The Student Room Group

Please could someone mark this Macbeth essay, AQA mark scheme

How does Shakespeare present the theme of the supernatural?

Shakespeare explores the theme of the supernatural through the characters of the witches, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Banquo’s ghost. He exhorts us to consider the consequences of unchecked ambition, as it leaves one vulnerable to the supernatural- this in turn, brings chaos to the world and causes eternal damnation to those corrupted by ambition. Shakespeare is encouraging his audience to occupy the place that God has given them, in order to avoid this and maintain social stability.

Firstly, the witches act as architects of chaos to portray the supernatural as evil and destructive. This is demonstrated through their spell, ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’. The use of repetition indicates how the impacts of the supernatural are prevalent throughout the play, and will manifest again and again, whether this be through Lady Macbeth’s masculinisation by dark spirits, Macbeth’s hallucinations of the dagger and Banquo, or Scotland becoming drowned in darkness. The witches, being evil, cast a spell for all that is good to become bad and all that is bad to become good. They are looking to subvert the natural order of the world. They are planning on using Macbeth as an instrument of destruction. The symbols of goodness will become evil; honourable men will act dishonourably, kindness will become a weakness, motherhood will become ruthlessness and deception and cruelty will become positive traits. Furthermore, this quote foreshadows the entire plot of the play- the audience will witness the chaos of social order being broken down, the downfall of a noble man and the ultimate resolution in which the rightful king is placed on the throne. Shakespeare uses the witches to portray the supernatural in a pejorative light, in order to appeal to King James, who’s book ‘Daemonologie’ highlights his belief in the supernatural. It was published in the same year that he came to the throne, so many would have not yet truly accepted him as king. By validating King James’ belief in the supernatural, Shakespeare is simultaneously showing his validation, support and acceptance of King James’ claim to the throne. Additionally, the witches portray the supernatural to be manipulative and deceptive through their consistent use of equivocation to trick Macbeth; for example, they tell him he cannot be harmed by anyone of ‘woman-born’, neglecting to tell him that Macduff was born by caesarean. They tempt Macbeth with the glory of kingship and personal gain, causing him to commit ‘bloody instructions that return to plague the inventor’. This quote highlights the manipulative nature of the supernatural as Macbeth was initially lured by the witches’ promises of his own individual gain, however he soon realises that his actions have affected the entire country, beyond himself. The adverb ‘bloody’ references the motif of blood which is prevalent throughout the play, and symbolises the ‘stain’ left by the supernatural which serves as a bloody reminder to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth of their sins.
Moreover, the ‘plague’ that returns to Macbeth can be seen as the witches, as he seeks them out to receive more prophecies. This reinforces the dangers of the supernatural because it gives one a taste of an almost addictive evil that they will return to again and again until they have destroyed themselves and everything around them.

Secondly, the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth suggest that the supernatural does not actually have any true power. Immediately after reading the letter, Lady Macbeth calls upon the supernatural, saying, ‘come you murdering ministers that tend on mortal thoughts’. The use of an imperative suggests that she is the one in control; the supernatural does not possess or corrupt her until she invites it herself. The phrase ‘mortal thoughts’ implies that the supernatural has no real power as it is Lady Macbeth’s own thoughts that prompt her to commit sin; the supernatural does not have the power to plant these thoughts, and can only ‘tend’ on them, exploiting evil that already exists. Furthermore, the noun ‘ministers’ has connotations of governments and man-made hierarchies, further suggesting that it is human evil that Lady Macbeth harnesses, not supernatural. This suggests that the following events of the play are not to be blamed on the witches or the supernatural, but Macbeth and Lady Macbeth themselves, prompting the reader to question the psychology of these characters: if it was not otherworldly influence that placed such horrific ideas into the minds of the Macbeths, how could a human, made in God’s image, choose to commit something as sacreligious as regicide? This draws reference to the original sin, and serves as a warning to Shakespeare’s audience: regardless of whether supernatural forces afflict us or not, we are all capable of evil, and if we do not suppress our ambition, it can overwhelm us. Additionally, the character of Macbeth also suggests that the supernatural does not have true power. This is demonstrated by how the witches never tell Macbeth to kill the king, and he acknowledges that he could become king ‘without my stir’. Macbeth also seeks out the witches and their power himself, allowing them to influence and twist his thoughts. When meeting them, he says ‘stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more’. Here, we can clearly see that Macbeth is inviting evil and asks for the witches to speak, and thus influence, him. Additionally, the adjective ‘imperfect’ suggests that Macbeth is aware that the witches are not good creatures and he should not listen to them: yet, he still beckons them to ‘stay’. The use of an imperative, similarly to Lady Macbeth, highlights how he is in control and not under the influence of diabolical influence. It is Macbeth and Macbeth alone who decides he wants to hear out the clearly evil, or at least suspicious, witches. Alternatively, the imperative could imply he is determined to find out more about the prophecies, which alludes to his unchecked ambition that has been within him all along, simply arising at the opportunity given by the witches. However, despite the inherent evil being found in Macbeth himself, the supernatural plays a part in giving him the drive to commit regicide. By making Macbeth’s killing of Duncan be directly linked to the supernatural, the play sends a political message to the nobles in court- if you commit an evil against the king, you are acting with the power of satan, the embodiment of the evil supernatural.

