Act 2: Scene 1
The murder of King Duncan was never shown on stage. How did Shakespeare create the tension on Act 2 Scene I.
For my coursework I have chosen to focus on Act 2 Scene 1 in Shakespeares shortest tragedy, Macbeth. Macbeth is a famous play by William Shakespeare, known for its violence. Macbeth which is set in Scotland around the time when the Norwegians, lead by the Thane of Cawdor, were defeated by the Scottish. The story begins as one of a loyal and honourable hero of Scotland. However, Macbeth's character changes gradually during the play when told by three witches that Macbeth would rise to great power and take up the title off Thane of Cawdor then later King of Scotland. When this first prophecy comes true, Macbeth does everything in his power to rein Scotland. The scene I will focus on takes place when Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, take King Duncan; king of Scotland, into their household to plan for his murder and allow Macbeth to rise to power. The play shows the battle between good and evil and the theme that appearance can be deceptive. The traditional saying dont judge a book by its cover is shown by Shakespeare through Macbeths changing character. A powerful ambition for power caused him to make sinister decisions that created for him only despair, guilt, and madness.
Act 2 Scene 1 builds up the setting for the murder and is a pivotal scene in the play as this is when the murder of King Duncan takes place. It is an important part of the play and the whole of the play rests on this scene. In Shakespeares time the murder of a King was the greatest of all crimes as Kings were believed to be appointed by God and therefore a rebellion against a true King is a rebellion against God, this was called Divine Order. As many people shared the belief of retribution and divine order, the murder of King Duncan would not have been shown on stage. It would have been highly disrespectful to show the murder of a king and it went against all they believed in. At the time Macbeth was written by Shakespeare, the current king of Scotland was James I. King James I was a patron off Shakespeare. James would have highly disapproved of the murder being shown on stage. It would have annoyed James and he would have been insulted by the whole play which in turn, may have made other people reluctant to go and see Macbeth if James disapproved.
Act 2 Scene 1 starts off with Banguo and Fleance entering the courtyard, carrying a torch. In those days, the plays would have been held outside during the day. As the scene would be suited to be played at night, Shakespeare uses language to convey to the audience that this particular scene was at night-time. Banguo asks Fleance How goes the night boy? firstly, using the torch shows the darkness of the night and secondly, Shakespeare purposely writes for Banguo too ask about the night, the audience use these hints and automatically know that the scene is at night time. This creates tension in the audience because at the time, people believed that bad things happened at night, they believed that witches came out at this time and it was a time for evil. By knowing it is night-time, the audience can sense that something evil and sinister is going to happen. Shakespeare uses alliteration when Banguo says Theres husbandry in heaven, this catches the audiences attention and they know that whatever is going to happen would not be suitable for heaven too see, it is so dark that its like a blanket is covering the sky. There candles are all out.
Banguo tells Fleance that A heavy summons lies like lead upon me
And yet I would not sleep. This tells us that perhaps Banguo, like Macbeth, is tempted to believe what the witches had said. Banguo was told that his children would be king here after. He doesnt want to sleep as when he does he has bad dreams and is disturbed. He is exhausted and asks the angels to stop his nightmares Merciful powers,
Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
Gives way to repose
The audience, including King James I would have been impressed and this would have pleased James as he had written a book called Daemonologie ,this would have contained sections on angels and witchcraft. By Shakespeare adding this into Macbeth he was grabbing the audiences attention and meanwhile creating tension as he had brought up the subject that terrified most of the audience. Banguo then asks Fleance for his sword, this lets us know that Banguo may feel like he may have to use his sword, perhaps due to the fact that Banguo does not fully trust Macbeth.