The Breakdown And Restoration Of Order In Macbeth

1432 words - 6 pages

The Breakdown and Restoration of Order in Macbeth

    When Macbeth kills King Duncan in William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, there is a breakdown of order throughout Scotland. This breakdown is evident through three main factors; within the person, mainly through Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, through the kingdom and through nature. From a completely ordered nation into the depths of chaos - Scotland collapsed from the lack of strong leadership. In the end, when resolution is reached, this chaos is reversed and Scotland is restored to a peaceful nation as it was before Macbeth's reign.


Traditional Elizabethan ideologies were based on the great "Chain of Being". The people believed in an absolutely ordered universe were ranked in order of their superiority. This order corresponded with all religious beliefs and the political system. General beings were ranked in the order of: God, angels, king, man, animals, plants, inorganic material and finally chaos. When Macbeth murders Duncan, he violates this order. The king was seen to be God's representative on earth and if any rebel was to attack the king, he was seen as rebelling against or attacking God. There was a belief that God passed special powers on to all kings, as seen in Act four Scene three "he cures... the healing benediction... he hath a heavenly gift of prophecy" (lines 168-173). Macbeth does not have this divinity, as he is not the rightful king. This is one of the reasons that Scotland turns to chaos.


The evidence that the audience receives about a breakdown within a person is within Macbeth himself. After murdering Duncan, he begins to go crazy - his mind and his thoughts begin to rule him. He becomes very domineering. Macbeth is disturbed and tense due to the effect of his deeds on his mind. When Macbeth realizes the horror of his actions he cannot turn back - his only way to move forward without being punished is to commit more murder. So he kills many more people who he believes suspect him of murder. He becomes suspicious and insecure. He is scared of what he has done and fearful of deeds to follow. One of the main pieces of evidence that portrays a breakdown within the person is Macbeth's inability to sleep. This comes forward in Act two Scene 2 "I heard a voice cry `Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep'" (lines 33-34). Sleep was seen as the natural end to the day and it was unnatural to not be able to sleep. Macbeth lost the ability to restore himself within his mind and his body, therefore becoming abnormal. The fact that Banquo's ghost appeared to him at the banquet shows his troubled conscience - his murderous deeds are playing on his mind. The vision of the ghost also represents the fact that after Macbeth killed Banquo, he entered into the world of the supernatural at a level that he had never stooped to before. All the evidence above portrays a steadily growing breakdown within the person - within Macbeth.


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