Consider the speech from Macbeth which compares life to acting. What references to theatre can you find?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The speech that Macbeth delivers upon hearing of Lady Macbeth's death uses the image of the stage to help deliver its meaning.  For Macbeth, the stage is a symbol of consciousness and being in the world.  It is an image that Macbeth uses to describe how human beings live their lives.  Rather, than the use of the stage as a glorious forum, where human beings display greatness and skill in entrancing an audience, Macbeth sees life quite differently.  In the speech, the notion of the "poor player" is one such element that conveys what he sees as the futility and uselessness of life.  In this image, the "poor player" is simply put, a bad actor.  This is seen in the exaggerations of bad acting, where one "struts and frets his hour upon the stage."  This bad actor does not have a script, director, or assistant to guide him, and to a large extent, this is why his acting is so bad.  What makes matters even worse is that Macbeth suggests that one the "poor player" leaves the stage, it is as if he never existed. The bad actor is never remembered, as bad acting is linked to futility and a sense of uselessness.  Another theatrical image that Macbeth employs is the closing one of the speech.  The idea of how life is a "tale told by an idiot" is one where the actor is reading a tale, and has been reduced to an idiot.  Like the "poor player," this actor is one who reads the tale "full of sound and fury."  Yet, this intensity in delivery is undercut by the reality of how there is no significance to what is done, as it "signifies nothing." In both acting based images, Macbeth is able to bring out the futility of being in the world, something from which he speaks from a philosophical and a personal point of view.

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