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Essay on Macbeth Act 3 Scene 5 Analysis

Compare the ways in which Shakespeare presents the two kings in these extracts from Richard II and Macbeth. In the scene from Richard II, Act 3 Scene 2, Richard is informed of the deaths of Bushy, Green and the Earl of Wiltshire, whereupon he begins a monologue discussing death. In the scene from Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 5, Macbeth is informed by a messenger about the movement of the army from the Birnam Woods, which he responds to with anger towards the messenger, before having an internal battle about what to do, and what to believe. One of the ways the two kings, Richard II and Macbeth, differ in these extracts is in the way they respond to adversity.

When Richard is told that Bushy, Green, and the Earl of Wiltshire are dead, he has recently finished making speeches full of power and majesty, but the news of these deaths, of some of his most loyal followers. At this point, Richard is left without an army, and with only the men who are currently with him supporting him, which means he is almost alone, for the very first time. For the first time, death seems like a possibility to Richard, as it is the first time he has been confronted with his own mortality. The line “of comfort no man speak” suggests that Richard feels that nothing will be able to make this situation better.

The speech that follows is full of despair, and imagery of death, alongside Richard coming to terms with his mortality and humanity. This can be seen in the lines: “For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, And tell sad stories of the deaths of kings; How some have been deposed; some slain in war,” For the first time, Richard is not fully focussed on the divine right of kings, he is realising that there is the possibility that he could be forcefully removed from being king, or he could be killed in a fight, as he has almost no defence left.

He has been left alone, and is self-pitying, “[sitting] upon the ground” is not something that a monarch would usually do, as it is beneath them, but Richard is feeling unlike a king at this moment, and so he is prepared to physically lower himself as well as mentally dismantle his beliefs in kingship. On the other hand, Macbeth, when he is informed by his messenger, a nuntius, that Birnam “wood began to move”, first accuses him of being a liar, and says: “If thou speak’st false, // Upon the next tree shall thou hang alive”, meaning that if the messenger has lied to Macbeth, he will be hung.

But when Macbeth is alone, as Richard is, he, too, begins to act in a manner not expected of a king. He allows the facade of always remaining strong to drop, and expresses his doubts and nervousness. But unlike Richard, he does not lose hope entirely, as he says: “If this which he avouches does appear, There is nor flying hence nor tarrying here. ” This shows that Macbeth believes that even in the face of adversity, he should remain strong and go out to fight, he does not see the point in collapsing now.

A second way the two kings differ in these extracts is the ways in which they express themselves. In Richard II, Richard uses a lot of imagery of death and dying to express how he is feeling at this moment, such as “Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs”. This image suggests a graveyard, with tombstones. Richard is feeling rather sorrowful at this point in the play, and these images suggest his sadness. However Richard intertwines this imagery of death with imagery of kingship, which he has used throughout his monologues in the rest of the play.

The lines “For within the hollow crown / That rounds the mortal temples of a king” suggest that Richard is now seeing the crown in a different light, which is a moment of anagnorisis for him. Before it has always been all powerful to him, and now he is realising that the crown itself does not hold the power, and that the wearer of the crown is not immortal, and does not necessarily have the protection of God, he is just like any other human. Richard is finally realising that he is just like any other man, “I live with bread like you, feel want, Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,

How can you say to me, I am a king? ” Richard has had all that he has known up until this point taken away from him, and so it makes him question if he can be a king when he in reality he is just like the men that he rules. He, too, is heartbroken by the death of his friends and allies; he, too, cannot survive without sustenance. In Macbeth’s monologue he expresses himself in a much more succinct manner, than Richard does in his own. Macbeth is not now faced with the sudden realisation of his own mortality, and so while he is faced with the horror of being about to be attacked, he is not at his lowest point.

Macbeth is also ready to die, “I ‘gin to be aweary of the sun, And wish th’ estate o’ th’ world were now undone. ” Macbeth is tiring of the trials he has faced, and is not frightened by the prospect of battle, he is willing to see the collapse of his world, and see his kingdom fully deteriorate. He is fully convinced that his death is imminent, but he wants to die a brave man’s death, as seen in the line “At least we’ll die with harness on our back. ” He is not scared of death, or of fighting, but he does not want to give up.

These passages, from Richard II and Macbeth, relate to my understanding of tragedy in several ways. Both Richard and Macbeth are tragic heroes, fitting Shakespeare’s mould perfectly, as both are characters of high rank, who have undergone changes in their circumstances that will lead to their deaths. Both Richard and Macbeth suffer in ways that are beyond a normal type of suffering, with Richard losing all his supporters, and Macbeth experiencing a similar destruction of his kingdom and of his power.

Richard is not a figure that one would naturally feel sympathy for, but he appears so destitute and downtrodden in this soliloquy that one cannot help but pity him. He has lost all he has ever known, and is having to come to terms with not only the loss of his allies and friends, but also the idea of his mortality and the impermanence of his position as king, which means that one cannot help but feel sorry for him. This relates to my understanding of tragedy, as tragedy encourages you to commiserate with the tragic hero, even if it is someone who one would usually not choose to pity.

It is the same with Macbeth. He is in a position where he is being faced with his own death, and so although he has done things throughout the play that are truly atrocious, in this moment, one has nothing but pity for him, because he is alone, preparing to die. There is a natural compassion for these men who have lost everything that they have ever had. In these two extracts, Richard is presented as being the feebler of the two kings. Macbeth is willing to go out and face his own death, whereas Richard is still coming to terms with the idea of death and how it relates to him.

Richard is weak in his solitude whereas Macbeth is able to remain strong in his. However, both of the kings are presented as figures that we should pity, and that we should feel sorry for. Neither Richard or Macbeth are set up in their respective scenes to be hated, as the tragic heroes, we are cajoled into finding compassion for them within us, even if they have been unjust rulers. Shakespeare presents them as pitiable by linking them so closely with death in these scenes, for Richard, with his monologue full of imagery of death and dying, and for Macbeth with his proclamation of being ready to die.

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