In Shakespeare's Macbeth, list the various unnatural events that occur after the murder of Duncan because of the disruption of order (based on the Great Chain of Being).The Elizabethans believed...

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, list the various unnatural events that occur after the murder of Duncan because of the disruption of order (based on the Great Chain of Being).

The Elizabethans believed that when the natural order of the universe is violent, nature reflects the disorder and is thrown into chaos.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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There are specific events referred to in Macbeth that reflect the presence of the supernatural, a recurring theme in Shakespeare's play. While the presence of the witches speaks to a darker power, the unnatural occurrences relate to what is called the Great Chain of Being, in which the Elizabethan strongly believed.

The Great Chain of Being dictated that all things had a place, much like the caste system in India. God was at the top of the chain, followed by the angels. Next came monarchs. At the bottom would be worms or dirt. One of the worst things Macbeth does in the play is to kill Duncan (a "mortal" sin)—the Elizabethans would have been appalled as his actions broke the solemn rules of hospitality which implied that anyone who was a guest in your house, even your worst enemy, could enjoy complete safety and protection while under your roof. Beside breaking this unwritten law, Macbeth kills a member of his family (Duncan is his cousin) and his friend. Worst of all, however, is that Macbeth kills the King, ordained by God.

The unnatural occurrences reflect that there is now disorder in the universe because God's chosen king has been killed and someone else is on the throne, not ordained by God. There are a list of examples of this "disruption of order" mentioned by several characters in the play: and they begin to occur at the moment of Duncan's death. Elizabethans would expect these events to continue until a balance was restored (in this case, with Macbeth's death and Malcolm's return to the throne of Scotland.)

In Act Two, scene three, just before the discovery of Duncan's murder, Lennox reports unusual occurrences in the night (this would also be foreshadowing)—the weather was wild, chimneys were blown off of house tops, wailing and screams of death, as well as "speaking in tongues" (prophecies) were heard. The owl, a harbinger of death, cried out all night, and there was an earthquake.

The night has been unruly. Where we lay,

Our chimneys were blown down, and, as they say,

Lamentings heard i’ the air, strange screams of death,

And prophesying with accents terrible

Of dire combustion and confused events

New hatch'd to the woeful time. The obscure bird

Clamor'd the livelong night. Some say the earth

Was feverous and did shake. (55-62)

A few days pass, and Ross and an Old Man discuss more unnatural events. In the next scene (four), Ross comments on the eclipse taking place:

By the clock ’tis day,

And yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp. (7-8)

The Old Man notes that other unnatural things—like Duncan's death ("the deed that's done")—are taking place. What is usually the prey has become the predator:


’Tis unnatural,

Even like the deed that's done. On Tuesday last

A falcon towering in her pride of place

Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and kill'd. (12-15)

Finally, and perhaps most frightening, is Ross's report about the King's horse. The most noble of beasts have become wild since Duncan's death, breaking down their stalls as if they were at "war with mankind." (Ross also confirms reports that the Old Man has heard—that the horses have been eating at one another.)

And Duncan's horses—a thing most strange and


Beauteous and swift, the minions of their race,

Turn'd wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out,

Contending ’gainst obedience, as they would make

War with mankind. (16-21)

According to Elizabethan beliefs, Macbeth not only has offended mankind with his actions, but also God.

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