I don't understand why the psychological, the poetic, and the thematic make Macbeth great theatre.

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dstuva's profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Concerning Shakespeare's Macbeth, if you truly understand the psychological, poetic, and thematic aspects of the play and you still don't understand why it makes for great theater, I'm not sure I can help you.

The play features a soldier who transforms from a brave and loyal subject to a serial-killing tyrant, even though he has scruples about his first killing--he feels badly about killing a fair and just king.  But he is so absolutely ambitious that he must have the crown at all costs. 

The play features a woman who pleads for spirits to "unsex me":  that's a memorable line.  The same women later exhibits symptoms of a disease--O.C.D--that wouldn't be commonly recognized and named for almost 400 years after Shakespeare wrote the scene.    

The play features a treatment of predestination vs. free will--an argument we are still having today.  In fact, due to genetics, the arguments are more focused on today than ever. 

I suggest you watch Roman Polanski's film of Macbeth.  I think you might be missing the complexities and intricacies of the play.

mstultz72's profile pic

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

Posted on

Macbeth is the confluence of man's worst fears, spoken with his most beautiful language, and arranged as a spectacle that is "bloody, bold, and resolute."  It's a perfect recipe for tragedy.

Language and spectacle make the play great: words and images.  What else is there?

Here are the high points of each:

  • Language: He who controls language controls others, their fears, their fates...

•Language (argument) is used to attain and maintain position and maintain power; Macbeth is won over by the words of women: the equivocal language of the witches and the brute force simplicity of Lady Macbeth

•Macbeth: thoughtful, poetic iambic pentameter (elevates him above rest)

•Lady Macbeth: plain, unimaginative iambic pentameter •Bleeding Captain: strong, harsh, war-like iambic pentameter

Poetry (Rhyming Couplets): Witches: short, choppy iambic tetrameter

Prose: •Porter (servant): dark, bawdy common language, humor

  • In terms of spectacle: Macbeth is visceral.  It's his bloodiest play.  Blood imagery is key.

The witches are psychological forces while on stage.  The audiences back then believed in their power to control.

The swordfighting scenes are great; heads are cut off; a soldier is gutted from belly to neck; horses eat each other; spells are cast; people go crazy.  The blood flows early and often. It's a horrorshow.

The dichotomy of beautiful words and graphic imagery make for Shakespeare's most "wholly tragic" play.

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