered by the religiously naive Wilberforce, we can see that the olive branch offered by Addington contains a snake. And indeed all three witches have some indication of the French tricolour about their person suggesting that they are unwitting collaborators in Britain's destruction.
Gillray's audience, as spectator, is in Macbeth's position, wondering what the future has in store. And Gillray's grim answer is a greatly diminished Britain whose ministers are giving away its financial and strategic resources to France.
3 Witch. Liver of blaspheming Jew; Gall of goat, and slips of yew, Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse; Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips; Finger of birth-strarngled babe, Ditch-delivered by a drab, Make the gruel thick and slab; Add thereto a tiger's chaudron, For th' ingredience of our cauldron.
Shortly will be produced, in addition to the usual Performances at this place, which have aready been favored with the greatest applause, A CURIOUS OPTICAL ILLUSION called The SORCERER'S ANNIVERSARY, presenting in the most extraordinary manner a DANCE of WITCHES. . . The commencement of this New Performance presents to the eye of the Spectator ONE SINGLE FIGURE which multiplies itself into a great number more in an instant; and without any visible interference or agency, in a few moments, is surrounded with an incredible number of Witches, who, forming themselves into a curious groupe, dance about, and occupy the whole bounds of the Theatre.
First ad for phantasmagoria seems to have appeared in October 1, 1801 in the Morning Chronicle It was followed up on October 5 with the same ad (?) in the London Times . From then on through all of 1802 and into 1803, numerous ads appeared for the new technology in most of the major London newspapers and reviews. Sometimes called: Phantasmagoria , or Grand Cabinet of Optical and Mechanical Curiosities, Last performance end of June 1802. Magical 11-lulions, anil various other won.lt rtnl P ad Ads for Phantasmagoria, or Supernatural Appearances appeared throughout 1802 in newspapers such as the Monthly Mirror , the London Times , the Morning Chronicle , the Morning Post Gazetteer , the London Star , Bell's Weekly Messenger , Courier and Evening Gazette London Oracle and Daily Advertiser
Gillray's print is meant to imitate the way his witches might have appeared in a scene from Phantasmagoria projected on a stone wall.
Finally, Gillray may have remembered his etching work on Plate 3 of Hollandia Regenerata (1796?) which is similarly critical of the way the Batavian government had reduced the army (to which Hess belonged) to a skeleton of its former self.
Sources and Reading
- Commentary from the British Museum on A Phantasmagoria; Scene: Conjuring Up an Armed Skeleton .
- Draper Hill, Mr. Gillray The Caricaturist , 1965, pp. 107 & 131
- "Phantasmagoria," Wikipedia
- "Macbeth," The Folger Shakespeare
- "Treaty of Amiens," Wikipedia
- "Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth," Wikipedia
- "Charles James Fox," Wikipedia
- "Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool aka Hawkesbury," Wikipedia
- "William Wilberforce," Wikipedia
- Thomas Wright and R.H. Evans, Historical and Descriptive Account of the Caricatures of James Gillray #272.
- Thomas Wright and Joseph Grego, The Works of James Gillray, the Caricaturist; With the History of His Life and Times , p. X.
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Macbeth and Karma: Buddhist Reflections on the Tragedy of Consequences
by Vishvapani | Jul 19, 2013 | Articles , arts | 0 comments
An actor named Talaputta once asked the Buddha what would happen to members of his profession after their deaths. According to the Pali Sutta recounting the story, Buddha reluctantly informed Talaputta that because actors make people ‘intoxicated and heedless’ they will be reborn in ‘the hell of laughter’ [Samyutta Nikaya 42.2]. Presumably, the Buddha was speaking of what we would call ‘entertainment’, but what about art? What would have happened if an acting troupe had travelled from Greece to India and the Buddha had seen them perform the mighty tragedies of his contemporary, Sophocles? And what would the Buddha have said had he been able to watch Shakespeare? In lieu of such miracles, I will put Shakespeare’s case by discussing Macbeth as a depiction of the process of karma, and even a karmic tragedy. The Buddhist perspective, I hope, will illuminate Shakespeare’s play; and Macbeth, I believe, can deepen our understanding of karma.
The Origin of Suffering
As Macbeth is a tragedy, we know that it will explore the territory of suffering especially that of the protagonist: Macbeth himself. This is the first connection with the Buddha’s teaching, which starts as an exploration of suffering (dukkha) — his first Noble Truth — and its causes. Suffering pervades the play, but its prime source is Macbeth himself, and its essential theme is expressed in the second Noble Truth: ‘craving is the origin of suffering’.
