Practice Essay 2

Describe at least one important object or symbol in the written text(s).
Explain why this object or symbol helped you to understand at least one character.
Note: A symbol could be a place, person, or thing that represents something more than itself

In the text “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare blood is a very important symbol. As it does in our lives, blood represents life and death in the text. But, the symbolism of guilt surrounding blood helped me understand the two main characters of the play, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Shakespeare has used this symbolism throughout the play in these characters quotations to amplify the impact and depth of the characters emotions. The use of blood gives aid to the imagery of the key messages Shakespeare is communicating. For example, the decisions you make will stain you like blood stains clothes.  

During the entirety of the play blood is an important symbol of guilt and the first we hear of this is from Lady Macbeth. After reading her husband’s letter containing the prediction of Macbeth becoming king Lady Macbeth exclaims “… make thick my blood and stop up the access and passage to remorse…”. She has already decided she will do anything to fulfil this foresight as we can tell from her saying this quote. She would like her “blood to become thick” so it will block her feelings. Once “the passage to remorse” is blocked she will be free to commit any number of crimes without guilt. At this time in the play blood is seen as a symbol of preventing guilt which is ironic when considering the following connotations. But from the use of this symbol in this context we understand that at this time L.M. has ‘thin blood’ because she is wanting ‘thick blood’ and we know that she is capable of feeling guilt. From this use of the symbol, blood and the seeming ‘capabilities’ of it we know a lot about the inside of Lady Macbeth. That she has dark intentions but not the heart to match is because she needs her blood to clog up the source of guilt. 

Next, Shakespeare uses the blood symbolism to show the impact and aftermath of Macbeth’s actions. In Act 2  Macbeth commits treason, killing King Duncan so he would become king. Macbeth says “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hands?” Blood is clinging to his hands like his guilt is clinging to his heart. Macbeth asks if all the water in the world could wash off Duncan’s blood from his hands. Then he goes on to answer his own question: “making the green one red”. Shakespeare has created an awful imagery of blood polluting all the oceans and rivers. But, blood represents guilt, so Shakespeare has using this hyperbole of the blood on Macbeth’s hand making the all clean water red to implies that his guilt is contagious. And it is. In the following scenes Lady Macbeth contracts this guilt from her husband and it leads her to insanity. She says “Here’s the smell of blood still / all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand!”. She can still sense “the guilt” on her even with every distraction. This use of blood in the previous quotation helps us understand that Macbeth is a person, not surprisingly is affected by killing a man. The blood of Duncan’s on his hands connects him to the actions he has just carried out and so, it represents his guilt for what he has done. The blood will wash off, contrary to what Macbeth says but in his mind it will stay forever.  

There is no real way to escape guilt as intense as the guilt Shakespeare has created for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. This is because the cause of their guilt is killing people and you can’t really right your wrongs and bring them back to life. When you take such extreme actions you can’t turn back. “I am in blood, stepp’d in so far that should I wade no more returning were as tedious as I go’er”. Macbeth says he is so far in ‘blood’ that he may as well keep on his track of darkness because the way back to happy existence is the same distance. The line invokes the image of a river of blood where Macbeth is standing in the middle between the two banks. This is yet another example of Shakespeare’s use of blood to represent guilt. “I am in blood” is not saying that Macbeth is standing in blood, he is not in fact standing in blood. The blood represents the blood spilled in his past from Duncan and Banquo. Instead he feels as if he is surrounded by guilt. From this use of symbolism and the surrounding information we understand that Macbeth’s guilt is now a part of him and the ‘blood’ has not been cleaned off. This character is now defined by his mistakes and has no bother about making more (there is already blood on his hands).  Throughout the play the symbol of blood has let us understand the impact guilt has had on the character, Macbeth. It helped us understand that Macbeth’s mind has deteriorated from his guilt.

Shakespeare has created a symbol of blood that carries the connotations of guilt throughout the play. It has helped us understand the characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth because the characters we got to know were shaped by their guilt. Shakespeare communicated this intense guilt with a symbol we already associate with death, creating meaning in the text. Actions as terrible as murder are irreversible and the guilt that sticks to you from your murderous actions will consume you. Your own guilt will lead you to your own end. “It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood.” 

Practice Essay

Describe at least one important character in the written text

Explain how this character is revealed to you throughout the text

The play Macbeth by William Shakespeare is one that unravels itself. It follows a dark and tragic storyline centring around one character who holds great importance; Macbeth. Shakespeare slowly lets us, the audience into Macbeth’s thoughts as the play progresses. Macbeth is eventually cut apart by the events he endures, and the core of his character is revealed to us though the language and theatre techniques Shakespeare uses. By the finishing scene of the play, we know the importance of Macbeth’s character to this text and we see all aspects of this character Shakespeare has created. 

