Shakespeare, William - Macbeth

Presentation / Essay (Pre-University), 2001

9 Pages

Free online reading



- many pictures in Macbeth are false appearances ® Macbeth: regicide
- Lady Macbeth: very ambitious
- Macbeth: absolute trust in his wife
- Macbeth and Lady Macbeth really love and trust each other (De), link between them: ambition, egoism, deep love
- Macbeth has pangs of conscience in killing Duncan (conflict between conscience and ambition)
- Macbeth: medieval type, impressed by the witches Banquo: modern type
- in Shakespeare’s time: no scenery
- Macbeth: very loud play (noise indicates chaos)


- ambition:

- Macbeth originally has scruples (overcome by the witches and Lady M.), Lady Macbeth is “single-minded”
- Macbeth murders to achieve his ambition
- Macbeth as an example that ambition should only be realized through ability/good fortune

- animals:

- parallels of the character and moods of the human race (part of the Elizabethan “natural order”)

- banquet:

- corresponds with the theme of order
- natural nourishment

- blood:

tyranny causes bloodshed (Shakespeare’s intention to teach the audience)

- chaos:

- introduction: atmosphere of chaos
- Elizabethans: chaos as something actively trying to assert its influence all the time, can only be controlled by the actions of men

- children:

➨ innocence and potential of human beings
- imply an unknown future (reason why Macbeth fears them)

- clothing:

- “borrowed robes”
- the robes of kingship symbolize Macbeth’s unsuitability for the role he has assumed which rightly belongs to another
- at the end: Macbeth’s attempt to put on his accustomed armour as desperate attempt to return to his natural station

- the Crown:

➨ Head of State and of the natural order (authority involves the powers of both God and nature)
- true heirs are virtuous and saintly, Macbeth is vicious and immoral

- darkness:

- adds to the atmosphere of evil and confusion
- seen as an active force in nature and in the minds of people
- natural world echoes the emotional/mental state of the key characters

- dreams :

- not necessarily seen as a natural part of sleep (➨ disturbances, unpleasant, often ominous)
- Macbeth is tormented by dreams and visions, Banquo dreams at night

- fate:

- something unpredictable/uncontrollable
- Macbeth: encouraged by the witches, thinks that fate is on his side and that he can control it
- even the witches can’t control fate, only prophesy it

- fear:

- those with a clear conscience don’t feel fear, except when it’s evoked by natural suspicions
- Macbeth isn’t afraid of physical danger

- growth:

- symbol for the natural order
- useful “plants” and weeds can grow
- linked with the imagery of children

- haste:

➨ urgency of Macbeth’s ambition

- speech: spur, “vaulting ambition”
- Macbeth causes others to rush and escape him
- Macbeth cannot bear waiting, uncertainty and inaction

- light:

➨ innocence, purity, truth, openness, goodness
- Macbeth and Lady Macbeth fear and avoid the light
- at the end: Lady Macbeth “has a light by her continually”

- loyalty:

- corresponds with the themes of order, the Crown and State (depend on the loyalty of the King’s subjects)
- moral duty, no personal choice
- Macbeth’s failure: nobody can gain from disloyalty

- noise:

- associated with Macbeth (background to his actions)
- order ➨ peace, disorder ➨ noise

- order:

- Macbeth’s main crime: disruption of order (political, social, domestic, family, mental)
- the moral and religious code of the time supports the order of the State

- portents:

- can be a form of dramatic irony
- unnatural happenings are portents of the upset of the natural order/chaos

- prophecy:

Shakespeare’s time: prophecy as a gift either from God or from the Devil

- sickness:

- disturbance of the State ➨ chaos - disturbance of the body or mind ➨ sickness
(correspondence between micro- and macrocosm)
- Lady Macbeth’s illness: criticism of her spiritual and moral disorder

- sleep:

- natural
- ability to sleep ➨ innocence
- Macbeth: punished by sleeplessness (has “murthered sleep”), Lady Macbeth: relives the murder in her sleep
- the State

