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Critical analysis of Macbeth, giving detailed reference to character, language and plot by Mind Map: Critical analysis of Macbeth, giving
detailed reference to character, language
and plot
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Critical analysis of Macbeth, giving detailed reference to character, language and plot


There are contrasts evident throughout Macbeth

gender roles

Banquo vs Macbeth

conscience vs murder

fate vs destiny

reason (M) vs passion (LM)



The devestation that follows when morals are ignored., Macbeth is a corageous, respected soldier who is not naturally inclined towards evil - but has strong ambition. He is balanced, weighing up his actions (quote to show he doesn't want to kill Duncan), Lady Macbeth is far more determined. Taunts Macbeth for not being a man (find quote) and persuades him to kill Duncan, and to remain strong afterwards, Contrast at the end of the play when Macbeth becomes a boastful 'beast' and it is Lady M who cannot cope with the blood on her conscience.


is paired with agression, Lady M talking of wishing she could be unsexed, Macbeth goads murderers by quetionning their masculinity, Lady M goads Macbeth simiarly??, Women also shown as sources of violence, and evil, The witches, Lady M, this goes against nature - the way women were expected to behave

Fate and free will

witches represent Fate. That lives are pre-determined

How that comes about is down to mans free will., Macbeth is a tragic play, because a tragedy is when your downfall is brought about by your own choices

Disruption of nature

Killing the King, who was seen as God's representation on earth

Violent disruptions in nature — tempests, earthquakes, darkness at noon, and so on — parallel the unnatural and disruptive death of the monarch Duncan. The medieval and renaissance view of the world saw a relationship between order on earth, the so-called microcosm, and order on the larger scale of the universe, or macrocosm. Thus, when Lennox and the Old Man talk of the terrifying alteration in the natural order of the universe — tempests, earthquakes, darkness at noon, and so on — these are all reflections of the breakage of the natural order that Macbeth has brought about in his own microcosmic world.

Many critics see the parallel between Duncan's death and disorder in nature as an affirmation of the divine right theory of kingship. As we witness in the play, Macbeth's murder of Duncan and his continued tyranny extends the disorder of the entire country.

The Elizabethans believed in "The Great Chain of Being". This was the idea that everyone was ordered by God into his allotted place, with the king at the head. By killing the king and taking his place, Macbeth was subverting this natural order. Disorder in nature reflects the disorder in human affairs. On the night Duncan is murdered, Lennox describes the 'unruly' storm, and even an earthquake: "chimneys were blown down…the earth was feverous and did shake.", example of Macbeth feeling he had lost his relationship with God, following the murder of Duncan 'I had most need of blessing and 'Amen' Stuck in my throat' (Act 2 Scene 2)

Nature of the ideal King

Shakespeare's patron, King James, had written a book on this topic, Basilikon Doron, and so this theme was also of great contemporary interest., Duncan, Good man, but not great king as too gullible. Evidece - mistrusting Macbeth and judging the castle as pleasant, Banquo would have made a good king 'royalty of nature', Macbeth - unworthy king. Regicide, a tyrant, whose cruelty drains the life blood from his country: "each new morn, new widows howl, new orphans cry.", Malcom - Duncan's son Malcolm is depicted as the perfect king. In his testing of Macduff, he lists the "king-becoming graces", such as justice, verity, temperance, mercy, lowliness etc., showing his awareness of how a king should be. He has his father's noble character but without Duncan's fatal flaw of gullibility.

Discussed in the first act

reversal of values, foul is fair quote

unnatural disorder, scene 1.4 stresses natural relationships (find examples) which is soon to be violated. Linked, natural order means both nature itself, and the love and friendship of man, ordered by law and duty, Main vehicle for readers to understand the emotion in the play

deceitful appearance, Duncan referring to traitor once executed quote


The fact that both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth frequently invoke darkness, always linked to the forces of evil and disorder, prepares the audience for the disorder to come: "Stars, hide your fires"; "Come thick night" etc. Darkness allows evil to flourish.

Shakesperean audience were trained by pamphlets, sermons, or common conversation to listen to or read his plays with an attnetion to the subletities of poetic language that is not natural to modern day readers, as well as sharing the same speech idiom.

Treating the play as a dramatic poem, we need to look at how words are affected by rythym. The plot, character and recurrent themes all work together to determine the readers reaction at any one point.

Rhyming couplets often used in self-righteous passages that give advice or point to a moral

A lot of the play is written in iambic pentameters which was a common speech pattern

A single rhymed couplet may also appear at the end of a speech or scene in blank verse, in which case it is called a capping couplet.,, this could be to show the audience that a scene las ended

references backwardsa and forwards

Shakespeare uses rhyme and meter for two reasons

for effect

to make the script easier to learn for the actors, often would only be one play to share.

tension of the language used by Lady Macbeth during her famous sleepwalking scene (V,i)

languae used as a way to express emotion

To achieve a level 3 must demonstrate knowledge of

how language, style and structure is used to convey meaning

how these devices affect the reader response

Knights (1979)

Believes that there is too much importance given to analysing the characters and plot in Macbeth. That it is a dramatic poem that should be experienced as a whole, to see Shakespeare plays as an extended metaphor, with 'characters' being poetic symbols, not humans.