Act One, Scene 4 we see the first real peak of darkness in Macbeth. This character has been essentially “good” up until this point in the play. Macbeth states “Stars hide your fires, let light not see my dark and deep desires”. Shakespeare has used a metaphor to say “Do not look at me God so you are ignorant to my terrible intentions”. “Stars” are a metaphor used to represent “God” and stars are also linked to the christian religion. Some even believe stars are holes on the floor of heaven. If the “stars” were to “hide their fires” they would block “God’s” view. Macbeth says this because he believes in his religion and is scared of the outcome if his “God” knows what he is planning to do. At this time of the play the audience has the impression Macbeth has an almost fully intact soul and brain. But, this quote also competently gives a stepping stone on the road to revealing the core of Macbeth. Now we know that Macbeth is no longer pure, he has grim intentions: “black and deep desires”. 

Next, Macbeth is opened further. Before Act 2, Scene 1 there has been no real doubts about Macbeth’s sanity. But, in this part of the play a potential sickness in Macbeth’s mind is revealed to us through Shakespeare’s theatre techniques. “Is this a dagger I see before me? Handel pointed toward thy hand? Come… let me clutch thee. I have thee not and yet I see thee still” – Macbeth. Macbeth “Sees” a dagger but cannot touch it. The dagger is a potent figment of his imagination. Macbeth does doubt himself, he says; “mine are eyes made fools o my other senses”. But, from this soliloquy we gain another segment of Macbeth’s character. Now the audience and/or reader knows that Macbeth has damming thoughts and moreover an unstable brain. We can tell of Macbeth’s sick brain because he is so absolutely consumed with his thoughts and pending actions that he has dreamed up a dagger so real he thinks he can touch it.  

Macbeth’s concluding soliloquy is where there is a final and epic reveal of the whole of his character. The iambic pentameter Shakespeare uses for Macbeth turns him into a translucent character to the audience and reader. Throughout the play all the characters of high, godly positions use unfaltering iambic pentameter and so does Macbeth until this point in the play, in Act 5. Macbeth says “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in its’ petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time”.  Every second line has one more syllable than it should. A stumble like this shows that Macbeth is spent. Or, on the other hand, deciding to spend his last syllables of time. In the eyes of the audience, Shakespeare has gradually stripped back his layers of Macbeth. From lines like “petty pace from day to day”; “the days drag on meaninglessly” we know that Macbeth really has no passion for living when it comes to you start digging. He was lost in his ambition for much of the play but when his ambition is burnt out the light within him is dim. Macbeth even says “Out, out brief candle”, comparing his life to the flame and wishing for it to blow out.

From a series of language and theatre techniques (metaphor, theatre and iambic pentameter) Shakespeare has gradually revealed the essence of Macbeth to the audience. Shakespeare uses this character to convey the key messages of the text, that a dire ambition does not have the power to fulfil you. He has shown that this important character, Macbeth, really had an impressionable and delicate mind. Shakespeare slowly showed pieces of Macbeth so that in the ending the reader or viewer would have a revelation. That this was not a good man making a bad decision, nor a healthy man having an odd vision, it was a mentally sick man struggling, trying to make meaning of his life. From an unveil of this type we reflect on the health of ourselves because we all have made bad decisions. Shakespeare has revealed the core of Macbeth in the fashion of a sort of warning, that you must look within yourself to ensure that you do not in fact have a darkness to reveal. 

Quotes I Know:

“Stars hide your fires, let light not see your dark and deep desires” 

“Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it”

“The Thane of Cawdor lives, why do you dress me in borrowed robes?”

“Out damn spot” 

“Full o the milk of human kindness”

“Dear wife, full o scorpions is my mind” 

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, 

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day 

To the last syllable of recored time, 

and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death, 

Out, out brief candle, 

Lifes but a walking shadow, 

A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more”

It is a tale told by an idiot, full o sound and fury, signifying nothing” 

“Will all of Neptune’s oceans wash the blood clean from my hand”

“Fair is foul and foul is fair”

“Is this a dagger I see before me; handle pointed towards my hand? 

Come, let me clutch thee, I have thee not but I see thee still.”

Practice Intro 2

Describe at least one important relationship in the written text. 

Explain how the writer uses the relationship to explore conflict(s).  

