Homework Help

In Macbeth, the theme of the great chain of being - the whole concept of hierarchy in...

user profile pic

acnation | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 5, 2010 at 2:52 PM via web

dislike 1 like

In Macbeth, the theme of the great chain of being - the whole concept of hierarchy in society is said to be in the play.

It is evident that the society starts to break down and everything is in disorder. What are some of the aspects, if any that go into disorder as Macbeth rises in power/corruption?

2 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 5, 2010 at 8:47 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 4 like

Here is a brief outline of how regicide inverts the Great Chain:

Worst Crimes in Elizabethan England

1.Regicide: murder of king (equivalent to killing God)

2.Parricide: murder of a parent or family member

Regicide: Inverting the Great Chain

•Murderers become King/Queen.

•Witches become advisers.

•Earth becomes tied to hell, instead of heaven.

•Thanes kill rather than protect.

•The good become evil.

•The eloquent lose voice.

•Plants, animal kindgoms affected.

Great Chain of Being – Natural Order (what should have been)

Highest in Macbeth (beginning of play):

1.Duncan

2.Prince of Cumberland (Malcolm)

3.Donaldbain

4.Thanes of Cawdor (traitor)

5.Thane of Glamis (Macbeth)

6.Banquo

●Lowest: Witches

●The Very Lowest: Those who commit Regicide

After the Murder (the natural world revenges and restores itself against the unnatural)

the lowest reigns (Macbeth) and seeks advice from the second lowest (Wtiches)

● Division of labor: Macbeth no longer seeks advice from Lady Macbeth (her descent into madness, death is quicker)

● No one sleeps

● "No tomorrow": time is disrupted

● Lady Macbeth's mental illness / suicide

●Horses eat each other

●Thanes fly from Macbeth

●The Christ-figure Macduff ("supernatural birth") revenges his family

●Nature takes revenge on Macbeth (Birnham Wood marches to Dunsinane Hill)

user profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted April 5, 2010 at 6:54 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 2 like

One of the first conventions to break down in the society represented in the playMacbeth by William Shakespeare, is that of social etiquette and aristocratic courtesy. In Shakespeare's time and well before (as can be seen as far back even as Beowulf) it was customary for clansmen and chieftains to entertain loyal and worthy thanes and lieges in the great hall of the lord they served in battle and politics. Here they would be courted, feted and praised and rewarded with wine, women and song and a sumptuous banquet in order that the overlord could strengthen bonds and ties of allegiance. Lady Macbeth is therefore keen to make a good impression on the nobility and not to give the game away. Yet the banquet falls into disarray, the chain is beginning to break and Lady Macbeth sees the weakest link as being Macbeth. All ends in rudeness, inhospitality and bad etiquette as the guests are actually sent away.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes