How does Shakespeare present strong feelings in Macbeth?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Macbeth is a play of distorted reality and is 

considered by many scholars to be Shakespeare's darkest work.

The three witches (weird sisters) invoke magical powers and there is a significant reference throughout Macbeth involving the witches and the number three.

Thrice to thrice, and thrice to mine

And thrice again, to make up nine  (I, iii, ll.35-36).

Again, at the start of Act IV, the first witch projects the time of Macbeth's second encounter by noting that

"Thrice the brindled cat hath mew'd" (IV, i., l.1).

The number three seems

to resonate with the incantations of the witches, as for example, in the three murderers of Banquo.

In Macbeth,  Shakespeare creates contrast by, for example casting Duncan in a virtuous, almost angelic 

celestial simile and then drives immediately into another simile that redirects us into a vision of warfare and destruction:

…Besides this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that 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, ll. 16-25)

Lady Macbeth is used to create and present many strong feelings. Shakespeare uses poetic drama and so rearranges word play for dramatic effect

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be

What thou art promised” (Macbeth, I, v, ll. 14-15).

Lady Macbeth is also used to great effect  between her vision and forceful nature at the beginning and her far less ambitious and even mad rantings later. She is tormented by her knowledge of Macbeth's actions and even attempts to symbolically "wash" the blood away

Out damn'd spot! (V.i.35) 

She is ironically diagnosed as having an  "infected" mind and the doctor is of thew opinion she requires

spiritual counsel more than she needs a doctor.

Later she commits suicide which leaves us in no doubt.

Macbeth himself feels more powerful the more evil deeds he plots and carries out  reaching tragic heights in the soliloquy on the meaninglessness of life presented to create the strongest of feelings and the futility of life

Signifying nothing.(V.V)

 In their final encounter, Macbeth tells Macduff that

The mind I sway by, and the heart I bear

 Shall never sag with doubt, nor shake with fear (V.iii.9-10).

The eNotes study guide and material that you can navigate to will assist you further in understanding Shakespeare's use of language and characters to present such strong feelings.



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