Prior to deciding whether or not conflict is central to the dramatic development of MACBETH, one must consider all the dramatic factors that contribute to the Shakespearean play. The gradual decline of the protagonist , the role portrayed by characters and the order in which the events occur, greatly influence the direction in which the development of the play takes place. After reading the text MACBETH, by Shakespeare and viewing the film version, directed by Roman Polanski, it is logical to see that ambition and the deceptive appearances of what really is, is central to the dramatic development of MACBETH.
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Initially MACBETH is seen as a great soldier, a fearless fighter who has loyally defended his King against a treacherous rebellion. However, he is corrupted by evil in the form of three witches and their supernatural prophecies, and by ambition, not so much his own at first but by Lady Macbeth’s ambition for him to murder Duncan, thus attaining the crown of Scotland. In Act I, Scene I three witches plan to meet MACBETH upon a heath. They announce the major theme of the play: appearances can be deceptive.
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair. MACBETH’s affirmation of this is reciprocated in Act I, Scene III, when he echoes the witches words, “So fair and foul a day I have not seen. ” Factors that are apparent in both the text and visual of MACBETH are the symbols and imagery used by Shakespeare and Polanski. Due to the different language modes used in both versions of MACBETH, the audience must themselves visualise the images in the text, since the main language mode is reading and can therefore interpret the images quite differently in comparison with Polanski’s MACBETH.
The main language mode in the film is viewing and listening, so the audience does not have to interpret the images for themselves because it has already been done for them, which enhances the audience’s response and emotions to the dramatic development of ambition and deceptive appearances. In the written text, Shakespeare emphasis’s the hidden reality through the use of dramatic techniques of imagery and symbolism. There is a constant use of light and dark imagery which is used by the protagonist , MACBETH and his wife to express their motives and deeds.
This produces psychological and dramatic effects, contributing to the gradual development of the play. Take Lady Macbeth’s first invocation to darkness in Act I, Scene V: “Come, thick Night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of Hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor Heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry, ‘Hold, hold! ‘” This vividly illustrates the imagery used in MACBETH and is interpreted to mean that night equals evil, as does Hell, which is not necessarily correct. This also implies that darkness is necessary for the carrying out of Duncan’s murder.
Meaning the blanket that covers him affords no protection in the darkness against the evil deed and the cry envisions the imaginary voice which MACBETH hears as he ‘murders Sleep’. This encompasses the central action of the play, murder. On the night MACBETH brutally kills the King of Scotland, Banquo fearful of his own ‘cursed thoughts’ observes that: “There’s husbandry in heaven; Their candles are all out. ” (Act II, Scene I) The darkness itself, which is ironically equated with Heaven, but seemingly appropriate for the acts of Hell, provides the natural cover for the unnatural murder.
MACBETH in the same scene, refers to the fact that ‘Nature seems dead’, symbolically representing what Duncan is soon to be. Another continuance of imagery is the ‘clothes’ sequence, relating to deceptive appearances to gain MACBETH’s ambition by hiding the truth. This begins with MACBETH’s ‘borrowed robes’ and has its central emphasis in Macduff’s ironic words “Lest our old robes sit easier than our new” (Act II, Scene IV), referring to MACBETH’s new title as King of Scotland, thus MACBETH’s ambition achieved. MACBETH now has the ultimate power he once craved.
MACBETH not only ‘borrows’ the robes of the former king, and although he knows that these ‘robes’ will not go to his children and grandchildren and so on, he still wears them during his undeserved and corrupt reign of Scotland. Despite the fact that he has conquered all to achieve his “vaulting ambition” MACBETH cannot rest either mentally or emotionally, showed in both texts through the dramatic and literary device of soliloquy. This unrest is caused by guilt, MACBETH’s solution to this is to hide by wearing these “borrowed robes”.
Note that MACBETH acknowledges that these ‘robes’ are borrowed, meaning he knows that the rightful heir to the throne will claim the crown sooner of later. The clothes imagery particularly contributes to the central theme of appearance and reality. This imagery is clearly shown in Polanski’s film MACBETH where the protagonist is literally and figuratively wearing the royal “borrowed robes” , whereas in Shakespeare’s written version it is shown through MACBETH’s portrayal of his violent ambition to become king and wear the crown of Scotland.
One of the main dramatic and literary devices used in Shakespeare’s and Polanski’s version of MACBETH is soliloquy, where the character is alone and speaking to aloud, revealing their inner thoughts, reactions, motives and deeds. This establishes a familiarity between character and audience or the reader of the play. Lady Macbeth’s first soliloquy is an analysis of her husband’s character and her ambition for him. “Yet I do fear thy nature: It is too full o’the milk of human-kindness To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great; Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it.
Since these soliloquy’s are in written form by Shakespeare it does not express all the character’s emotions, this is in contrast to Polanski’s MACBETH, where the audience is able to watch the character’s emotions and reactions while the soliloquy’s are being said. In the written text the reader only receives one side of the character’s inner thoughts and feelings, whereas in the film we hear and see the reactions. This is seen through the character’s facial expressions, gestures and body language, this cannot be seen in Shakespeare’s text MACBETH, as it left to imagination of the reader.
Despite this contrast both Shakespeare and Polanski have firmly portrayed the themes of ambition and deceptive appearances as being central to the dramatic development of the play by presenting considerable evidence through the character’s motives and actions. In opposition to this view conflict could be considered to be central to the dramatic development of MACBETH since it is the cause of the protagonists evil and treacherous actions. Initially, conflict is seen as a minor theme in the play, yet quite quickly this changes when three witches implant an evil seed in his mind.
Thus we see how MACBETH turns from good to evil, from a “valiant cousin” and “worthy gentleman” to a “bloody butcher”. MACBETH’s inner conflict is a prominent figure in which the path of the play will lead. He is torn between his loyalty to Duncan and his ambition to fulfil the prophecy of becoming the King. The pivotal point of this conflict is when MACBETH enters Duncan’s chamber with a knife ready to carry out the murder, and hesitates. His inner conflict has reached its highest point, kill Duncan and become King or walk away and continue being a “valiant cousin” and the Thane of Cawdor and Glamis.
When Duncan awakes MACBETH has no choice but to kill Duncan or to face execution for betrayal. MACBETH’s mind and emotions is both complex and immediate, and its dramatic effect is shown through the use of soliloquy’s that reveal these inner conflicts. MACBETH is imaginative, responsive and as his evil actions continue, increasingly violent. His conscience, on the other hand, before and after the murder of Duncan, is unstable. A further exhibition of conscience can be seen in his nightmares, the immediate realisation that he has ‘murdered Sleep’.
Insecurity is present initially, and is intensified by MACBETH’s actions. Shakespeare indication of this the soliloquy of MACBETH before the murder of the King: “If it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly.. ” (Act I, Scene VII) Encompassing all the evidence that has been presented and after reading and viewing Polanski and Shakespeare’s renditions of MACBETH it is logical to come to the conclusion that ambition and deceptive appearances is central to the dramatic development of MACBETH.
Without ambition MACBETH would not have pursued his path to become King of Scotland so viciously. Deceptive appearances is the key to this play because without hiding reality all the evil enfolding this play, all the intentions of protagonist and the other characters would have been revealed. Without the centralisation of these themes, MACBETH would have been altered and the plot would be non-existent.