- storm:

➨ chaos in nature
➨ the witches’ element

- time:

- guilt-free characters see time as a friendly or neutral presence
- Malcolm’s return: “The time is free”

- treachery/treason:

➨ worst sin (opposite of loyalty)

- water:

the healing powers of water and the pity of tears are not for the damned

The Sleepwalking Scene: Lady Macbeth - A Soul Tortured By Guilty Memories

- handwashing: she wants to clean herself, her conscience is giving her no peace
- her screams show the great pain and the fight between good and evil inside of her
- the fact that she always has a light with her indicates her will to protect herself and to make other people see what she has done, she is afraid of darkness (guilty conscience)
- the fact that she simulates a dialogue (a partner misses) probably reveals her loneliness
- she emphasizes and repeats the phrase “to bed”, because she’s in search of a long, peaceful and healing sleep provided by nature for innocent and good people
- her sleepwalking in general is the most obvious sign for her grief and makes us see that even in her dreams she can’t rest because of her guilty conscience

Possible Turning Points

- Act 1, Scene 1 (“fair is foul and foul is fair”)
- Act 1, Scene 3 (Banquo’s warnings)
- Act 1, Scene 7 (“vaulting ambition”)
- Act 2, Scene 2 (interior turning point)
- Act 3, Scene 1 (Macbeth plans Banquo’s murder himself)
- Act 3, Scene 3 (middle position; the escape of Fleance is the first object that fails for Macbeth)
- Act 4, Scene 1 (Macbeth ignores the witches’ warnings)

The Wheel Of Fortune

- 12 o’clock: regno (I’m reigning now)
- 3 o’clock: regnavi (I once reigned)
- 6 o’clock: sum sine regno (I’ve got no land)
- 9 o’clock: regnabo (I will reign)

Historical Sources

- England was threatened by Spain (conflict because of the colonies)
- Elizabeth 1.

Shakespeare’s Language

- Shakespeare’s time (1590):
- the language is not fixed, but fluid (e.g. no spelling rules), first dictionary in 1604
- people went to “hear” a play, not to see it
- conventions: prologues, epilogues, soliloquies
- Shakespeare took the vigor of the language and combined it with logic and rhetoric
- he went to a latin grammar school and learned approximately 100 stylistic devices
- full of vivid, spectacular pictures and energy
- language in verse
- he never wrote plays, but scripts
- Shakespeare: realist, had to write non-realistic (one device: language)
- Shakespeare’s style: very good at inventing words (e.g. “unsex”), likes having lists
- he uses ryhmes to give a signal to the audience

When Shakespeare Uses Prose

- low status characters (e.g. Act 5, Scene 1)
- letters
- proclamations, official announcements
- comedy
- madness scenes

The Tragedy

- Aristotle: inventor, provided the theory

- original tragedies: Aeschylos, Sophocles, Euripides

- structure:

- unity of time
- single story without subplots

- language: dignified/poetic language

- plot:

- the main character’s discovery or recognition of a truth about himself
- main theme: conflict
- strong emotions ➨ shattering emotional impact
- inevitable movement toward the death of the protagonist with growing self-awareness

- characters:

- noble or impressive characters
- tragic hero/protagonist - antagonist
- tragic hero:
- seen as neither good nor bad, “neither villain nor a virtuous man” (Aristotle)
- high social status (e.g. king)
- the tragedy shows his/her way from happiness to misery caused by a tragic flaw or a serious error (mostly hybris/excessive pride)
- change in the course of the play

- audience:

- the author’s intention is to purify the theatregoers by creating pity and fear in them (catharsis) and then soothing them again

- medieval tragedy gave up the dignified language in plays and introduced the comic relief

- at the end of the medieval time: many revenge tragedies

- changes in Shakespeare’s plays:

- mixture of prose and verse
- low status persons
- no catharsis
- no unity of time, action and place

