William Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Macbeth’ explores the natural and unnatural worlds of Scotland, conveying that ultimately, the two cannot co-exist. Discuss the ways Shakespeare presents the notion stated above through his dramatic/theatrical techniques. The play ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare is known as one of the Four Great Tragedies of Shakespeare and thus follows the rules from Aristotle’s definition of ‘tragedy’. This means that the protagonist of a high rank who is essentially good, plummets because of a fatal flaw and causes consequences for everyone and this is shown in Macbeth. The natural world of Medieval Scotland, where dutiful themes pay homage to monarchical Kings, comes close to destruction as unnatural acts of regicidal Macbeths (‘spurred’ on by witches and apparitions) bring about tragic consequences. These themes are conveyed through the use of dramatic techniques throughout the play.
The theme of the natural world vs the supernatural world is a major aspect that is conveyed regularly throughout Macbeth. The natural world of Scotland in Macbeth is established as the monarchy (King Duncan) who is contrasted to the witch’s scenes on the heath. The concept of the ‘chain of being’ was believed that all life forms that God created are ranked in a divinely planned hierarchy. This means that King Duncan was above all other humans but below God and his angels. According to this concept, all existing beings have their precise place and function in the world and to depart from one’s proper place was to cause alterations to the natural order and this betrays god. Nature was of big value as it was directly related to the natural order of things. If that order was disturbed in any way, it would destructively reflect itself on nature. An example of naturalism is when King Duncan builds trust in Macbeth after he bravely contributed to Scotland’s victory over Norway.
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Duncan quotes in Act 1 Scene 4 “He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust”. This shows a natural aftermath perspective on Macbeth from King Duncan especially after Macbeth’s loyal deeds to him. This demonstrates the natural world and order within Macbeth. After, and even before the natural world has established in Macbeth, the supernatural realm is presented and it creates conflict with the natural order of things and uses the protagonist Macbeth as the instrument or tool. From the beginning of the play, the repetition of the paradox “fair is foul and foul is fair” by the witches introduces the themes of the disruption of the natural order. This dramatic irony is the foundation of the downfall of Macbeth’s position. Thunder and lightning also occur during this scene. This dramatic technique gives suspense and shows a dark and frightening effect and conveys what the witches are up to.
Macbeth’s vision of the dagger is not classified as natural as it is created through his extensive ambition and Lady Macbeth’s words of taunt and unnatural reasoning. The use of the dramatic technique soliloquy conveys the inner debate Macbeth is undertaking within his own mind whether he should follow on with the grim task due to ambition or refuse due to his loyalty and trust he has gained from King Duncan. The natural and supernatural realms further conflict after the regicide of King Duncan. After the natural world is disturbed by the murder of Duncan, the chaos is reflected wildly through nature. Quote from Lennox in Act 2 Scene 3 “The nights have been unruly…Our chimneys were blown off…strange screams of death…some say the earth was feverous and did shake”. Another quote in Act 2 Scene 4 from Old Man “Tis unnatural, Even like the deed that’s done. On Tuesday last, a falcon towering in her pride of place was by a mousing owl hawk’d at and killed”.
This describes the unnatural happenings right after the regicide of King Duncan and reflects the chaos from the conflict of natural vs supernatural. This example conveys that the natural order and the unnatural realm cannot co-exist and brings chaos from the conflicts between the two. Initially, Macbeth is depicted as a valiant brave general who defends his king and country in battle and gains the trust of the monarchy, King Duncan, however, because of the supernatural events that have occurred and along with his major weakness, his ambition, causes him to become so consumed for power that he becomes a tyrannical violent monster who ultimately destroys himself. The occurrence of the witches and their prophecy contributes to the downfall of Macbeth. The prediction that he will be king brings him joy, but also creates inner turmoil.
The three apparitions in Act 4 Scene 1 have ultimately pushed Macbeth one step further and truly becomes a monster. As he meets with the witches once again, there is a resemblance between Macbeth and the witches, all are wicked and all are unnatural. This is conveyed through the dramatic technique use of providing thunder at the scenery. The symbolism of the armoured head, bloody child, crowned child holding a tree sceptre, and the next generations of Banquo respectively creates further ambition and fear in Macbeth and allows for him not only to target his political enemies but also their innocent families. Macbeth quotes in Act 4 Scene 1 “How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!” This suggests a change of behaviour of Macbeth as he is much more violent and aggressive as compared to their initial meeting. These supernatural events show Macbeth’s change in character and turn into a violent tyrant and incapable of natural acts, thus shows that the natural realm cannot exist alongside the unnatural realm. Lady Macbeth’s unnatural actions seemingly prove her to be unwoman-like and through her assistance, she brings about an unnatural regicidal act.
Unlike her husband, she has no hesitation in the plan to murder King Duncan so she can become queen of Scotland. She believes that a true man takes what he wants and would question Macbeth’s courage and manhood when he objects to the plan of regicide. She shows no feminine side and wants to be “unsexed” and stripped of everything that makes her a reproductive woman, showing a great amount of unnaturalness. Lady Macbeth quotes in Act 1 Scene 7 “I have given suck and know how tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this”. Her ambition and selfish desire to become queen have resulted in her unnaturalness and give her masculine qualities. Because of this and the continuation of the regicide, her large amount of guilt drives her into madness and despair which leads to her death. This unnatural act brings about her destruction and conflicts with the natural world.
In conclusion, it can be seen from these events that the supernatural world cannot co-exist with the natural world as the only conflict would arise from it. Evidence of the alterations of the natural world is the regicide and different unnatural events that lead up to this act of evil. Because of this gruesome task, nature is altered and a number of supernatural occurrences happen to reflect the disturbance. As a result, tragic consequences occur for the Macbeths and it also affects everyone. Despite Macbeth being ranked last and shortest out of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies, it still remains as one of his great works showing the effects of ambition and teaching a moral lesson to the audience.