Here’s a B-grade essay example on Shakespeare’s Macbeth written by a student in timed conditions.
Explore the ways writers present human flaws and weaknesses in Macbeth and the poems ‘My Last Duchess’ and ‘The Laboratory’. (COMPARATIVE ESSAY – Macbeth/The Laboratory)
The story of “Macbeth”, one of murder, mystery and mayhem! In “Macbeth”, “My Last Duchess” and “The Laboratory”, the playwrights have portrayed the characters with many human flaws by using various writing techniques such as soliloquies and pathetic fallacy. I will be looking into the flaws of these characters and looking into further detail about the way playwrights show these. In all three of the texts there are human flaws that are easy to spot, but also flaws that require you to read between the lines.
The story of Macbeth is based around one protagonist, Macbeth himself; at first we see him as “one of them” referring to the evil witches, this soon changes to a warrior but then throughout the play his flaws come out, leading us to revert back to the original thoughts. These texts all involve a murder, possibly the most important parts of each story. “Macbeth”, “The Laboratory” and “My Last Duchess” all include one or more jealous characters who seek revenge, but the stories are all set in different centuries, making the outcomes differ. To me a flaw is a crack in the human personality, leading to a bad outcome; other people may see this as a weakness that takes over them, maybe jealousy. I guess it is the case of the glass half empty or half full, do you want more or are you happy with what you have. I see the word disturbed as something that is not normal, but the word normal is described by the place and situation and the norm is what the people around it choose to be so the majority, or what is most common is what is normal.
In the opening scenes of Macbeth, Macbeth was seen as evil, or “one of them”, referring to the Witches because of them saying his name. The First Witch screeched, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis!” This indicates that Macbeth is known by the witches, creating the link between Macbeth and the supernatural. A Shakespearean audience would believe in many superstitious things, such as heaven, hell, witches and more, this gave the theatre a superstitious ambience. Similarly in “The Laboratory”, the first line indicates that the Marquis is using toxic, poisonous chemicals. “Now that I, tying thy glass mask tightly” this quote proves to us that the Marquis believes in witches and potions, the word that indicates this is “tightly”, this conveys the use of harmful things and that it is an important factor that the mask is tight. Macbeth and the Marquis have the similarity of being involved with the supernatural, overall I think from these quotes Macbeth is the most flawed mainly because he is already known by the witches and it is not his first interaction with them.
Shakespeare uses a soliloquy to show us that Lady Macbeth is a wicked lady, in Act 1; Scene 5, Lady Macbeth performs a soliloquy about how she wants to be “unsexed”. Lady Macbeth says, “Unsex me here.” She knows about the plan to kill King Duncan but ladies were not seen as evil back then, but nowadays anyone can be a killer. Lady Macbeth is calling the spirits to change her sex and to show she has chosen the evil path. Shakespeare uses a soliloquy to portray Lady Macbeth’s thoughts to the audience, so they know what the character is worrying about and to indicate she is one evil lady. This is very similar to the Marquis where she is also the evil one. “It kills her, and this prevents seeing it close;” This quote illustrates that she killed the person with the potion but she knows it couldn’t kill her. Robert Browning portrays this evilness by using a dramatic monologue, which is very similar to a soliloquy. These techniques were both used to portray evil however I believe the soliloquy is most effective as it sets the scene for the rest of the story by choosing to go along with the murder of King Duncan.
When Macbeth found out, from the witches, that one day he was to be King, Lady Macbeth could not wait and insisted King Duncan was killed. Macbeth should have been able to stand up to his wife and say no but he gave into temptation, this was even more outrageous for the audience in Shakespearean times as the man always had the power to make decisions and decline any bad ones made by the wife. You can see this is a flaw of Macbeths from early on in the play as in Act 1, Scene 3, Macbeth says, “If good, why do I yield to that suggestion / Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair / And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, / Against the use of nature?” The word “suggestion” means “temptation”, so Macbeth is asking himself why he feels himself giving into temptation, particularly a temptation that makes his heart race and his hair stand on end. I believe he’s trying to talk himself into believing the murder, which he is tempted to do, can’t possibly be as frightening as he now feels it is. This shows that the temptation of murder has fully taken over, despite his best efforts to stop himself. The same flaw is present in the Marquis’ character as she could have gone to the church to pray for the other lovers to go away, but instead she gives into temptation and goes to the apothecary to get rid of the lovers herself. This is verified by, “Empty church, to pray God in, for them! — I am here.” This shows she has given in to temptation as she had an empty church that she could have used but she says, “I am here.” This means they have underestimated her and she is out for revenge! However this could mean, they think I will be crying over them in a church, but I am actually in the apothecary.