Audiences have always asked why Macbeth chooses to kill Duncan. We know he is prompted by the witches and his wife, but what do their suggestions touch in him? Hearing the prediction that he will become king, Macbeth notes with astonishment the reaction that seizes his mind and body:
Why do I yield to that suggestion Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, Against the use of nature? [I.iii.141-144]
There are clues in the description of Macbeth as a blood-drenched warrior and in Lady Macbeth’s awareness of his desire and ambition, but Shakespeare knew that motivation can be complex and is often mysterious. Powerful and, to some degree, inexplicable emotions also break out in Lear, Othello, Leontes and a host of others, impelling them to destructive action.
Macbeth’s urge is primal and irreducible – a function of his being rather simply a matter of motivation. It echoes, what the Buddha had in mind when he said that the origin of suffering is ‘craving’ (tanha/trsna) which literally means ‘thirst’ and is defined as ‘craving, hunger for, excitement, the fever of unsatisfied longing’ (Pali-English Dictionary). He identifies three varieties: craving for sense experience, craving for non-existence and craving for becoming or existence, which is said to be its most fundamental form: Monks, a first beginning of craving for existence (bhava-tanha) cannot be known before which one could say it did not exist, it has since come to be. (Anguttara Nikaya v.116). From this perspective, inquiries into the origins of motivation have a limited value. There is no clear cause of Macbeth’s craving – his visceral lust for wealth and power; and there is no end to it.
The Buddha also taught that motivation is essential to being because volitions shape our future state. He learned about this through the introspection he practiced as felt his way toward Enlightenment. According to the Dvedhavittaka Sutta [Majjhima Nikaya 19], as he meditated in the forest before his Enlightenment the Buddha-to-be saw that among the various strands of his consciousness were thoughts ‘imbued with sensuality, ill will and harmfulness’. He could follow these impulses and act on them: that would reinforce them and make them a stronger part of his personality until they coloured his entire view of the world. Or he could work against them and cultivate contentment, loving-kindness and compassion. In either case, he was creating the karma that would shape his future.
As Macbeth considers whether to kill Duncan, he wishes away the lingering consequences of his crime:
If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly: if the assassination Could trammel up the consequence, and catch With his surcease success; that but this blow Might be the be-all and the end-all here, But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, We’ld jump the life to come. [I.vii.1-7]
Macbeth knows that he is indulging a fantasy of escape and that nothing in this life is ‘done’ (completed) when it is ‘done’ (performed). As the Buddha continually insisted, actions have consequences – always and everywhere – that comprise a form of ‘judgment here’. Macbeth realises that by killing Duncan he will:
teach Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice Commends the ingredients of our poison’d chalice To our own lips. [I.vii.10-13]
‘This even-handed justice’ is what the Buddha called the law of karma: a subtle process operating on numerous levels. Macbeth is saying that if you break the taboo against killing a king you encourage others to do the same to you. The Buddha adds to these pragmatic considerations a concern, which also is implicit in Macbeth, with the role of the mind. The karmic effects of an action, he said, depend on the intention or volition (cetana) that prompts it, and in that way mental states affect the whole world. In the Madhupindika Sutta he traced back all the world’s contentions – ‘taking up rods and swords arguments, quarrels, disputes, accusations, divisive tale-bearing and false speech’ – to the ‘unskillful’ states of mind that prompted them [Majjhima Nikaya 18]. Furthermore, those states will shape future experience. As the Buddha comments in the Dvedhavittaka Sutta, ‘What [a person] frequently thinks upon and ponders, that becomes the inclination of his awareness’. What we think we ultimately become.
Macbeth is above all concerned with the forces at work in the consciousness of its hero and the effects (for both him and the world) of the choice he makes in the opening Acts. He must decide whether to kill Duncan and seize the throne or to heed the moral intelligence that bursts into the ‘If it were done when ’tis done’ soliloquy:
Besides, this Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been So clear in his great office, his virtues Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against The deep damnation of his taking-off; And pity, like a naked new-born babe, Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, horsed Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, That tears shall drown the wind. [I.vii.16-25]
The apocalyptic significance of Duncan’s murder grips Macbeth, and his moral sense acquires the same eloquence and imaginative power as his compulsion to kill. Duncan’s murder is an offence against this subtle and heightened consciousness and will rebound on him with corresponding force.
