What I have to do is to imagine I am one of the unnamed lords at the strange feast that takes place in Act III, Scene 4 of Macbeth. Immediately afterwards, I write a letter to my friend Macduff, who has not attended, telling him about what has happened, considering the following:
- Did I actually want to go in the first place? What was said about those who did not attend?
- How were things at first? How did Macbeth and the queen seem to be when I arrived?
- When did things start "going weird"?
- Could I make much sense out of what Macbeth was saying when he started raving?
- How did the queen react to his husband's behavior?
- What were people saying after they left?
- What do I think it was all about?
- Do I think Macduff was right to stay away?
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In the composition of such a letter, it is important to place yourself in the setting of the Renaissance in which people firmly believed in the supernatural as a strong force; also, people believed in the Chain of Being, so the murder of King Duncan would cause great consternation among the noblemen and those who know about it or suspect it.
While educators do not compose essays, etc. for students, we are, nevertheless, glad to assist in the composition of writing assignments. Therefore, let us go through this by the numbered points to include in the letter:
1. Since King Duncan has been well liked, and the recent battles successful for Scotland, it should seem very strange that someone has murdered the king for anything but ulterior motives. Therefore, the lord may be a little apprehensive about attending a banquet for the newly crowned Macbeth, about whom he may have some serious doubts, which can be expressed in his letter.
2. When the noblemen arrive, Macbeth greets his guests, but Lady Macbeth remains seated on her throne. (Is she enjoying this new position of queen so much that she cannot be gracious and greet the guests? Would the lord not wonder about this?)
3. After the lords are seated according to rank as is traditional, Macbeth moves away and talks to someone. Lady Macbeth tells him that he has not made the guests feel welcome. So, at this point the lord may begin to wonder what is happening. (Things beginning to "go weird.")
4. Macbeth has a very strange expression on his face as he approaches his seat, looking as though he has seen a spirit (he does see Banquo's ghost--remember, too, that many Elizabethans believed strongly in ghosts). But, then, he seems to be all right as he praises the guests as honorable men. King Macbeth mentions that Banquo is absent and hopes that it is only because of discourtesy and not an accident.
So, he does not seem to be odd in his behavior at first. But, when Ross asks him to sit, Macbeth replies, "The table's full," although his seat is empty. Then, when Lennox points to the empty seat and tells him, "Here is a place reserved, sir," Macbeth acts surprised, asking, "Where?" Lennox again points to the seat; however, an angry Macbeth demands, "Which of you have done this?"
All the lords are confused and reply that they do not know what he means. Now, an enraged Macbeth shouts, "Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake/Thy gory locks at me," as though he is talking to someone. At this point Lennox suggests that all the lords depart because his Highness does not seem well. However, Lady Macbeth demands that the lords remain seated, explaining that Macbeth has had a momentary fit as he was prone to even as a youth. Still, she leans over to him, asking, "Are you a man?" This must make the lords wonder what is happening.
Strangely, Macbeth replies to his queen that he looks upon something that might "appall the devil."
6. This remark angers Lady Macbeth and she scolds the king for being like a foolish child: "You look but on a stool." She also challenges his manhood: "What quite unmanned in folly?" (The lord might wonder why she speaks to the king in this manner.)
7. At this point, he lord might think that Macbeth is having hallucinations because he declares that he has seen someone. He even asks it to nod or speak. He must be imagining someone there.
8. Even though Macbeth protests that he just has some "strange infirmity," he has acted as though frightened by what he has seen. Why has he said, "Blood hath been shed ere now, i' th'olden time"? And, he mentions "murders have been performed." What is it that so disturbs Macbeth? Could it be a ghost? Is Macbeth guilty of something?
9. In his letter, the lord will want to consult with Macduff, report the occurrences of the night, and ask him why he did not come. Perhaps he knew something already, or suspected something? He may have, indeed, been right not to have come to the banquet.
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