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Focusing on Act 1 How and why does Macbeth turn from War Hero to Royal Zero?

Shakespeare, born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, is one of the best-known and most

successful playwrights in history. He revolutionised theatre and his 38 surviving plays are still
performed around the world today, proven by the fact that his plays are performed more often
than any other playwright’s, and have been translated into every major living language.
Between 1589 and 1613 Shakespeare created most of his work, most being comedies,
histories and later on, tragedies. He was also an accomplished sonnet writer, producing over
150, his best known being written about confessing his love for his mistress. Shakespeare
married at the age of 18 to Anne Hathaway, who had 3 children with him, but it was not
uncommon at this time to marry at such a young age. Around this time, in the 16th and 17th
centuries, they lived in a very patriarchal society. This is usually a theme in his plays, such as
in ‘Othello’ where the males in practically every relationship are completely dominant,
whereas in ‘Macbeth’, Lady Macbeth does not conform to usual society by being the
manipulative dominant in a patriarchal society.

Shakespearian theatres were superior in design, as they were circular and set out so that
there’s class separation, which was very important in those days. The way that the theatre
was set out was that the lower class stood and the upper class had seating above the
standing area. On a warm day and when the standing area was crowded it was not pleasant,
many people would be throwing up or fainting because of the heat and lack of space. In
comparison, the seats would be much more comfortable as they had cushions, and there
would be a much better view. These were just a couple of the advantages of being in a higher

The play ‘Macbeth’ was written between 1603 and 1607, it starts with three witches meeting
on a beach arranging to meet with Macbeth after a battle had finished.

Three witches decide to confront the Scottish General Macbeth on his successful return from
a battle between Scotland and Norway. The Scottish king, Duncan, decides that he will
reward Macbeth with the title of ‘Thane of Glamis’. Macbeth and his friend Banquo come
across the three witches. The witches predict that Macbeth will one day become king. Lady
Macbeth comes up with a plan that Macbeth will murder King Duncan, and Macbeth, with
some persuasion, agrees to the plan. He then murders Duncan in his sleep, whilst his wife
smears the blood of Duncan on the daggers of the sleeping guards who she drugged. A man
called Macduff discovers the body of the King and raises the alarm that the King has been
murdered. Macbeth has the guards killed, claiming that because there was Duncan’s blood on
their daggers, they must have killed him. Macbeth is then crowned King of Scotland, and his
men then commit more murders. Then at a dinner party the bloodied ghost of Banquo
appears before Macbeth. Lady Macbeth's conscience now begins to torture her and she
imagines that she can see her hands covered with blood, so she commits suicide. In a bloody
conclusion Duncan’s son, Malcolm, brings an army with him (including Macduff) from England
to attack Dunsinane Castle. In a public fight within the castle Macduff kills Macbeth in
vengeance for killing his family. Shortly before, Macbeth tells Macduff someone born of a
woman cannot kill him, but Macduff explains that he was born by caesarean. After Macbeth is
killed, his head is put on a pole for everyone to see in an act of victory. Finally, the rightful heir
to the throne, Malcolm, becomes King of Scotland.

‘Macbeth’, also known as ‘The Scottish Play’, was Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy. The
conventions of tragedy, which are common in practically all Shakespearean plays, usually
include the rise and fall of a tragic hero, more often than not because of a fatal flaw in the
character such as greed or selfishness. Eventually the hero is generally murdered or commits
suicide. This is typical of Shakespearean plays. Along with ‘Macbeth’ other plays that have
these conventions include ‘Othello’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

At the start of the play Macbeth is a heroic and highly thought of soldier, who is happily
married and holds a noble position in the King’s eye. Macbeth seems to have it all, but his
complete reversal of fortunes can’t have been chance. It seems obvious to me that his greed
is integral to his downfall. After the victorious battle, Duncan and the Captain describe
Macbeth as a loyal and noble warrior, but as the play goes on Macbeth’s personality changes
dramatically for the worse. He embarks upon killing many innocent people including Macduff’s
wife and children in an act of ruthlessness, portraying how drastically he has changed. He can
only be described as a glutinous, evil and jealous man, who got exactly what he deserved.

After King Duncan has given Macbeth the title of ‘Thane of Glamis’ he comes across the three
witches. The witches chant to Macbeth and Banquo that Macbeth will be "Thane of Glamis!",
"Thane of Cawdor!" and "king hereafter". The language this chant possesses is totally
Shakespearean, and fits into his unique style of writing. Macbeth reacts to prophecy as if it is
fact, and thereafter feels that nothing can get in his way, which leads to his murderous spree
and eventual death. When spoken to by the witches, Macbeth’s initial reaction was ‘speak if
you can: what are you?’ this shows he doesn’t know who or what the witches are as they are
ugly cloaked figures, after some conversation with the witches, they chant that he will
become, ‘Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and then King hereafter’ Macbeth and Banquo
are confused, yet intrigued about the witches strange predictions, and are unsure whether or
not to believe them, as the witches begin the vanish, Macbeth asks them to stay and tell him
more, but they disappear and leave himself and Banquo confused. As time goes on, Macbeth
is given then title ‘Thane of Cawdor’, which is exactly what the witches predicted, he is happy
but the next prediction which the witches chanted about was to become King, but Macbeth is
unsure how this will happen, after some conversation with Banquo, Macbeth tells his wife
about the witches predictions, she then becomes obsessed by the thought of becoming
Queen and conjures up a cunning yet, very evil plan.

Act 4 scene 1 is a vital part of the play, this is where Macbeth revisits the witches to find out
any more predictions.