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I'm new to this community. I am of non-english speaking background, and I live in Australia. Any help is appreciated.
Here's an essay about Macbeth.
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the discourses of the supernatural versus the natural world underpin the storyline and its characters, and illustrate the values, beliefs and attitudes of Elizabethan society. Even from the beginning of the play, from the Thane of Cawdor’s disloyalty towards king Duncan, we see that the natural order of things has been altered. The witches introduce the world of the supernatural and how that competes with natural order or Chain of Being. Elizabethans believed the supernatural world (ruled by the devil and evil) were in direct competition with the natural world (created by God and goodness). Throughout Macbeth, this battle between the two is reflected in society’s attitudes, beliefs and values.
Elizabethan society believed in a concept called “The Chain of being”. They believed that God created the world in a divinely planned hierarchical order, which was pictured as a chain vertically extended, starting from the very top with God and finishing with animals and plants at the bottom. Humans were in the middle – below God and angels but above plants and animals. Then within each of these large groups, there were other hierarchies. For example, among humans, the monarch was the highest and believed to be directly related to god, with nobles and churchman below. Then followed gentleman and finally commoners. Women were inferior to men and this is related to God’s judgement after Eve disobeys His orders: “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (King James’s bible, Genesis 3:16) According to the chain of being concept, all existing things have their precise place and function in the universe, and to depart from one's proper place was to betray one's nature, and therefore God.
Nature was of big value to the Elizabethan society as it was directly related to the natural order of things. If that order was disturbed in any way it would destructively reflect itself on nature. If one attempted to go above one's proper place, as Eve did when she was tempted by Satan, it was bound to bring in the supernatural and disaster – storms, animals consuming each other, etc. Satan is believed to lure women in the forests and “use them because he knows women love carnal pleasures, and he means to bind them to his allegiance by such agreeable provocations.” Witches were women “who because of their sex are inconstant and of dubious faith, and because of their age incapable of clear thought. They are especially vulnerable to the devil’s wiles.” Witches were ugly and were found naked in woods engaged in promiscuous acts. They were believed to control the forces of nature – they could bring thunderstorms, rain, fogs and even plagues.
Act I, scene i shows us ‘thunder and lightning’, storms and the desolate heath painting a gloomy picture, setting the tone of this play and defining an imagery of nature at war with itself. The weather personifies the three witches, meaning that the witches themselves are disturbances, though not limited to nature. The witches and later Macbeth both announce this competition between supernatural versus the natural in their statements:
“Fair is foul, foul is fair” and Macbeth’s line “So foul and fair a day, I have not seen”
These quotes illustrate the value that the Elizabethan society puts on the natural order of things and that it must not be disturbed. They believed that man was part of a very strict chain of being and that if he disturbed this delicate balance, then it would disturb nature, anger god and bring in the supernatural, therefore evil.
The Thane of Cawdor is the first to upset this balance with his disloyalty to the king which resulted in a domino effect of destructive events leading up to Macbeth’s death. King Duncan then names Macbeth the new Thane of Cawdor which he was never intended to be, “and to be king stands not within the prospect of belief, no more than to be Cawdor” (I, iii, 78-80). Through this example and others we see the destructive effects of disturbing the natural order of things according to Elizabethan values.
After this event it is Banquo’s and Macbeth’s beliefs and actions that continue this disturbance of nature. Banquo openly confesses his joy in being told that he shall be “father of kings” even though he knows that “to win us to our harm” (I, iii, 136). He knows that witches are servants of the devil and gates to the supernatural world and aren’t to be trusted. Macbeth is equally wary of this danger but he is keen to go along with the consequences as he already had such thoughts. He hesitatingly states “if good…..my seated heart knock of my ribs against the use of nature?” (I, iii, 150) They are both aware of the destructive effects that these prophecies will bring. This belief was held by Elizabethans of the time. To them god had a purpose for presenting nature as it was and mankind must not upset that. By believing in what the witches were foretelling, Macbeth and Banquo allowed their souls to be corrupted by the supernatural powers which resulted in disturbance of the chain of being and chaos all over reflecting Elizabethan beliefs and values.
However, Lady Macbeth being aware of her husband’s weak character, turns to the supernatural forces in her famous speech: “Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here” (I, v, 44-45) – she asks the devil to remove from her all signs of compassion and femininity, replacing these with cold remorseless ruthlessness i.e. the supernatural because she knows this is what is needed to kill a king.
For these prophecies to become true, Macbeth had to kill King Duncan, and he intended to do it. He changes his mind in the last moment and opposes his wife: “We will proceed no further in this business.” (I, vii, 34) – preserving the chastity and honour and not letting the supernatural get to him. Lady Macbeth attacked his manhood: ”Art thou afeard…..And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would,’ like the poor cat I’ the adage?” (I, vii, 43-49)This is a prime example of the natural versus the supernatural, an epic battle of good versus evil according to Elizabethan beliefs.
So we can see through these mediums that the Chain of Being is interrupted by the unnatural events that Shakespeare has written in Macbeth. This has caused the supernatural to take control and cause devastation and chaos in the world. It has also subverted the true course of nature, however as we see at the end of Macbeth nature will always regain control eventually, when those mortals who have perverted it are killed.
Tell us more about your assignment. Your English is fine, but you may need to reorganize your essay a bit.
I was beside myself looking for quotes for the theme of natural order!
quite possibly made my day
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