NCEA Formal writing 1.5, Literary Essay

How does Shakespeare get his ideas across to the audience in Macbeth?

William Shakespeare is one of the worlds most influential writers in english literature. In his time, he has written many famous plays that are known worldwide, such as Romeo and Juliet, The twelfth night, A midsummer night’s dream, and the Scottish play, or is more commonly known as Macbeth.  The way he connects with the audience is displayed by his delicate and carefully constructed use of language techniques to covey his strongest themes he wanted to put across to the audience. In Macbeth, Shakespeare has brought these selected themes to attention; ambition, nature and unnatural, manhood, and like most of the Shakespeare’s works, fate. This essay will be exploring the deteriorating state of mind and ambition in characters, that is very vividly expressed in Macbeth.

In Act 5 scene 5, just after lady Macbeth has killed herself, Macbeth says ‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more’. Macbeth has doubts over his fate, calling it “Life’s but a walking shadow” , he is essentially saying his entire existence is nothing but a mere ghost, and compares people to actors who enjoy their moment in the spotlight but then have no importance afterwards. Shakespeare has used a metaphor is this particular situation to express the brutal nature of life to the audience, comparing a man to “a poor player” and life to “a walking shadow” to say that life is short-lived. Shadows are gone as soon as they appear and actors only play their character, they people they play have no real meaning. Macbeth realises that the moment he decided to kill King Duncan lead to his wife killing herself because of her deteriorating mind and his audacious ambition. This shows that if only Macbeth had been happy with his life before he killed King Duncan and brought corruption on families, this would have all been avoided.

“Is this a dagger which I see before me, I have thee not, and yet I see thee still” (2.1.33-35). In this scene, Macbeth hasn’t killed Duncan yet and he sees a dagger before him that isn’t there, he is hallucinating. He is hearing voices and going crazy, his state of mind is losing grip from the real world. He is so used to seeing death, murder and bad things he has come to terms with it, and is used to it, it doesn’t affect him. As we can now come to realise, Macbeth starts off as a normal person but then slowly looses his state of mind and he isn’t the same person he was at the start of the play.

The witches play a huge part in the play, and although it has quite a lot to do with ambition, it also links to Macbeth’s deteriorating state of mind. The witches did not take over his state of mind at the start of the play when they met, that had a lot to do with ambition and Lady macbeth telling macbeth that he would only get the throne with effort. There are theories saying that the witches were only a fragment of Macbeth imagination, but i consider this to be false as in the 1600s I believe the play was written, witches were ‘real’. Macbeth knows that his actions are wrong and he could get caught but with Lady Macbeth swaying and wooing him to do it, it is done. This links back to ambition when Lady Macbeth says earlier on in the play, ‘That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty. ‘ She is so ambitious and willing for power, that she asks god to make her less like a woman and more like a man, and fill her with cruelty. She is so ambitous she is willing to do anything for power. I believe this may have lead to her death. Shakespeares message through the play is that sometimes power can corrupt.

In Act 5, Scene 1, Lady Macbeth comes into the scene sleepwalking, with the doctor and gentlewoman watching her. She seems to be rubbing her hands  as if she is washing them. She says ‘out damned spot’ and is followed by saying ” the thane had a wife” , who is lady Macduff. Later on, you hear ” Banquo’s buried: he cannot come out on’s grave” and she believes that she hears Macduff knocking at the gate. Lady Macbeth’s mind is clearly deteriorating.

‘ This is all important to Shakespeare’s message because he may be presenting the idea of imminent power corrupts people into thinking and doing things which goes against their values. This idea of mental corruption links back to the idea of Macbeth’s deteriorating mind because Macbeth will later cease to be able to distinguish between reality and fiction. Therefore, Shakespeare’s message throughout the play is how imminent power and power can corrupt normally moral people and this idea was very well known which dates back to Roman times as can be seen via a quote stating, ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ –
I found this to be such a good message in Macbeth because i believe that it is all true.






3 Replies to “NCEA Formal writing 1.5, Literary Essay”

  1. The introduction is interesting and well-constructed. I encourage you to work towards organising your analysis of the language and dramatic devices in the play in relation to a single idea – like Macbeth’s deteriorating state of mind, or something to do with the effects of ambition on the characters. This will give your essay the over-all structure that it needs.

  2. I was away Monday 28th May + Tuesday 29th May because of being sick, and then I was away for the English lesson on Tuesday, 5th May because of the drama performance.

  3. Achievement Achievement with Merit Achievement with Excellence
    Develop and structure ideas in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas convincingly in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas effectively in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control to command attention in formal writing.

    The ideas are good individually, and convincingly proven using evidence, however the essay would have been further developed through the clearer connection of each of these ideas to each other – a progression, or decline into madness, for example.

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