Equally significant is the nature of Macbeth’s crime. Not only is Duncan meek and virtuous, Macbeth is bound to him as his ‘kinsman’, his subject and a host ‘who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself.’ [I.vii.15-16]. Buddhism might call this ‘weighty karma’, the term for an action that brings intense, long-lasting suffering because it cuts fundamental connections to sources of meaning and sustenance. Buddhism includes killing one’s mother, father or an arahant and wounding a Buddha in the list of such offences; but in the thought-world of Macbeth regicide might be added.
The Fruits of Action
Duncan’s murder is the play’s decisive karmic action, and the rest of the play describes its fruits, or karma-vipaka. What Macbeth calls his ‘his black and deep desires’ are expressions of what the Buddha had in mind when he spoke of craving and what follows is suffering. Having become king, Macbeth cannot enjoy what he has gained because he is tormented by the thought that he will lose it:
better be with the dead, Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace, Than on the torture of the mind to lie In restless ecstasy. [III.ii.19-22]
Those last two lines are as evocative a depiction of how the Buddha understood hell as we can hope to find. The various hell realms he described are objectifications of the mental states that lead to suffering, and he also knew that ‘the torture of the mind’ can make ordinary existence a living hell. Macbeth discovers a further form of ‘judgment here’ in his mental torment, and it prompts him to acts that sow the seeds for yet more suffering. Macbeth’s intense unease drives him to kill Banquo and then a multitude of others, but no amount of killing brings the security he desires. The karmic stream cannot be halted, and Banquo’s ghost personifies the unbidden but inescapable consequences of his murder. There is an ironic pathos in Macbeth’s cry:
times have been, That, when the brains were out, the man would die, And there an end; but now they rise again [III.iv.77-79]
By the play’s conclusion a host of political and military disasters have descended upon on Macbeth, but the play’s main interest is the psychological and spiritual consequences for Macbeth and his wife. Macbeth’s victims eventually merge in a river of blood. He tells us:
I am in blood Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er.
By acting on what Buddhists would call his unskillful traits, Macbeth has reinforced them and destroyed his earlier moral sensibility.
Macbeth’s amazingly rich imagery is at least as important as its plot. For example, the play associates sleep with peace, nature and freedom from unresolved emotional conflicts. Macbeth tells his wife that as he killed Duncan:
Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep, Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast, [II.ii.46-51]
He is wracked by the ‘terrible dreams that shake us nightly’ [III.ii.18-19] and Lady Macbeth tells him he lacks ‘the season of all natures’ [III.iv.141]. Her own sleepwalking displays the remorse that has caught her, despite her efforts to banish it. No amount of ritualised cleansing can now remove the blood she sees and smells on her hands because her mind will not cease producing it.
The range of karma-vipaka extends beyond psychological effects. The Buddha was no determinist, but he did believe that an action rebounds on a person in this life and that it determines rebirth in the next. More subtly, he suggested that, as every volitional action helps shape a person’s character, we end up inhabiting a world that reflects our mental states. Whatever we make of that as philosophy, it resonates with the correspondence of mental states and outward events in Macbeth.
At the play’s opening we are in ‘a desert place’ beyond England’s northern border in a pre-medieval time when history blurs with myth. We have left behind Christian certainties and the comforts of civilisation and find ourselves in world that is violent and uncanny: a realm of uncertainty (or ‘equivocation’ as the play calls it) where ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’ and ‘nothing is but what is not’. A phantasmagoria of visions, ghosts and hallucinations inhabit Macbeth, and we cannot trust appearances. Has he ‘eaten on the insane root that takes the reason prisoner?’ [I.iv.86-7], asks Banquo when the witches vanish like bubbles; and what if the hallucinatory dagger that appears before Macbeth is ;a false creation, / Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain [II.i.38-9]?
Inner and outer reality are not only hard to tell apart in Macbeth: they merge. Diabolic forces were factual enough for Shakespeare’s audience, but in the play we can never separate them from the characters’ perceptions and responses. What we would normally call the outer world is peopled with portents, omens and an atmosphere that mirrors the action. Macbeth’s words as he walks towards Duncan’s chamber illustrate the effect of this mingling of inner and outer:
Now o’er the one halfworld Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse The curtain’d sleep; witchcraft celebrates Pale Hecate’s offerings, and wither’d murder, Alarum’d by his sentinel, the wolf, Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace. With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design Moves like a ghost. [II.i.49-56]
We cannot say if diabolic forces guide his steps, if he merely imagines them, if this is a shamanistic world in which demons are summoned into being by evil actions, or if reality in the play is ultimately shaped by its imagery. Macbeth’s world, as the Buddha might say, has been coloured by his mind.
