The Student Room Group

Would this get 12/12 marks?

How does Shakespeare present the character of Macbeth in Act 2 of the play? (12)

In Act 2, Shakespeare presents Macbeth as a fragment of his previous character who was once praised for being a “brave warrior” and “worthy gentleman”, clearly demonstrating to the audience the dangerous consequences of regicide.

In Act 1, we see Macbeth as a strong, fearless warrior who embodies many stereotypically positive traits of a man in both the Jacobean era and 11th century Scotland. His violent actions are praised as he is given the more prestigious title of Thane of Cawdor as a reward for his performance in battle where he “Unseam’d him [the enemy] from the nave to the chaps.” In particular, the violent verb ‘unseam’d’ is significant as it has connotations of clothing. This foreshadows Macbeth ‘breaking out’ of his role - Shakespeare makes it seem as if he is undeserving of this newer title.

However, we see a complete antithesis of his former character in Act 2.1 as he leaves the castle prepared to kill the King. In this scene Macbeth hallucinates a dagger which he assumes is an image crafted from his “heat-oppressed brain”. This phrase has connotations of physical and mental deterioration as we see his health declining. By doing so, Shakespeare warns a Jacobean audience of the dangers of sacrilegious murder, even if it is just a thought.

Macbeth’s character deterioration is again conveyed through his behaviour after he has killed the King. Firstly, once Lennox and Macduff arrive, Macbeth dismisses Lennox’s recounts of a wild night. In fact, his only reply to claims of the Earth being “feverous” was “twas was a rough night”. His simple, short reply can be interpreted as a symbol of guilt; he feels as if the Earth’s behaviour is a mere technicality in the manifestation of the consequences to come for his heinous sin. In this same scene he also murders the guards who he has framed for the murder. He does this without the consent of his wife, Lady Macbeth, and when questioned by the other characters as to why he would do such a thing he blames it on the “violent love” he had for King Duncan. The use of oxymoron in this phrase is particularly significant as it shows the juxtaposition of Macbeth now and Macbeth in Act 1. Shakespeare does this to show the audience that regardless of your flaws - Macbeth’s being his hubristic attitude - so long as you stay in your hierarchical role, you can maintain your character however if you choose to step out of your position, you will suffer the consequences.

Quick Reply