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The Role of the Supernatural in Macbeth and It’s Effect onthe Audience

Shakespeare knew that history provided fantastic material for plays.War, conflict, ambition and the downfall of great rulers just beingsome.

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Shakespeare, earlier in his career, had written a lot of hishistorical based plays around Raphael Holinshed’s “Chronicles ofEngland, Scotland and Ireland”. It was through reading these thatShakespeare found the story of Macbeth. Shakespeare was immediatelytouched by the story and he knew that it was brilliant material for aplay.

Shakespeare used the basic storyline but he developed it a lot furtherand adapted it so that it could be acted on stage. He added, alteredand removed parts to achieve maximum dramatic effect.

Macbeth was written for and intended for King James I’s viewing. Weknow this because the play has many echoes of James’ interests.

Banquo

Holinshed had included an elaborate family tree in his “Chronicles ofEngland, Scotland and Ireland” series. This showed King James’ decentfrom Banquo. Unlike Holinshed, Shakespeare did not make Banquo anaccomplice to Duncan’s murder. This would, have no doubt, pleased theKing who hated Regicide’s (King killers). It actually turned out thatBanquo had never even existed. He had just been invented by Holinshedas the source of the Stuart monarchy.

Witchcraft

King James’ interest in witches and witchcraft was very well known.

In 1509 he was the alleged subject of a witch attack. The witches whohad supposedly carried out this attack were found out and taken totrial. One of the witches’ stories was unbelievable. Her name wasAgnes …

…nto evil, he doesn’t, not for one singlemoment, rise from it. Once starting his descent, he carries on fallingand falling until the point at which he is so evil that it seems likethe devil himself is next to him. I think that as the play develops,the influence of the supernatural on Macbeth decreases. Although thisdecreases, Macbeth still becomes more evil. I think that after thekilling of the King, Macbeth starts to rely less and less on thesupernatural.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the play of Macbeth. I think thatShakespeare develops the theme of the supernatural very well and verycleverly as the play develops. The atmosphere and certain points inthe play have a massive affect on the audience, not so much now asthey would have when this play was first written, but they do stillhave a great effect.

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