Macbeth is a play about the tragic fall of a king from grace and nobility. It deals with many issues which are raised during the play which were significant, and could be related to by Elizabethan audiences. Although Macbeth was written way back in 1606, people today are still able to understand its meaning and appreciate the qualities of the play which over the centuries has become a universal performance. The play Macbeth is structured in a way that is effective in developing the issue of order and disorder. Throughout Macbeth, this issue is raised in many ways and is structured in the play to create a strong impact on the audience.
Because Macbeth is ultimately a play based on order and disorder, the way in which the issue is developed in the play is an essential part of how it is it is portrayed to the audience. Elizabethan audiences were slightly different in the way they understood and perceived what was happening on stage. In that period in time, people who watched plays were believers that whatever they saw was real. In other words, to them appearance was reality. If a bad person was killed, they believed this meant everyone was happy, not realising that there may be another side to the story where others may not totally agree with what was being told in the story.
However, people now days who watch the same thing, understand that this is not true. We know if we see something, it does not mean it is necessarily true. At the beginning of the play Macbeth, the audience is introduced to a character who has just defeated two invading armies from Ireland and Norway. Macbeth, along with his compatriot, Banquo are immediately hailed as heroes when they return to Scotland and the audience is led to believe Macbeth is wonderful. Because of Macbeths heroic deeds, everything in the kingdom seems to be in good order; the king is happy and so are the people.
But the introduction of the three witches into the play casts an unnatural twist, where the audience is suddenly confronted with a dramatic change in mood. The success of Macbeth, followed suddenly by the evil witches, creates the issues of order and disorder, with the order being Macbeths victory, and disorder being the unnatural witches. However, you must realise that the battle that Macbeth and Banquo were involved in was, in itself, a type of disorder, as the attacking armies were apart of a rebellion against King Duncan.
Before the battle there was obviously a sense of disorder but this was resolved after what Macbeth accomplished. Hence, the Elizabethan audience liked him for this as they belied he was a saviour. Because they believed in appearance being reality, to them everything was now in good order. As soon as the witches come into the play, the audience senses something is not quite right. For a moment the kingdom seemed to be back in good strength when news of Macbeths victory was heard, but straight away things turn suspiciously wrong again, making the audience realise that this play is not over yet.
Not that it would be because it has only just started). The witches, or weird sisters as they are called, let the audience know that there is an evil side to this play, which is yet to be resolved. Their establishment into the play has an ominous ring to it as the witches announce their intentions of disorder amidst the thunder and lightning. After Macbeth receives his prophecies from the witches, he is very sceptic about them yet accepts them as reality, unlike modern people who wouldnt accept it as being true and see it as a joke.
Elizabethan audiences would also believe that this was true, whereas audiences today would laugh at it. Macbeth writes to Lady Macbeth anyway to let her know what has happened. Being the obsessive lady that she is, Lady Macbeth straight away takes these prophecies as being the truth and plans a way to fulfil these predictions. As we can see, Lady Macbeth is also guilty of accepting Macbeths letter as being real as well. Lady Macbeth is clearly creating disorder and the audience can see that she will be instrumental in tragic things to come.
When Macbeth returns to the kingdom, Lady Macbeth has already devised a plan to get him crowned King. Lady Macbeth forces Macbeth to murder King Duncan and the audience once again realises that Lady Macbeth is the instigator for this disorder. When Macbeth murders King Duncan, the audience knows there is no turning back, and that things can only get worse from here. Duncans sons, Malcolm and Donalbain flee from the kingdom in fear that they may too be murdered, telling the audience that even the upper ranks of Scottish nobility is in disorder.
Everything after King Duncans murder is clearly out of order (apart from Macbeth being named King). From Lady Macbeths sleep walking to the murder of Macduffs family we can see that disorder is a prominent issue in the play. There is without a doubt more disorder than order in the play giving the audience more of a reason to be against Lady Macbeth for what she has done. For a moment yet again in the play, there is a period where things are back in order. Macbeth has been named King due to Duncans death, yet the audience knows the story behind all of this.
This is what we call irony in the play, when the audience is aware of something which the actors do not know themselves. Lady Macbeth on the other hand, is suffering the effects of what murdering King Duncan can do to you mentally. She is having constant sleep walking fits and starting to get worried about the consequences they may face if they get found out due to the crime she and Macbeth have committed. Macbeth is also getting apprehensive about it all, and as a safety measure, sends out 3 murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance who are heir to the throne. Banquo is killed but Fleance escapes.
Elizabethan audiences also believed that those who created disorder needed to be punished. This made them think twice about what they thought of Macbeth, as he saved the kingdom, yet soon after was the result of King Duncans death. They already knew what Lady Macbeth had done, but Macbeth was a character to them who could be portrayed as a good or bad figure in the play. However, as the play went on, the audience began to see the dark side of Macbeth more often as his ambition of being king caused him to fall from power. But the audience was also aware that Lady Macbeth manipulated him.
Things in Scotland continue to get worse, with the death of Lady Macbeth. Because Macbeth feels he is vulnerable without her, he goes to see the three witches for further prophecies for protection. Certain that the witches new prophecies guarantee his invincibility he is shocked to hear the news that Birnam Wood is indeed coming to Dunsinane, fulfilling half of the witches prophecy. By now the audience knows Macbeth is in trouble. The invading army, lead by Macduff and Malcolm, is coming towards the castle and Macbeths prophecies seem to be fading away.