Macbeth is actually weak. “Full o the milk of human kindness”. The play ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare shows a very important relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Shakespeare uses the relationship between this husband and wife to further explore Macbeth’s internal conflict bounded by his morals and ambition.  In Act 1 of the play Lady M embodies the ambition to rule Scotland and Macbeth remains conscious of his morals. The writer uses the relationship to externally explore the conflict within Macbeth’s head. Is it worth the glory, power and money to kill Duncan?

The first glimpse of the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth Shakespeare gives us is in the first act. 

Practice Intro

Describe a key moment that shocked or surprised you in the written text.
Explain how this moment was important to the text as a whole.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare is full of  thrills from impulsive decisions made by characters with sick brains, but the key moment that shocked me was Macbeth’s state of mind at the end of the play. He was ready to die. Macbeth had spent his soul to satisfy his ambition and so in the end, he had nothing to live for. This moment was so important to the text as whole because it delivered the meaning of the story. Shakespeare showed us, the audience and readers that “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Quotations to support following Statements

Conflict, both internal and external, in Macbeth helps us understand the messages of the play. The main struggle of conflict Shakespeare depicts is within Macbeth’s mind. The quote; “Is this a dagger which I see before me… I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.” said by Macbeth shows the disagreement he has within his brain. He says, “is there really a dager before me? I can’t touch Macbeth is finding the decision of whether or not to kill duncan too difficult. It is a conflict between his morals and his ambition. Instead of really making the decision Macbeth has conjured up an illusion, a dagger as a sign. 

“Is this a dagger which I see before me… I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.” – Macbeth 

NCEA 1.8 – Significant Connections. Ambition

The significant connections between how the nature of ambition is employed in the texts; Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Gattaca by Andrew Niccol, Ozymandias by Percy Shelly and The Climb by Ludovic Bernard. 

Ambition is a powerful characteristic, but the nature of it, whether it has pure or dark intent determines what the ambitious person becomes. The four pieces of literature; Macbeth by William Shakespeare,  Ozymandias by Percy Shelly, Gattaca by Andrew Niccol and The Climb by  Ludovic Bernard each have a distinct ambitious character and so, offers themselves as a valuable learning opportunity to explore the nature of ambition. What comes of hearty or greedy or selfish ambition? Love? contentment? Dust?

Macbeth was famously ambitious, what’s a bigger goal than becoming king? Having a strong drive is beneficial, it’s basically what gives life purpose. In Shakespeare’s Scottish Play, Macbeth does achieve his goal, but the way he got there disintegrated his morals. To satisfy his ambition he did many terrible things that were against his values, and eventually, he deteriorated into a poisoned version of himself with no morals. “I am in blood. Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more. Returning were as tedious as go o’er.” This metaphor Shakespeare has used says that Macbeth has already traveled so far down his dark path that it is the same distance to evil as it is to return to his good self, so he may as well keep on going further. By, the end of the play, Macbeth had ‘scorpions in his mind’. The pull of his ambition was overpowering and so it took away his purpose instead. In act 5, scene 5, Macbeth almost invites his death; “The way to dusty death… It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” This extract is another of Shakespeare’s metaphors and it describes Macbeth’s epiphany. His life is compared to a play that is “full of sound and fury” so it is full of dramatic, intense events but it signifies nothing. Macbeth’s nature of ambition was born in greed and a thirst for power so even once he achieved his goal it actually meant nothing to him, he was not content in himself. He had lost his pure spirt on his journey. Instead, he was left with a grey cloud of his conscience that overshadowed any new gained power. So, Macbeth was headed to a “dusty death”, meaning that he no longer believed he could go to ‘heaven’. When he dies he will simply become dust. The lesson from this piece of literature is that possessing ambition for something that only benefits you will end up meaning nothing.

The likeness between the two characters, Macbeth and Ozymandias seems uncanny but another significant connection between the two texts is the reference to dust. This poem is a traveler talking about a sculpture that remembers the past king, Ozymandias. Again, this king was incredibly ambitious but in the end was also left to dust as described in the setting of Percy Shelly’s poem. Ozymandias did big things with his life as we know from segments like “king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair”. Look at what he has achieved, look how mighty and then think about how sad you are that you could never achieve what he could. This seemed to be a mindset Ozymandias lived by; ‘how amazing am I and how petty you are’. No matter how much power he had nor how impressive he was, it didn’t matter because no one else benefited from his drive. “The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed” is a metaphor Shelly seems to use to show the situation between Ozymandias and his subjects. He was cruel to his people, he did not care about them one bit and that filled their hearts with hate for him. So, when this king of kings died he had a grand memorial structure but no one who would come to appreciate it. Therefore, it’s surroundings were “boundless and bare. The lone and level sands stretch far away.” Just like Macbeth, Ozymandias was possessed with selfish ambition thus they met the same end. Dust once again. The author warns that the nature of Ozymandias’ ambition is toxic, so one should take a hard look at themselves and think whether their craving of power should be appeased at the expense of others.  

