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Author Topic: Macbeth Textual Analysis Thread  (Read 6557 times)

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K.Smithy

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Macbeth Textual Analysis Thread
« on: January 04, 2020, 08:14:47 pm »
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MACBETH TEXTUAL ANALYSIS THREAD

What is this thread for?
This thread is for discussing and understanding the text Macbeth. It is a central place for inter-state discussion and the sharing of resources, as well as a place to ask questions and discuss themes. Find the quote bank for Macbeth here. Everyone is welcome to contribute; even if you're unsure of yourself, providing different perspectives is incredibly valuable. Please don't be dissuaded if you haven't finished Year 12, or didn't score as highly as others, or your advice contradicts something else you've seen on this thread, or whatever. None of this disqualifies you from helping others. And if you're worried you do have some sort of misconception, put it out there so that fellow peers (or even old folk like me who have graduated :P) can lend a helping hand. There'll be plenty of students with their own wealth of wisdom to share with you, so you may even get multiple answers from different people offering their own insight - very cool.

Helpful Summaries:
- Macbeth (Shakespeare) - Thug Notes Summary and Analysis - duration: 4:26
- MACBETH BY SHAKESPEARE // SUMMARY - CHARACTERS, SETTING & THEME - duration: 7:59
- Free Will, Witches, Murder, and Macbeth (Part 1): Crash Course Literature #409 - duration: 12:55
- Macbeth Summary - duration: 3:41
- [Shakespeare: The Animated Tales] Macbeth - duration: 25:34

Some detailed summaries of each act can be found here:
- Macbeth Act 1 Summary with Key Quotes & English Subtitles - duration: 16:06
- Macbeth Act 2 Summary with Key Quotes & English Subtitles - duration: 5:15
- Macbeth Act 3 Summary with Key Quotes & English Subtitles - duration: 8:27
- Macbeth Act 4 Summary with Key Quotes & English Subtitles - duration: 6:42
- Macbeth Act 5 Summary with Key Quotes & English Subtitles - duration: 11:49

- Scene by scene
- Macbeth | Study Guide

Themes:
Key themes of this text include ambition, the supernatural, violence, loyalty and guilt, good vs evil... These themes (and more!) can be further explored here and here.

Free Notes:
Feel free to visit the notes section of ATAR Notes for awesome notes and quote banks.

If you can't download the notes...
To download the notes or make a post in this thread, you will first need an ATAR Notes account. You probably already have one, but if you don't, it takes about four seconds to sign up - and it's completely free!

Other Resources:
Who is Shakespeare? Find out here
What influenced his writing? Find out here and here

A full copy of Macbeth (with translations) can be found here

Sparknotes, Schmoop, and Grade Saver are all great resources that may help with your studies of this text :)

Thread Index:
What Influenced the Play?
Feminine Representation


Good luck on your journey analysing Macbeth! Please feel free to help this thread grow by sharing: any helpful resources you have found, your own analysis, practice essays/paragraphs and/or any questions you may have :)
« Last Edit: January 20, 2021, 11:35:35 pm by K.Smithy »
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K.Smithy

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Re: Macbeth Textual Analysis Thread
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2020, 08:48:38 pm »
+4
What Influenced the Play?

Queen Elizabeth I of England was dying. She had no children and hence no heir to her throne. So, she named James VI of Scotland as her successor (he ended up becoming James I of England).

It was a warm, summer night (I think... who knows? ;D), in August 1606. James was at Hampton Court watching the play Macbeth, accompanied by his brother-in-law, King Christian of Denmark. Now... James was familiar with the play. Macbeth was, after all, a new play regarding an old story (Shakespeare found the story in The Chronicles of Scotland by Raphael Holinshed) - it was about James' ancestors, Banquo and Fleance, through whom he inherited the throne of Scotland. Shakespeare's play, however, was a much much more dramatic re-writing of the historical facts. He had made many changes; most of which concerned James' ancestor, Banquo. In the true story, Banquo assisted Macbeth in the murder of King Duncan; idk about you, but Shakespeare thought that it would be best to not suggest that James descended from a regicide. Instead, Shakespeare decided to play it safe, and in his play Banquo does not assist Macbeth in the murder of Duncan; instead, he is innocent. Furthermore, in order to get on James' good side, the play contains some flattery. James believed that he descended (spiritually) from the long tradition of English monarchs, and that he had possed the power of healing that Edward the Confessor (1042-66) had possessed. Shakespeare's description of this power (in Act IV, Scene iii, lines 148-58 --> may be different depending on what version you are reading) may be described as deliberate flattery of his king. Additionally, you know the three witches? Well, James was extremely interested in witchcraft (he even wrote a book on it!); Shakespeare knew this and used it to his advantage.