-cyclical structure:

initial situation: relative seeming order/stability/harmony

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

crisis (disorder, confusion, chaos), often emphasized by correspondences between human and cosmic spheres

turning point/peripety

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

evil destroys itself, opposing forces/antagonist gain momentum

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

- catastrophe

- final situation: relative seeming order restored

- Macbeth:

- factors that bring about his downfall:
- great ambition/thirst for power
- failure in believing and relying on the witches’ prophecies
- giving in to Lady Macbeth’s manipulation and influence (“catalyst to Macbeth murdering Duncan”, she introduces the concept of murder to him)
- flaw of being easily influenced
➨ surrounding forces/influences subdue his character
- at first: man of loyalty and honor (fights for his king), excellent warrior, very strong and good willed character, but ambition/curiosity
- significant change from a noble/good person to a murderous enemy/villain
- why he’s a tragic hero:
- doesn’t kill with pleasure (at the beginning)

The Order Of The World

- Shakespeare: 1564 (baptized)-1616
- proper historical terms: “Elizabethan England”, “Jacobean England”, “Renaissance”
- Renaissance: “rebirth” of classical Greek and Roman learning, resulting in a radical change of self- image and world-picture (about 1500-1650 in England, late)
- status quo in danger of crumbling and dissolving (order-disorder/stability-change/uniformity- multiplicity) because of...
- secularization of society
- overseas colonizations (give Europeans a new sense of superiority)
- boom of money markets
- paradox: the emphatical and forceful affirmation of “order” and “stability” in the texts indicates a feeling of disorder

- “Renaissance self-fashioning”:

- for men only

- individual: determined to fashion himself according to his ideals and ambitions, obliged to use his free will

➨ - conflict with society: early modern national states try to centralize political power in the person of a monarch

- typical tragic heroes in Renaissance drama: they fail and die because they find it impossible to reconcile the demands of society with their personal desires and doubts

- ideological concept: correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm

- the order of the universe should be mirrored by the order of society and of the human body

- examples:

① body - life - governed by the “virtue of the soul”

people - civil life - governed by “good officers and wise rulers”

② “planet Sol” (= king) ➨ order of the planets (= human beings)

- convenient for those who profit from this naturalization of the political and social order (God is good, created the world, existing order is good and natural ➨ authorization of their power)

- anyone who goes against the norms and rules is up against society, nature and God

Literary Terms

- action main events without linkage (opposite: plot)

- allegory picture

- alliteration repetition of consonants (mostly), usually at the beginning of words

- allusion indirect reference to sth.

- ambiguity one word with two meanings

- analogy basic term for pictures

- anaphora each line begins with the same word

- antagonist (in “Macbeth”: Macduff)

- antithesis opposition of words or phrases against each other in balanced contrast (p.32 l.35: “I have thee not, and yet I see thee still”)

- aside brief remark by a character, usually to the audience, unheard by other characters

- assonance repetition of vowel sounds (like-time)

- blank verse unrhymed verse in iambic pentameter: 10 syllables, five regular stresses

- chiasmus mirror image type of antithesis where one phrase is the reverse of the other

- conceit very elaborate image

- dramatic irony strong contrast with what happens elsewhere in the play

- dramatic relief between two scenes with high tension (e.g. scene 6)

- end-stopped lines line of verse that makes sense on its own, with a clear pause at the end of the line

- enjambement = run-on lines: verse in which the sense runs on from one line to the next (opposite: end-stopped lines)

- euphemism device intended to hide the real nature of sth. unpleasant or taboo by using a mild or indirect expression (calling murder “business“ )

- feet ➨ iamb, trochee, anapaest, dactylus

- feminine ending an unstressed syllable ending a verse line

- hyperbole extravagant and obviously exaggerated language (“Blow me about in wind! Roast me in sulphur! Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire!”)