Gattaca by Andrew Niccol, on the surface is starkly different to Macbeth and Ozymandias. It is set in the future while the other two are set more than 500 years ago but, there is an underlying similarity; an ambitious man and a dusty end. Jerome, the DNA donor to the main character Vincent, had a big ego and an even bigger ambition. He had a backstory of being an Olympic swimmer and all he wanted was the gold. But, he got silver. That tossed him into a violent downward spiral. He did attempt suicide, became paralysed in his legs and that is how he came to meet Vincent. Niccol’s plot line involved Jerome gaining a new ambition; to help Vincent achieve his goal. Yet, it seems Jerome’s ambition really only had eyes for one thing, Olympic gold which was now an impossible goal. He of course was not a terrible man, he had a drive that a lot of people wish for. But, he had a narcissistic ambition. It was too late for Jerome, when we met him in the film. He could not live without his glory. So, the film ends with an epic scene flashing to and fro from Vincent living his dream (blasting into space) and Jerome making his way into the incinerator. The visual reference of the flames in the incinerator and Jerome literally turning to dust relates back to the previous two texts. Each an ambitious man after glory or power, that comes to dust. This film leaves you wondering is ambition good or bad? It worked out for Vincent, he kept on going against all odds with his ambition, he achieved his goal and in the end he felt fulfilled. But if you can’t achieve your goal? Then ambition is a prison. You can think of nothing more than the path to your goal but it’s hopeless. You just can’t get there. So, we learn we must tread lightly around ambition because we do not want to let it over power us. Because we do not want to end up like Jerome; incinerating ourselves. 

The three former texts competently scare us away from ambition but ambition is a natural and necessary trait of humans. We need it to achieve our goals. In contrast to all the pieces of literature noted above, The Climb by Ludovic Bernard follows a character called Nadir Dendoune who climbs Mt Everest in the name of love. Obviously, it is a heart warming story, and whats more, is based on true events! The text also has the unifying elements that links all the texts together; each describes a challenging journey the character goes through on their way to satisfying their ambition, with reference to dust. Nadir has ambition but a very different kind. His ambition is to love a girl and for her to love him, which already would benefit more than himself, unlike Macbeth, Ozymandias and Jerome. When Nadir and his Sherpa make it to the summit the Sherpa Bernard makes visual and verbal references to a box of cremated ashes that is under the flags. Again dust, but this time the feeling is warm not like cold particles of waste matter as it they seems with the previous texts. The difference is the nature of their ambition. These ashes were of climbers who loved what they did. Certainly they would receive attention from summiting Mt Everest but you would have to really love climbing mountains to put your life on the line like they did. They are inspiring people. Because their ambition benefited others the dust is valued. It is locked up tight in a box and the people whose ashes they are are thought of often. This film teaches that ambition will take you places, to the top of the world even. The ending might be tragic like it was for those climbers in the box but the intent was inspiriting. 

All four of these texts expand one’s insight into the nature of ambition. Each of them intertwine but have varying spots on the spectrum of right and wrong, which is one of the most valuable of the lessons these texts have to offer so we know how to avoid to avoid the wrong end. We learn that ambition can be dangerous, leading you to having a poisoned mind or to be hated by many but it also lets you achieve great things. Each of these authors and directors have issued a warning of how powerful ambition can be but still we cannot live without it. Even more interesting, each of the authors show dust and ash as an end to the raging fire of ambition, which seems quite fitting in truth.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. It is better to burn out than to rust.

Gattaca Ideas


  • issues a waring: dangers of genetic selection
  • moral

Projected into the future: 

  • advances in genetic science
  • rocket science
  • electric cars

Elements of the past that have been revived: 

  • modernist architecture
  • prejudice
  • people (not robots) doing menial work
  • music 
  • cabaret: 
  • cars
  • clothing
  • hair 

Andrew Niccol’s film Gattaca presents us with a warning about the future. His new eugenics have a distinctly early 20th Century resonance. How does Niccol convey his warning by using visual references to the past?