On the other hand, Banquo’s ghost suggests that the supernatural, to an extent, does have real power. This play was initially created by Shakespeare to be performed in King James’ court- a king who had a strong belief in the power and danger of the supernatural, as seen in his Daemonologie book. Therefore, to portray the supernatural as powerless would be a dangerous message that would invalidate the king’s theories and perhaps even offend him. Thus, the ghost of Banquo can be interpreted as Shakespeare’s representation of the supernatural’s real power. When Macbeth sees Banquo, he reacts emotionally, creating a scene at the table. When Lady Macbeth questions ‘Are you a man?’, Macbeth replies, ‘Ay, and a bold one, that dare look upon that which may appal the devil’. The use of hellish imagery in the word ‘devil’ emphasises the significance of the supernatural- even a ghost, which has connotations of intangibility, is compared with the devil himself. Banquo’s ghost is described to even terrify the devil. On the surface, this suggests that Macbeth is extremely scared of the ghost, however under the facade, it can be implied that not only does the appearance of the ghost horrify Macbeth, but what truly unsettles him is the reminder that he is damned in the afterlife, and will suffer eternally in hell. Banquo’s ghost highlights the power of the supernatural to show Macbeth something that does not actually harm him, yet still manages to bluntly confront him with his guilt of killing a friend, his fear of being exposed, and his realisation that he is going to suffer even after death in eternal punishment. Furthermore, the adjective ‘bold’ links back to Macbeth’s initial description, before his fall from grace, as a ‘valiant’ and ‘brave’ warrior. Whilst he was initially revered for his bravery in battle, he must now be brave in order to withstand the terrifying apparitions that haunt and torment him for committing such sins. This depicts the supernatural as powerful as not only has it stripped Macbeth of many of his good qualities, but it has taken some, such as bravery, and twisted them into something reflective of his crimes, not victories. Additionally, when the play is performed, most directors choose to have Banquo’s ghost visible to the audience: this is a clear indicator that the power of the supernatural is very real, and physically showing it to the audience allows Shakespeare to present a warning to the people seeing it. He wants to deter people from interacting or seeking out the supernatural, in order to avoid being tormented by evil spirits and ghosts. Shakespeare also simultaneously promotes King James’ view, urging people to understand the gravity and truth to the king’s beliefs- supernatural power is very real and very dangerous, so witchcraft and other forms of evil should be avoided at all costs. Alternatively, Banquo’s ghost can serve the complete opposite purpose. If it is not visible to the audience, it can be argued that it is a manifestation of Macbeth’s guilt; this implies that the power of his guilt is so immense that it can mimic the power of the supernatural, suggesting that Shakespeare is placing emphasis on the psychology of his characters and exploring how Macbeth’s psyche intertwines with the supernatural.

In conclusion, Shakespeare explores the supernatural as a significant catalyst to the events of the play; it provides Macbeth with an opportunity to exploit his unchecked ambition, and allows Lady Macbeth to experience the power usually only attributed to men. It is also involved in the consequences of the events of the play, appearing to Macbeth through apparitions such as Banquo’s ghost. On the surface, this depicts the supernatural as powerful, contributing to Shakespeare’s appeal to King James, a firm believer of this. However, under the surface, it is suggested that the supernatural does not have power, and simply takes advantage of the already evil characters in the play: their inherently sacrilegious thoughts and feelings leave them vulnerable to supernatural influence.
Can you please give me the mark scheme ,I don't mind marking it for you Aliyah.
Reply 2
Original post by Fatima Haq
Can you please give me the mark scheme ,I don't mind marking it for you Aliyah.
thank you!!
Original post by Aaliyah2007
thank you!!

Btw, your name spelling is the same as my cousin, do you go to Beauchump City College by any chance?
Reply 4
Original post by Fatima Haq
Btw, your name spelling is the same as my cousin, do you go to Beauchump City College by any chance?

nope sorry wrong aaliyah lol

Quick Reply

Latest

Trending

Trending