At last, when we come to Macbeth’s famous last soliloquy, he is utterly alone in a universe that has been emptied of meaning.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
Reality, for the Buddha, means the pattern of existence which he expressed in the chain of conditioned existence. For Macbeth, the train of actions and consequences has become a dreary procession towards death. His lust for power — a kind of craving for sense experience that is perhaps a version of a more primal craving for existence – has become nihilism: craving for non-existence. Nothing has meaning for Macbeth because he has cut the emotional roots from which meaning grows. Like Macbeth, the Buddha used the image of a flame to signify the hopes and desires that lead us with promises of fulfillment. For Macbeth, who identified with it, nothing remains when it is extinguished; for the Buddha, who separated himself from craving, it meant liberation – nirvana literally means the blowing out of a flame. The walking shadow Macbeth evokes is an image of life’s insubstantiality, and the Buddha offered many more. He called the elements of perception which seem so solid, ‘a ball of foam … a bubble… a mirage’, while form, strikingly, is ‘a magic trick, an idiot’s babbling, a murderer’ [Phena Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 22.95]. Macbeth, it seems, has arrived at the Buddha’s insight, but where the Buddha is liberated, he is crushed. Macbeth is far past the point where craving might be abandoned, as the Buddha’s Third Noble Truth suggests it can be.
Macbeth’s nihilism opposes the Buddha’s wisdom; but Macbeth is not Shakespeare and showing how Macbeth is brought to nihilism is very different from endorsing it. For all it’s complexity and ambiguity, Macbeth is what Buddhists would call ‘a teaching’. It is neither moralistic nor didactic, and Macbeth’s fate does not illustrate a pre-existing idea or ideology; it creates a world, especially through its imagery, and Macbeth learns, through bitter experience, the laws by which it operates. These accord to a striking degree, with the laws the Buddha discovered by exploring the deepest strata of his consciousness and formulated in his teachings.
Macbeth’s teaching, I have suggested, is that ‘in dependence upon craving arises suffering’; but if it were possible to reduce Macbeth to a formula – a Buddhist formula at that – we would hardly need the play. Its power as a karmic tragedy is not simply that it shows a person reaping the results of their actions; it also involves us, as readers or audience members, in Macbeth’s journey. The real terror, as Macbeth walks towards the murder, is that the nightmare is really happening and he is powerless to control his actions. Because we identify with Macbeth we are enrolled as his companions, prompting the disturbing thought that the same irresistible impulses may lie dormant within us, too. We witness Macbeth’s compulsion to kill, slide passively towards his crime and wade with him through the river of blood, sensing his diminution and the terror of his ultimate fate.
The play that takes us on that journey can hardly be said to be ‘full of sound and fury’, and the experience of travelling it could scarcely be further from the ‘intoxication and heedlessness’ of which the Buddha spoke in his dialogue with Talaputta. As a karmic teaching it signifies much more than nothing. Had the Buddha somehow miraculously encountered Macbeth, I believe he would have recognised in it an astonishingly rich expression of a vision of existence that was close to his own.
This article was first published in Urthona Magazine , Summer 2012
- Macbeth es un Ritual. ¿Qué sucede cuando su energía demoníaca se filtra al mundo más allá de la obra? | maestroviejo - […] unos años escribí un ensayo sobre Macbeth y Karma , llamando a la obra una tragedia kármica. Karma , en la perspectiva budista,…
- Macbeth is a Ritual. What happens when its demonic energy leaks into the world beyond the play? | Vishvapani - […] few years ago I wrote an essay on Macbeth and Karma, calling the play a karmic tragedy. Karma, in…
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Mr Hanson's English
Discovering english and film, y11 return to macbeth – act 5 scenes 2 and 3.
Last week, we returned to Macbeth and decided to read some key scenes from act 5 for two reasons: firstly, we didn’t do this enough justice first time round (we ran out of time) and secondly it’s a good way to revise the play because we are constantly thinking back to how these scenes link to other parts of the play. I’ve put the slides from the lessons here to remind you of what we did (or didn’t do!) (lessons are here in dropbox as well)
It’s easy to overlook these scenes, but they reveal a lot about the differences between Malcolm’s army and Macbeth’s scattered remains of one. They also offer us a chance to see Shakespeare’s skill in structuring the play, juxtaposing as he does contrasting scenes to create dramatic and ironic effect.