– Show history repeating itself by using NAZI Historical References

If this film is set years in the future then why are there double breasted coats? Why are there 1940’s cars? Why is prejudice so prominent? In the film Gattaca, Andrew Niccol uses visual references to issue a warning:  history repeats itself endlessly for those who are unwilling to learn from the past. World war 2 was toxic, both literally and figuratively. It was a time where great animosity rained down on society because people believed that there was a superior race. The dystopia portrayed in Gattaca is again controlled by a hierarchy of genetics. Niccol connects this future to the early 1900s though visual themes to send the message that genetic selection will do nothing but divide us. Maybe even to the length of the Nazis and the Jews.

Modernist buildings: They are sharp and cold like Ms Trunchbull from Matilda – what you see is what you get. There are exposed beams, not because they are beautiful but because there is no good reason to use up resources to cover them. This type of architecture is at every turn throughout Gattaca. Flashback to 1940’s when the style emerged, but in the film it’s back and more icy than ever! What does the style of modernism represent? Practicality, cleanliness, simplicity. These qualities also could describe the aim of the Nazis. Get rid of the Jews so there is more jobs for the Nazis, it’s practical.  Kill off every person who does not have white skin, blond hair and blue eyes, it makes the population look clean and uniform. The Nazis simply wanted Germany to have a superior population. And the same could be said for the society that is pro-genetic selection. It is again practical, clean and simple; more healthy people, less health care and there are no complications attached when creating the child because people can’t just design the DNA of a baby on accident. Andrew Niccol uses the cold clinical essence of the modernist architecture to further communicate what the values of the dystopia are and to also link it back to the time period where the architecture was used the values were also important. 

Practice Paragraph

Describe at least one idea that changed your perspective or point of view in the film. 

“There is no gene for the human spirit” 

The film Gattaca by Andrew Niccol portrays a dystopia where necessity and function are the only important qualities in the society, while religion and emotions a tossed to the side.  These new ideas are depicted obviously and purposefully through the architecture used in the film. Andrew Niccol uses modernist buildings and designs to visually represent the key qualities of this future society. This is seen in Vincent and Jerome’s apartment. Their walls are concrete, floors are concrete, supports are visible, windows are small… Nothing is added to look nice or make an environment welcoming. This was a clear sign that this society is one I would not like to live in. The idea of necessity over human emotions turned my perspective on this dystopia from a perfect and practical society to morally incorrect society. 

Gattaca Scene

1. Car, long shot (high) – electric car noise, worrying music
2. Vincent, mid shot (low) – car noise, speaking, music
3. Jerome w hand scraping, mid shot (level) – phone ringing, 
4. Vincent, mid shot (low)
5. Jerome on phone, mid shot (level)
6. Vincent, mid shot (low)
7. Jerome, close up (level)
8. Vincent, mid shot (low)
9. Jerome wheelchair, long shot (low)
10. Jerome stairs, mid shot (high)
11. Jerome, long shot (level)
12. Driving car, long shot (low)
13. Jerome, long shot (high)
14. Stairs Jerome, long shot (birds eye view)
15. Irene and Anton, two shot (level
16. Hand, close up (level)
17. Feet, close up (level)
18. Car, long shot (level)
19. Jerome stairs, long shot (level)
20. Back of car, long shot (level)
21. Hand, close up (low)
22. Stairs, point of view (level)
23. Car, long shot (level)
24. Stairs, long shot (low)
25. Car park, long shot (high)
26. Stairs, long shot (low)
27. Eyes, close up (low)
28. Doorbell, two shot (level)
29. Top of stairs, mid shot (level)
30. Doorbell, two shot (level)
31. Button, close up (level)
32. Doorbell, two shot (level)
33. Button, close up (level)
34. Jerome lying down, long shot (high)
35. Irene and Anton, Two shot (level)
36. Lying down, long shot (high)
37. Jerome sitting, mid shot (level)
38. Anton entering, long shot (over the shoulder) 
39. Irene, mid shot (level)
40. Jerome, mid shot (level)
41. Anton, close up (level)
42. Irene, mid shot (level)
43. Telescope, long shot (level)
44. Jerome and Irene, two shot (level)
45. Anton, mid shot (level)
46. Jerome and Irene, two shot (level)
47. Anton, long shot (over the shoulder)
48. Irene, close up (level)
49. Anton, close up (level)
50. Jerome, close up (level)
51. Irene, close up (level)
52. Anton with syringe, mid shot (over the shoulder)
53. Arm syringe, close up (high)