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Commentary On A Passage From William Shakespeare's Macbeth

1444 words - 6 pages

Commentary on a Passage From William Shakespeare's Macbeth

This pivotal excerpt from Shakespeare's Macbeth presents several
elements that are crucial to the play as a whole. In this passage,
many major themes are portrayed, and additionally, a plethora of
literary devices are used to further strengthen the vivid images and
emotions Shakepeare aims to present to the audience. The extract also
serves as a culminating point in the play as it marks the beginning of
Macbeth's gradual downfall.

Within his castle in Dunsinane, Macbeth blusteringly orders that
banners be hung and boasts that his castle will successfully repel the
enemy. A woman's cry is heard and Seyton exits to investigate, leaving
Macbeth alone in the room to spew out his worries about the battle,
expressing that he has "almost forgot the taste of fears," yet having
as much fear as a man can bear. Seyton then re-enters to tell Macbeth
that the queen has died. Given the great love between Macbeth and Lady
Macbeth, his response is peculiarly muted, but it leads swiftly into a
speech of such pessimism and despair that the audience realizes how
completely his wife's passing and the ruin of his power have undone
Macbeth. He speaks numbly about the rapid passage of time, asserting
that there is no meaning in life, but rather, that life "is a tale,
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

The scene presents to the audience a different side of Macbeth, the
side that is vulnerable to the insecurity that is so seldom shown
throughout the play. The beginning of the scene sees a self-assured
Macbeth, positive that his "castle's strength will laugh a siege to
scorn." However, when Seyton departs to examine the cries', Macbeth's
apprehension surfaces, expressing that his "fell of hair would at a
dismal treatise rouse and stir." The extract further reiterates that
Macbeth is only human, and is not able to keep his act up eternally.
His indifferent response to his wife's suicide reflects the despair
that has seized him as he realizes that what has come to seem the game
of life is almost over. "Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, creeps in this
petty pace from day to day," he says grimly. One can easily understand
how, with his wife dead and armies marching against him, Macbeth
succumbs to such pessimism. Yet, there is also a defensive and
self-justifying quality to his soliloquy. If everything is
meaningless, then Macbeth's awful crimes are somehow made less evil,
because, like everything else, they too "signify nothing."

Fate, guilt, and the discrepancy between appearance and reality are
all central themes to this passage. As the weird-sisters have foretold
that none "woman-born" can kill Macbeth, he is confident that he will
win the battle, for as far as he is concerned, nobody who is waging a
war on him...

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