When planning King Duncan’s murder, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were in it together, however after Macbeth was crowned King the power got to his head and a role reversal took place, meaning Macbeth now took over the relationship and was doing dangerous things without telling his wife. I consider Macbeth’s decision to not tell Lady Macbeth about the murder of Banquo a weakness, in marriages secrets should not be kept, especially in this case. When Macbeth murdered King Duncan, he would have been caught if it wasn’t for Lady Macbeth, so why would he attempt this without his wife? We assume that the supremacy of being King has taken over. The power taking over can be presented by, “Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,” The first “peace” refers to the fulfilment of his brutal desire for power, which Macbeth had hoped to gain by killing Duncan. Once he has the power it influences his decision to kill his only remaining loyal friend, Banquo. In the same way you could say that power took over the Duke in “My Last Duchess”. Due to power the Duke believed he could have any woman he wanted, “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,” the word “last” proves to us that he had, or did have many Duchesses. Without the power he would have fought for his duchess and would’ve not got jealous over the tiniest of things. To sum up, power takes over both characters and leads them to make bad decisions which are for the worst. In both text’s, the protagonist’s let authority takes over, the outcome is similar as they end up being alone, without a lover.
After King Duncan was brutally murdered many flaws were exposed, immediately after Macbeth left the King’s chamber he began feeling remorse. The voices in his head take over as he believes he heard the words “Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep.” Macbeth committed regicide, the worst crime possible so the audience would not have reacted carelessly to this deed. When Shakespeare was writing the play he would not dare to let the regicide take place on stage, this is mainly because the play was written for the King and he would be shocked if it happened on stage. Committing regicide lead to Macbeth not having one peaceful day, this may have been Shakespeare’s moral as King James felt threatened by the supernatural. Likewise in both poems murder occurs, but characters react in different ways. In “My Last Duchess” the Duke does not show any emotion for the death of his Duchess, “Then all smiles stopped together.” This illustrates that there are no more happy times, as well as no more jealous times, meaning his flaws will slowly go away. On the other hand in “The Laboratory” the Marquis is happy once the murder is done, this is revealed by, “Ere I know it – next moment I dance at the King’s!” She wouldn’t be dancing if she was regretting the murder, but she is, meaning she must be happy with her decision to perform the deed. In each piece of text the reaction is different; the reaction of Macbeth leads to most flaws and many more murders meaning Shakespeare’s method of making flaws is most effective.
Towards the end of the play, dramatic irony takes a big part in expressing flaws, the second set of predictions made by the Witches were , “Beware of Macduff”, “No one born of a woman shall harm Macbeth” and “No harm will come to Macbeth unless Birnam Wood moves to Macbeth’s castle.” Once Macbeth heard these he believed he was invincible. If we were told Macbeth was invincible then it would not be a flaw as it is actually the case, however, we (the audience) believed there are ways that the woods can indeed move towards Macbeth’s castle, unlike Macbeth himself; this works as dramatic irony and presents to us Macbeth’s flaws. We can see Macbeth feels he is invincible by, “What’s he / that was not born of woman? Such a one / Am I to fear, or none.” This quote illustrates that despite an army of armoured men, advancing towards his castle, he still has no fear. Although they are not directly linked, this is vaguely related to ‘The Laboratory’ as the Marquis felt that the potion being made could not harm her. She wanted to take the mask off despite the apothecary saying, “Nay, be not morose;” the word “nay” meaning no, don’t take it off! She feels invincible because she is allegedly the “good guy”. Despite only being a vague similarity, power clearly takes over both the Marquis and Macbeth. Overall I consider the Dramatic Irony used to show Macbeth stood flawed was more effective as this led to his death, whereas the Marquis did not die, meaning she was not proved wrong about her being flawed.
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