- imagery the use of emotionally charged words and phrases that conjure up vivid mental pictures in the imagination; images recurring throughout a play: iterative imagery

- invocation addressing supernatural beings

- list accumulation of words and phrases like a list (p.18 ll.35-36: “Sons, kinsmen, Thanes, and you whose places are the nearest...”; p.21 l.38-p.22 l.52)

- masculine ending a stressed syllable ending a verse line

- metaphor comparison that suggests two dissimilar things are actually the same (“He is a lion”)

- onomatopoeia words whose sound mimic what they describe (“roaring, shrieking, howling, jingling chains”)

- oxymoron two incongruous or contradictory words brought together to make a striking expression (“cold fire”)

- parallelism repetition of syntactical structures, clauses, sub-clauses, (parts of) sentences

- personification turning all kinds of things into persons, giving them human feelings and attributes (“I think our country sinks beneath the yoke; it weeps, it bleeds...”)

- prose all language not in verse (➨ comedy, madness, low status characters, letters, proclamations)

- pun wordplay: when a word has two or more different meanings the ambiguity can be used for comic or serious effect

- repetition

- rhyming couplets

- rhythm

- simile comparison using “as” or “like” (“He feels like a lion” )

- shared lines where a line is shared between two or more speakers

- soliloquy speech by a character who is (or at least believes to be) alone on stage; often a kind of internal debate they reveal the leading characters’ thoughts and motives (they aren’t what they seem)

- stichomythia rapidly alternating single lines spoken by two characters

- symbol denotes a concrete thing that stands for sth. immaterial or abstract

- verse




- traveling salesman in his sixties

- “Loman”: “low man”

- loves making things with his hands (he should have chosen another profession, because he doesn’t have the talent or temperament to be a salesman - loves nature (symbolizes freedom for him)

- subjective key to success: attractiveness + popularity (skills are less important)

- needs the boys’ admiration (= source of optimism, self-confidence and happiness) - idolizes Biff

- contradictory character: impulsive enthusiasm - sudden discouragement (like a boy), contradicts himself

- full of imagination/dreaming

- lost a realistic sense of himself: forgot that he loved making things with his hands, ignored standards of fair play, doesn’t let his dreams go and therefore lies

- eternal hopefulness and resourcefulness

- touchy, irritable

- emotional crisis:

- “tired to the death”
- feels unable to drive his car anymore
- is set on straight commission
- strange thoughts, dreams, reminiscences of earlier times
- talks to himself
- feels boxed in by his surroundings
- conflict with Biff
- is aware of his failure/shortcomings
- several tries of committing suicide


- model of a loving, devoted, patient wife, W.’s “foundation” and “support”: heart of the family (role as a mediator)
- worried, concerned - helpful
- tries to understand W.’s feelings, forgives W. his sometimes rude behaviour towards herself
- has always ignored her own opinions and supported W. in his illusions about himself
- as committed to the fantasy of success as Willy (she prevents him from going to Alaska with Ben)
- manages the family’s finances
- treats W. indulgently and affectionately like a child, protects him (e.g. from his sons)
- is constantly trying to calm W. down


- 34, farmhand, casual worker, tramp (doesn’t make much money)
- appealing personality, attractive and powerful
- past: star athlete in high school, idolizes W., favored over Happy by W.
- is not a success, feels “mixed up”, confused, uncertain, as if wasting his life
- steals
- conflict with W.: has different values than W.(p.13 l.57+ll.61-62), has never been what W. thinks he is
- loves working outside and animals, is good at working with his hands (like W.)
- event in Boston: turning point of his life (gives up on himself and on his father)
- becomes his own man at the end of the play


- 32, seems to have achieved what W. wanted for his boys (steady job, the social life of a popular single man, car, expensive apartment)

- appealing personality, attractive and powerful

- inferiority complex (desperation for attention): “I’m losing weight, Pop” (past), “I’m gonna get married, Mom” (present)

- a sham:

- no buyer, but “assistant to the assistant” buyer
- takes bribes
- is lonely (p.14 l.29,p.15 l.2), can’t succeed in real relationships
- philanderer (p.16 ll.7-9)
- has no scruples, is callous and insensitive towards both his parents
- superficial
- degraded W.’s ideals to sex and money

- will end up like W. (his dream: “the Loman Brothers”)

Present Situation

desperation disharmony disappointment delusion failure sorrow (financial etc.) misunderstandings distance tension fight frustration reproaches mistrust doubt conflict criticism

The relationship between Willy and his sons (Past)


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Biff and Willy


- p.94 l.3
- p.95 ll.52-53
- p.95 l.62
- p.96 ll.8-9+l.13
- p.96 ll.15-16
- p.96 ll.27-28
- p.97 l.34

Willy: doesn’t accept reality at all, doesn’t let his dreams go

Motifs recurring throughout the play

- flute (Willy’s past)
- stockings (Willy’s bad conscience/weakness)
- refrigerator (useless things)
- car (Willy’s failure in his job)
- (light of) green leaves (past)
- stealing (irrational actions, Biff’s different values than his father)
- planting/working with one’s own hands (optimism, future, idea)


- purpose of the final scene: clears the question if Willy’s death made any sense
- the “American Dream” as seen by Willy: p.62 ll.4-6
- present: Ben died recently
- the past: the persons exist only as Willy perceives them to be
- Willy once threw Biff out of the house; Linda never understood why
- Biff’s sneakers: symbol of his bright future
- the Lomans: exaggeration or revision of past events
- restaurant scene: Biff’s need for truth and Willy’s need for fantasy collide
- restaurant scene: Miller’s choice of the active and passive form of “to drive” emphasizes the direct effect of Willy’s life and dreams on Biff
- restaurant scene: Willy is far away in his imaginations when Biff states the thruth and misses the whole thing
- Ben appears when Willy needs advice
- at the end: Willy hasn’t listened once again when Biff told the truth, dreams the same old dream again
- at the end: Ben as Willy’s subconscious mind/personification of Willy’s own feelings
- Requiem: Willy needed love, respect, triumph, glamor, success and to be thought of as impressive

Willy as a tragic hero

- Miller: Willy is aware of his failure/shortcomings ➨ Willy is a tragic hero
- tragic hero: dedication to die for a belief, but tragic flaw (has alternatives, but chooses to live in acertain way that brings about his downfall) ➨ Willy!
- Willy’s sencere desire is directed at something greater than himself (he gives his life for Biff) § Willy never grew up (mind of a child and soul of a father)
- Willy’s flaws:
- having false values (idea that popularity and being well liked is what makes one a success, wrong “American Dream”), is passing his false values to his sons
- being dishonest (math cheat, Boston woman, money from Charley)
- Willy’s downfall: his suicide (perhaps he’s misguided again: it’s not certain if his suicide will be called an accident)
- Linda:” a small man can be just as exhausted as a great man”

9 of 9 pages


Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
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Shakespeare, William, Macbeth
Quote paper
Johannes Berkhoff (Author), 2001, Shakespeare, William - Macbeth, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 12/17/2003


    Leider alles in Englisch

  • guest on 10/14/2002


    nette stichwortsammlung, die einem wenig nützt, in der etliche fehler sind und die teile beinhaltet, die niemanden interessieren. beispiel "wheel of fortune", bekanntgeworden durch die carmina burana von carl orff, hat wenig mit dem stück macbeth zu tun, v.a. "i will reign" ist unzutreffend. außerdem hastu folgendes falsch übersetzt:

    - 6 oclock: sum sine regno (Ive got no land)

    "sum sine regno" heißt übersetzt "ich bin ohne herrschaft", also "i am without lordship" oder nach deiner version "ive got no power". wie du es übersetzt hast, hieße es "sum sine terra"

  • guest on 12/1/2001

    wasn hundsenglisch!.

    wasn hundsenglisch!

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