MACBETH.. Act ! , Scene 1 and 2. About the Play: In 1606, William Shakespeare wrote a play, Macbeth, which has gone down in history as one of the best tragedies ever written. It is known to be the shortest and bloodiest tragedies of Shakespeare. The simplest way of explaining the plot would be to say that it is a story of a man urged by his wife, and foretold by prophesy, to commit murder in order to gain power…. a plan which fails, with tragic consequences. But more specifically, it is a classic tale of the down fall of a tragic hero, due to a flaw in his nature, that of overwhelming ambition.
Historical Context of the Play: It is believed that Macbeth was written for King James VI of Scotland. Shakespeare’s drama company enjoyed special patronage from King James and was often called The King;s Men. By writing Macbeth, Shakespeare has paid tribute to his king’s Scottish ancestry. One of King James’s greatest passions was the study of witch craft. In 1597 he wrote Daemonologie…. an important book, where he said that witch craft is something that really exists and those who practice it should be punished.
Significance of Act 1, scene 1: As in most plays, the opening scene is crucial to the play, Macbeth. The Supernatural Element is a dominant feature in many of Shakespeare’s plays. Visions, hallucinations, ghosts, witches and violations in the natural order reflect corruption in the moral and political order. The setting itself is significant. 3 witches, or Weird Sisters, appear in a barren land called the heath, amidst abnormal weather conditions, thunder and lightning. Just like their appearance, ugly and repulsive, their dialog is full of strange utterances…. oreshadowing what is to come, and building up a dramatic tension. They say that they will meet ‘when the hurly burly is done/when the battle’s lost and won’ Their words , together with thunder and lightning, builds a kind of eeriness and mystery to the scene, heightening the sense of darkness…darkness not only of the Mood but also the Personality of the Witches. When the 3rd witch says ‘ere the set of the sun’ a kind of mystery is built up, because though it seems meaningful, it is hard to understand. When the 1st witch asks where they will meet, the response is ‘upon the heath’…. nother mysterious statement. The fact that they want to meet Macbeth in a barren lonely land doesn’t sound good. The witches have obvious connections to Evil. They refer to Graymalkin and Paddock, cats and toads, which are animals associated to witchcraft and black magic. But their most Paradoxical utterance ‘Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair/Hover through the fog and filthy air’… It is an Alliteration describing the foul weather and foreshadowing the even more foul events to come. Act 1, scene 2: Summary: We get an insight into the political situation in the country.
Scotland’s King Duncan is waging a war, against rebellious subjects, the King of Norway and also the traitorous Thane of Cawdor. A wounded captain gives him detailed reports of Macbeth’s heroic efforts. However, he doesn’t know if the battle is won, until Angus and Ross bring in the news. Macbeth has killed the rebellious Macdonald, defeated the King of Norway and dealt with the traitor Thane of Cawdor. His captain also pays tribute to Banquo’s valiant efforts. Together the two of them have been instrumental in Scotland’s victory.
They are described as “eagles and lions pursuing the timid Norwegians, who were like sparrows and hares”. The scene ends with Duncan’s words ‘what he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won’… For his extraordinary bravery, Macbeth is rewarded with the title of Thane of Cawdor, after Cawdor’s execution. Ross and Angus are directed to convey this news to Macbeth. This news later, when conveyed, has a dramatic effect on Macbeth. Importance: The audience has not seen this great warrior, but they are made aware of his heroism, courage and determination…so much that they are excited and are waiting to meet him in great anticipation.
This is depicted with phrases such as ‘velour’s minion’ and ‘Bellona’s bridegroom’ which means, servant of courage and husband of war. These phrases exemplify Macbeth’s Super heroism. The scene also makes us aware of the glorious heights Macbeth was in at the beginning of the play…. and later in the play, makes his fall that much more tragic. It also shows the affection that Duncan had for his favorite warrior and makes his murder, later in the play that much more treacherous.
Duncan is also shown to be a mere figurehead of the country, not directly involved in the battle…his valiant soldiers fight for him. Duncan’s awarding Cawdor’s title to Macbeth makes the audience wonder whether Macbeth will also follow in his footsteps and turn traitor and betray the king. So, we can say that these initial scenes are very vital to the play and play a crucial role in steering the audience’s attention in the right path and also building tension, interest and anticipation for the coming scenes. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. …..