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AQA English Literature B, Elements of the Gothic- can someone give me some advice? Watch

    • Thread Starter

    Hey everyone,

    So I've written a practice section A essay for English, and I was wondering if anyone could give some advice on my writing technique. If anyone could help, it'd be really helpful

    "In Macbeth, Shakespeare shows the guilty suffer more than the innocent"

    Whilst some readers of 'Macbeth' may interpret the play to be mostly moral and demonstrating of the punishment that follows the sins of the guilty, it is more true that - even when the guilty are left to suffer with their reputations as an "abhorred tyrant" or a "fiend-like queen" - the innocent that become entangled in their ambitions are often the ones that suffer en masse. Whilst Shakespeare ensures that most of those that are guilty of sin indeed suffer, it is overall the effect of their actions that causes much more suffering for the innocent.

    Suffering in 'Macbeth' comes directly as a result of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's desires for power and control, willing to throw morality to the wind in order to act upon their "black and deep desires"- both as calculating and vicious individuals, throughout the play their actions justify Shakespeare's ending in which both are left to suffer for their sins. Their guilt is evident from the start, with Macbeth being much more in touch with his as he describes his mind as "full of scorpions" and Lady Macbeth naively assuming that "A little water clears us of the deed" after the murder of Duncan. Macbeth's grasp upon morality seems to loosen as the play goes on, eventually becoming completely dispassionate from the murder of Macduff's wife and children for their association to Macduff- it is by this point that Macbeth is doomed to suffering, and despite 'Macbeth' not being a typically Gothic text it's ending ensures that Macbeth suffers for his actions not through death, but through the loss of his wife (though rather ambiguously) and through the knowledge of the advancing army coming to ensure his death. The final scenes of the play, focussing nearly entirely on Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's suffering, may relate to Protestant belief in the period towards sin being deserving of equal punishment- as Lady Macbeth suffers with the "damned spot" of blood that she ironically felt she could absolve herself of- in comparison to Macbeth's pleading for "all Neptune's oceans" to help clear the blood from his conscience, lady Macbeth's unnerving complacency surrounding the deed is particularly telling of her place as a gothic villain. As the Macbeths are driven mad by the guilt lingering within them, Shakespeare seems to want his audience to know that his villains have been justly committed to suffer for their crimes.

    Yet, at the same time, the suffering that befalls the innocent in Macbeth cannot be forgotten- their deaths are, to the Macbeths, only a means of ensuring their own gains, and since Macbeth is set on removing any traces of dissent against him he ensures that suffering is inflicted on those around him. Banquo, once Macbeth's closest friend, is arguably the most emotional murder for Macbeth to commit, masking his desires when talking to Banquo in attempts to lure him outside the castle walls to his death. His murder- arguably evident of Macbeth's conflicted emotions, since he cannot do it personally- represents the point at which death becomes a means to success for Macbeth, as from this point on inflicting suffering on both those once close to him and onto Scotland as a whole becomes an emotionless task. Many critics look at Macbeth as having corrupted the 'body politic' of the nation in the amount of suffering his tyrannical reign has inflicted on the country, a corruption that can only end with his death- Macduff, as Macbeth's foil, is inevitably the one that removes Macbeth's grip on Scotland, yet whilst a tyrant has been removed it can be argued that Shakespeare wishes us to question the displacement of violence with more violence - in the words of Macbeth, "blood will have blood". Therefore, it is evident that suffering is not just confined to the guilty but is inflicted upon the innocent as means of ensuring the success of the sinful, yet we are left to question the acts that remove Macbeth and whether or not the spirit that has corrupted the nation will be truly dealt with.

    Developing the idea of suffering in a broader sense, it is also true that many that should be deserving of suffering as a result of sin do not receive it, despite enabling much of the death and violence that makes up the play. At the centre of this, of course, is the "weird sisters" that Macbeth so relies on for prophecy and for ensuring his future gains- the witches are originally the characters that inform Macbeth of his future successes, allowing him to turn his mind to how "chance may crown me" and consideration of how he can remove those in the way of his quest for power. This eventually evolves into the murder of Duncan and Banquo by both his hand and his orders- Banquo's murderers, as similar enablers of violence, also escape punishment for their sins despite their place in allowing Macbeth to continue his spree of killings. The Witches' second prophecy similarly propels Macbeth to further violence against Macduff's family and against anyone he believes to be against him, yet by the end of the play they seem to fade into the background as Macbeth suffers as they similarly should- this is particularly strange, considering the prevalence of ideas such as "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" in Jacobean England as a result of King James' particular fears of the supernatural, but it is entirely possible that Shakespeare does this in order to (rather gothically) suggest the continued presence of evil in the world. In any case, 'Macbeth' interestingly makes a point of having characters escape due suffering, most likely to add upon the atmosphere of gloom and tragedy that Shakespeare creates.

    In conclusion, suffering in 'Macbeth' is not confined to those most deserving of it, and comes to the innocent as a result of the selfish desires of the sinful. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth produce untold suffering upon the people of Scotland as a result of their lust for power, and whilst both are dealt their fair share of suffering for their crimes their actions have nonetheless left the innocent to suffer. Shakespeare, rather ahead of his time, creates an gothic-like atmosphere in which there truly are no winners in 'Macbeth', since all suffer at some point.
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