These scenes follow on, of course, from Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene in act 5 scene 1: it is as if her own psychological decay acts as a precursor to the rapid unravelling of the fabric of Macbeth’s physical and spiritual hold on power. The motifs of disease and decay that have appeared throughout the play are reinforced in act 5 scene1 – Lady Macbeth’s diseased mind is linked by the Doctor to ‘a great perturbation in nature’, a connection which reminds us again of the disturbance to the natural order and the disruption of the great chain of being which the Macbeths have incurred through their murder of Duncan. Lady Macbeth’s imaginary washing of her hands, her references to the ‘damned spot’, her unclean hands all suggest physical dirt and disease. I referred to the idea of abjection in my last post on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde ( here ) and I believe that this can be applied to Lady Macbeth here. The blood symbolises her unclean and impure deeds whilst a phantasmagoria of dark memories inhabit her nightmares It is as if her body (and mind) are now an epicentre of all the evil that has occurred . The Doctor explicitly comments on how this ‘disease is beyond my practice’: he is referring to her mental condition, not her bodily one. We discussed in earlier lessons how Shakespeare’s women were both strong and independent but also eventually contained by death or marriage. Here, Lady Macbeth is punished for her ambition in several ways: she is excluded from Macbeth’s vicinity (they don’t appear together after act 3 scene4 ); she is driven mad with guilt; and finally, she kills herself. The play follows her trajectory from ‘honoured hostess’ in 1.6 (Duncan’s description of her) to Malcolm’s reference to her as a ‘fiend-like queen’ in the final speech of the play.
Women’s bodies are often referred to as sites of temptation (for men) and also the potential for disease. That Lady Macbeth’s body has become diseased is therefore no surprise. Her diseased body and mind are now a physical manifestation of the disease of Scotland. Perhaps this is also why her disease is beyond the Doctor’s practice. In his final speech in the scene, the Doctor makes other references to dirt and disease: ‘foul whisperings’; ‘breed unnatural troubles’ (which reminds me of Lady Macbeth’s earlier references to her children and what she would do with them); ‘infected’, ‘discharge’. Shakespeare has invested the language of the doctor with disease: his very words are infected. This motif of disease will continue in the next scenes.
We looked closely at a couple of extracts from scene 2. Here are the screen shots.
In the first one, the groups made some interesting observations about how ‘sticking on his hands’ reminds us a lot of the recurring motif of hands in the play (act 2 scene 2 in addition to act 5 scene 1). Also, the simile used by Angus to describe how Macbeth’s power has diminished also suggests a sickness.
In the next extract, this image of disease is particularly striking:
Caithness suggests that Malcolm’s army will cure the sickness. They are the medicine, Macbeth is the weal : this could be a mark perhaps left by a wound but the word also derives from ‘wheal’ which links to suppurations or wounds which discharge pus! In another metaphor, Lennox compares Macbeth to ‘weeds’ which threaten to choke the beauty of Scotland.
AO3 point here: it is interesting that Malcolm leads an army consisting of English and Scottish soldiers to defeat evil. Although Malcolm’s actions might be seen as treacherous (Macbeth is king after all), we must remember that Malcolm is the designated heir to the throne. Macbeth doesn’t represent Scotland here – he represents evil and disease. Performed to James 1st, a Scottish king of England and heir to Banquo, Shakespeare is reminding his audience of the importance of unity: together, Scotland and England will succeed!
Macbeth’s bombast in the orange speech is tempered by his later speeches. However it is interesting once again to see how Shakespeare uses the references to disease and decay. In the blue speech, he asks the doctor to cure Lady Macbeth’s mind: the irony is that the Doctor has already admitted that this is beyond his practice – instead, he says ‘the patient must administer to himself’ – suggesting that perhaps love, care, the sharing of troubles might ease her suffering. But of course Lady Macbeth and Macbeth haven’t spoken together since act 3 scene 4. Further irony is evident in the final speech. Macbeth looks to the doctor to offer a cure for the Scotland’s sickness, not realising (or does he – is he testing the doctor?) that it is he, Macbeth, that is the disease.
So we can look at the two scenes as contrasting in many ways. Although I have focussed on disease here, there are other binary oppositions we might use to think about how Shakespeare structures them. See below:
We didn’t get round to this final activity, which is why I’m putting it here. Comparing the two extracts – Macbeth in scene 3 and Angus in scene 2 – to see how they present Macbeth’s hold on power. Here are the slides:
Finally, here’s a template to help you analyse any extract:
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