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. 

One Reply to “Practice Essay”

  1. Hi Zelda,

    I’ll write notes as they come up – do let me know if you’d like to discuss these points and we can arrange a time. If they speak for themselves; all good.


    • “By the finishing scene of the play, we know the importance of Macbeth’s character to this text and gain a full view of Macbeth’s infected bare crux” I think the idea of an infected bare crux is a little TOO over-written. I’m not sure how a crux can be infected and bare – the metaphor possibly intrudes with your trying to convey your ideas rather than enhances it. Can you think of a simpler way of expressing this. A more direct way?
    • The ideas are strong and accurately respond to the question.

    – A good sequence of relevant and well-supported ideas. Good use of quotations and evidence.

    – In the body and the conclusion, you have maintained a clear focus on the question. While the question doesn’t explicitly state it, I would encourage you still to ensure you link the change in Macbeth’s character directly to the ideas Shakespeare is trying to develop in the play. This will allow you to show you have a clear sense for the author’s purpose, and it will also prove that you know that the character himself is not a person, but a construct, created by Shakespeare, in order to convey his key messages.

    Do let me know if you’d like to discuss this further.

    Kind regards


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