Tension in Act 2, Scenes 1 and 2 of William Shakespeare's Macbeth
Shakespeare's Macbeth is a play that develops around tension all the
way through. Shakespeare manages to create tension in a variety of
ways in terms of the thematic aspects, linguistic aspects and dramatic
Act II (scenes I and 11) is the part of Macbeth where Lady Macbeth and
her husband (Macbeth) actually carry out their plans and do the deed.
Instead of planning and talking about killing King Duncan of Scotland,
the Macbeths go ahead and actually do it. Tension is built up before
the killing in scene I and also in scene II when Macbeth reappears
having done the "deed". We can see the Macbeths' reactions and
feelings to their crime and if the characters are uneasy or on edge,
then it adds to the tension.
Act II, scene 1, starts off at night, in fact after midnight. In
Shakespeare's time midnight was considered to be the "witching hour".
Shakespeare's use of the concept of darkness is an excellent way of
creating tension because many people have a deep founded fear of the
dark. The darkness can be seen in the language, "The moon is down" and
in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Macbeth an eerie
atmosphere is created through dim lighting. This version of Macbeth
uses pauses and silence by the characters in order to create tension.
Also evil things come from the dark; Banquo says "All the candles are
out", meaning there are no starts in the sky. Banquo finds it
difficult to get to sleep because of "cursed thoughts". This language
shows us that Banquo is obviously very anxious and fear is plaguing
his imagination. The semantic field of sleep is very clear at this
point in Macbeth, in particular in Act II, scene II.
Banquo shouts "Give me my sword", suggesting that he is edgy and
anxious despite being in his friend's castle. For me, it wouldn't be
the sort of command you would shout unless you were disturbed by
something - and of course we know that Banquo is extremely fearful due
to either his worry about the witches' prophecies or it is a
possibility that he suspects Macbeth. Banquo's worry about the witches
was something shared by the society in Shakespearian times, who were
very fearful of the supernatural. Therefore the references to the
supernatural would have increased tension amidst the audience.
The actual theme of killing the King certainly creates the utmost
tension in itself. In Shakespearian times the King was seen as next to
God, so to murder the King i.e. commit treason would be a wicked sin,
for which the killer would be cut off from God.
There is a stark contrast in Banquo's and Macbeth's manner. Banquo
speaks his mind and is open about his feelings whereas Macbeth hides
his true feelings. When Banquo says "I dreamt last night of the three
weird sisters", Macbeth's...