How does Shakespeare prepare the audience for Macbeth's eventual capitulation to the forces of evil in Act 1 In his play "ÃÂMacbeth', Shakespeare shows us the tragedy of how a basically good man, once "ÃÂfull o' the milk of human kindness', gives way to the forces of evil and commits dreadful crimes such as ordering the murder of lady Macduff and her children, and is subsequently destroyed.
As the opening act progresses Shakespeare makes us increasingly aware of the dark side of Macbeths character. Let us now analyse how this is done.
The dramatic entrance of the witches in scene I creates an evil atmosphere and consequently leaves the audience feeling somewhat uneasy. The witches talk of meeting Macbeth, "ÃÂafter the battle is lost and won.' This suggests to me that the witches have something of great importance to tell Macbeth and after such a dramatic entrance of the three evil witches it is even more obvious to me that the news is likely to be bad, and can quit easily provide a satisfactory reason for the audiences uncertainty for Macbeths future.
As scene II gets underway, in contrast we see a good side to Macbeth's character. He appears to be well liked by his peers, for example we can see that the sergeant shows a high level of respect for Macbeth, "ÃÂ which ne'er shook hands nor bade farewell to him till he un-seamed him from the nave to the chaps' We can also see confirmation of Macbeth's popularity when Duncan states, "ÃÂ O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!' Ross also acknowledges Macbeth's bravery in single handily defeating the Norwegians, "ÃÂ brave Macbeth'. However the language used to describe Macbeth in scene II is brutal and blood thirsty which accurately leads the audience to believe this is the nature of Macbeth's character, this tells me that it is Macbeth's rather deadly reputation which makes him an ideal victim for the witches latest nefarious scheme.
In scene III we can collect yet more evidence of the witches evilness. This is clearly portrayed when the first witch asks where her sister has been, she reply's, "ÃÂkilling swine' also the first witch talks of a fat bottomed old woman, "ÃÂ Aroint thee, witch the rump fed ranyon cries'. We are given further incite into the potential danger of the witches when the first witch claims she has a pilots thumb, "ÃÂhere I have a pilots thumb, wrecked as homeward he did come.' Not only by the witches language can we see their evilness, but also the use of drum beat and the witches sudden disappearance creates a tense atmosphere of foreboding about what mysterious events that may follow also the witches choice of meeting place on the baron moor only adds to the growing tension.
When Macbeth first enters the stage in scene III he appears to be somewhat confused as to what type of day he is having, "ÃÂ so foul and fair a day I have not seen' this confusion could be linked to the fact that Macbeth has seen the witches and has sensed that his encounter with them is not going to be good. But obviously Macbeth feels intrigued by the witches, "ÃÂspeak if you can, I charge you'. Shortly after this we see a conflict of opinion between the two good friends Banquo and Macbeth about their perceptions of the witches. Banquo thinks the witches will betray them, "ÃÂ And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray in deepest consequence', whilst Macbeth has faith in the witches for example when he responds, "ÃÂPromised no less to them?' It is clear that this represents Macbeth's capitulation to the forces of evil, or perhaps it's Macbeth's capitulation to his ambition for power, which temps him to use the forces of evil! In scene IV Macbeth is congratulated by Duncan for his heroism when Duncan tells Macbeth, "ÃÂ No less to have done so, let me enfold thee and hold thee to my heart', from king Duncan's prays Macbeth feels as though he is worthy to be next in line for the throne, which can provide a feasible explanation to his reaction when Duncan informs Macbeth that Malcolm is in fact true heir to the throne.
Macbeth feels that being king is a prime opportunity to for fill his desire of obtaining power and on the contrary he feels he must leap at the chance not letting anyone prevent him from doing so, not even Malcolm. However, Macbeth has already been prompted to thane of cawdor and therefore he doesn't seem undeterred by this, "ÃÂ The Prince of Cumberland, that is a step in which I must fall down, or else lead, for in my way it lies. The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be which the eye fears, when it is done to see!' In scene V we meet one of the main evil influences on Macbeth, his wife! The shear depth of Macbeth's evilness appears to be fuelled by Lady Macbeth.
Throughout scene five Macbeth and his wife collude by discussing the opportunities of Macbeth becoming king and anticipating the power this will bring to them, yet it is apparent that Lady Macbeth attempts to undermine her husband in her own thirst for power, "ÃÂ yet do I fear thy nature is too full o the milk of human kindness?' During scene VI we see further evidence of lady Macbeth's deceitful nature, she appears to be welcoming of Duncan when he arrives at Macbeth's castle, but in fact I believe that this is all part of the same plot against King Duncan. Lady Macbeth feels envious of Duncan's power but she really knows that soon the situation will be reversed when it is stolen from him. King Duncan falls directly into their trap, he is at the peril of their evil plan! Throughout the play so far the scales of good and evil have perhaps been in balance that is until Lady Macbeth came along and encouraged Macbeth to murder King Duncan. The overpowering force of Lady Macbeth has given Macbeth no space to draw back from the path of evil.
In scene seven we can see that Macbeth knows that what he is about to do is a great sin but he has no option but to proceed with the bloodthirsty assassination of the king. Following his trend, Macbeth continues to reassure him self that he is murdering Duncan for the right reasons, "ÃÂ if it were done, if it were done then twere well it were done quickly; if the assassination could trammer up the consequences and catch his surcease, success.' In conclusion, I feel that Macbeth is not a fundamentally evil person, but he is guilty of using evil forces to get what he wanted. Although Macbeth is physically strong he is emotionally weak which may explain the ease in which he capitulates to the forces of evil. However, having closely analysed the first act of the play, it can be seen that the stronger characters, Lady Macbeth and the three evil witches are the driving force in the manufacture of Macbeth's potentially evil characteristics.
Until the end of the play, Macbeth Ironically remains a victim of power.