However, Macbeth is more than just flattery for an ancient British monarch. Although it is based largely on historical fact, it should not be read as history. Rather, it should be interpreted as a moral lesson. It, like many of the popular dystopian texts we read/watch/listen to today (e.g. The Walking Dead, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner...) explore 4 main concepts. These being: human nature, free-will vs determinism, power and powerlessness, and consciousness and morality. Although Macbeth is very different from texts we engage with nowadays, these 4 main concepts withstand the test of time.

Through the murder of Duncan, Macbeth explores an old lesson - crime does not pay. To murder anyone is a crime, but those in the Elizabethan era believed that the murder of a king was the greatest of all crimes. They believed that kings were appointed by God to rule as His deputies, thus rebelling against a king meant rebelling against God.

The play, Macbeth, also exhibits influence from cultural assumptions of the society in which Shakespeare lived. Characters such as Lady Macbeth fight against the prevailing expectations of how women should behave in society. Furthermore, potentially due to religious influence, female characters are depicted as the root of all chaos and evil ( la Eve).
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Bri MT

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Re: Macbeth Textual Analysis Thread
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2020, 02:14:35 pm »
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Furthermore, potentially due to religious influence, female characters are depicted as the root of all chaos and evil ( la Eve).

Open discussion/open for anyone who's read the text:  Do you think that female characters are depicted in this way due to being female or due to rejecting feminine expectations?

I'm not sure what I think in regard to this. On one hand, I would suspect that if this were the case then there would be contrasting female characters who embody traditional femininity and are rewarded for it but on the other I think a compelling argument can be made for it given Lady Macbeth's speech before she convinces Macbeth to kill the king. I also think that audiences in that time might pay more attention to Lady Macbeth and the witches being very different to traditional femininity.


Edit: I haven't read Macbeth in years so it's quite possible I've missed things or gotten them wrong, please feel free to point out anything like that
« Last Edit: February 06, 2020, 02:16:45 pm by Bri MT »

K.Smithy

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Re: Macbeth Textual Analysis Thread
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2020, 09:46:32 pm »
+4
Open discussion/open for anyone who's read the text:  Do you think that female characters are depicted in this way due to being female or due to rejecting feminine expectations?

This is an excellent question, and it is definitely very thought-provoking. Macbeth is thought of by critics as being one of Shakespeare's most misogynistic plays, due to how female characters are portrayed. I believe that the representation of the female identity is always a very interesting concept to discuss when analysing Shakespeare's work.  As many would know, Shakespeare was a renaissance man; thus his writing is influenced by the attitudes and ideals of the time. During this point in history, women were expected to be quite, subservient, and chaste - these expectations were strongly influenced by medieval notions and religious scripture (women in society acted as they were expected and if they didn't they they were viewed as being vile, disobedient and/or promiscuous). It is notable that Macbeth frequently dwells on issues surrounding gender. Manhood is equated with naked aggression (evident when Lady Macbeth questions her husbands manhood when he is unsure about murdering King Duncan) - which allows for the political order within the play to descend into chaos. However, Macduff challenges the association between manhood and aggression and instead puts forth a less destructive representation of manhood (in the scene where Macduff learns of the death of his wife and child, he shows Malcolm that he has a mistaken understanding of masculinity when he states that Macduff should "Dispute it like a man". Macduff replies with, "I shall do so. But I must also feel it as a man" - showing the sentient nature of masculinity). The aggression exhibited by female characters in the play is more striking as it contradicts prevailing expectations surrounding how they should behave in society (this may also be the reason why it is portrayed in such a negative light).