When Macduff and his army arrive, Macbeth and Macduff find themselves in a showdown, where Macduff reveals that he was untimely ripped from his mothers womb. In other words, he was a Caesarean birth. Macbeth at this stage realises his fate, and is eventually killed. Macbeth was looked at as a tragic hero. Although he was the cause of many wrong doings in the play, Elizabethans still admired him as a character. They would see Macbeth save everything, and then going and ruin everything, but he still fights until the end.
Even after all the crimes he has done, at the end of the play his is back where we began, and Elizabethans admire that. Order and disorder was brought up in this play quite effectively due to the way in which it was structured. By comparing certain scenes of order to scenes of disorder, let the audience know that there was a strong issues being raised in the play. It was also brought up in the play through the characters who carried certain disposition into the play. The audience was soon able to familiarise themselves with them and recognise the differences between things of order and disorder.
When the audience first saw Macbeth, he was a hero, but things soon changed when he was involved in the murder of King Duncan. His appetite for power had him obsessed with making sure he was the only won who could be king and being influenced by Lady Macbeth did not help either. The audience knew that Macbeth deep down was a caring person, who would never have committed any of these crimes without the influence of Lady Macbeth, but because he eventually is involved in the murder, we know he is guilty and has given himself a bad representation.
Full of the milk of human kindness. is what Lady Macbeth uses to describe Macbeth, showing the audience that he is naturally a gentle man who would never do anything wrong. Because Macbeth was an innocent character who worked under the guidance of King Duncan, the audience immediately accepted him as being a good character. King Duncans trust in Macbeth also emphasised his qualities and what kind of character he was initially portrayed to be. He was a gentleman which whom I built an absolute trust. The audience also has King Duncans view supporting their own beliefs in Macbeth.
Macbeth receives the prophecies from the witches and it is because of this, along with the persuasion of Lady Macbeth, that changes Macbeths character. If it werent for Lady Macbeth and the three witches, Macbeth would have been fine. But it is because of this that Macbeth is seen as having lost his innocence and becoming a creator of disorder in the play. When Macbeth kills King Duncan and becomes king, it is obvious that he is (along with Lady Macbeth and the witches) just as guilty for the mess he has got himself into.
It is only when the audience sees Macbeth fall from grace and nobility that we, as the audience identity him as a tragic hero. His death emphasises this loss and the audience realises that a valiant king and warrior is gone. A character who one was great for his brave heroics has now ceased and no longer lives. What makes Macbeth a tragic hero is that even when he realizes everything he had done was no use he still fights until the end. “Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep in the affliction of theses terrible dreams that shake us nightly.
Bette be with the dead whom we, to gain our place, have sent to peace, than on the torture of the mind to lie in restless ecstasy… ” Here he already shows us the regret that he has, then later in the play he says: “Why should I play the Roman fool, and die on my own sword? Whiles I see lives, the gashes do better upon them. ” This also shows us that he will fight till the end and get what he deserves for the evil deeds he committed. In Elizabethan times, audiences had different beliefs and values than people of today. Because they thought that appearance was reality, they believed differently to what we do.
Their beliefs that people who created disorder should be punished were also useful tools for issues in Macbeth to be developed. Elizabethan audiences of that time would believe that Macbeth was a bad king because of what he did to the nation, and believe that justice was being served for what he did when he began to fall from nobility. This is something that audiences of today and audiences of Elizabethan times would have in common, as they would be able to recognise an good king from a bad one. One thing that is helpful in developing an important issue which is explored throughout the play is the use of dramatic irony.
Because irony is when the audience is aware of something that the characters on stage are not, the issue of appearance and reality can be blamed for being connected with the technique of irony. For example, when Lady Macbeth is keeping Duncans murder a secret in order to protect her husband, she is acting pleasant and formal around her fellow associates. The audiences knows what Lady Macbeth is hiding hence creating an issue of appearance and reality where the reality is that Duncan has in fact been murdered. The play Macbeth is said to have a universal appeal to its audiences.
People all around the word are able to understand the meaning behind the play and recognize the language used. People in Elizabethan times were obviously more acquainted with Shakespeares language, but over the centuries it has changed into the modern speech we use today. Even though the play Macbeth was written back in 1606 and focused on certain issues and problems that the nation was having, people can still relate to the issues in modern day even though they were originally brought up to discuss what was happening back then.
Elizabethan people were of course involved and aware of certain things that may have changed their opinion back then slightly to what we have, but the overall understanding of the play can be appreciated and analysed by people from all over the world. The issues raised in the play are relevant to everyone and the way in which they are sent across to the viewer through the performance allows people universally to equally comprehend and have their own opinion.
Macbeth is a play which focuses on the main issue of tragedy which has a universal appeal. People all over the world know what the play is about and are able to clearly understand the messages it is trying to send to the audience. However, because the issues explored in the play were those which were relevant to that time, makes Macbeth a significant play of its time. Elizabethan audiences had different views than modern audiences would allow them to appreciate certain qualities used in the play.