Many of Shakespeare's works challenge the ideals of his time.
'A Midsummer Night's Dream' is an example of this. As I said in my assignment last year: many of the "female characters are strong-willed and rebel against the social hierarchy and traditional gender roles, resenting societys pressure to conform to the fragility associated with femininity." Although female characters within 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' challenge cultural assumptions put forth by the renaissance (an example being Hermia), none of them are viewed in a negative light. The same thing cannot be said for Macbeth.

Anywho, I just find discussing differences in the ways in which males and females are represented within Shakespeare's play really interesting.
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Bri MT

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Re: Macbeth Textual Analysis Thread
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2020, 08:10:28 am »
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Anywho, I just find discussing differences in the ways in which males and females are represented within Shakespeare's play really interesting.

Yeah it certainly can be interesting. I haven't read A Midsummer Night's Dream so I'll have to take your word on how characters are presented in that.

You've talked about the question and about gender in Macbeth but you haven't answered it (which is absolutely fine btw; it's not like this is an assessment :P ). Do you not have a clear opinion on this or were you just distracted by other interesting gender things in Macbeth?

K.Smithy

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Re: Macbeth Textual Analysis Thread
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2020, 10:32:08 pm »
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Yeah it certainly can be interesting. I haven't read A Midsummer Night's Dream so I'll have to take your word on how characters are presented in that.

You've talked about the question and about gender in Macbeth but you haven't answered it (which is absolutely fine btw; it's not like this is an assessment :P ). Do you not have a clear opinion on this or were you just distracted by other interesting gender things in Macbeth?

Ohh lol, forgot about the question ;D
It certainly is a very tough one to answer, but I'd have to say that it is both (the characters being female and them rejecting social norms).

Not every female character within Macbeth is depicted as being evil - for example Lady Macduff. It is evident that as long as women abide by feminine expectations they can avoid being deemed a 'bad guy'. However, as soon as a female character rejects social norms, they become a 'bad guy'. So, it would be unfair to argue that the reason they are cast in such a negative light is solely because they are female.

However.... it is evident, in characters such as Macduff, that if a male character rejects social expectations (in Macduff's case, actually showing emotion rather than simply resorting to aggression straight away), they are not viewed in a negative light.

So, in my opinion, the answer to your question is: both.

(idk if any of this makes sense, I'm very tired right now)
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Bri MT

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Re: Macbeth Textual Analysis Thread
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2020, 10:46:21 am »
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(idk if any of this makes sense, I'm very tired right now)

It makes sense :)

I forgot all about Lady Macduff. You raise a good point there. On the other hand, I think it could be argued that Lady Macduff only exists in order to cause Macduff pain from her being murdered (iirc) & hence this doesn't demonstrate that she has any intrinsic value or goodness, only that she has effect on Macduff. (This might be a stronger argument if Macduff wasn't positioned as someone the audience should support and agree with)

Either way I think you're right - it's not absolutely one way or the other.

K.Smithy

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Re: Macbeth Textual Analysis Thread
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2020, 11:48:29 am »
+1
It makes sense :)

I forgot all about Lady Macduff. You raise a good point there. On the other hand, I think it could be argued that Lady Macduff only exists in order to cause Macduff pain from her being murdered (iirc) & hence this doesn't demonstrate that she has any intrinsic value or goodness, only that she has effect on Macduff. (This might be a stronger argument if Macduff wasn't positioned as someone the audience should support and agree with)

Either way I think you're right - it's not absolutely one way or the other.

I actually really love this perspective - I didn't even think of that! ;D This point got me thinking, within Macbeth, women are no good whether dead or alive. And its interesting to think about how women are expected to abide to social norms yet they have this much power and influence, yet most of the time they don't even know it... Interesting...



If anyone has to study the representation of male and female within Macbeth, Bri's point is fantastic and shows some real in-depth analysis :D
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Bri MT

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Re: Macbeth Textual Analysis Thread
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2020, 12:36:33 pm »
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This point got me thinking, within Macbeth, women are no good whether dead or alive. And its interesting to think about how women are expected to abide to social norms yet they have this much power and influence, yet most of the time they don't even know it... Interesting...

Yeah it's incredibly explicit that Lady Macbeth is aware of her influence and I would assume the witches are too but there are certainly important events focusing around women (Lady Macduff's murder, the whole "not of woman born" thing - which really underscore 'women = bad' thing) where there's no conscious influence.

Also, thanks!