Wednesday, August 14, 2019

How might a Jacobean audience see certain events in MACBETH differently to a modern one? Essay

Four hundred years ago in the time of the Jacobeans, beliefs then were very different from what they are today and this had impacts on the way Jacobean audiences interpreted certain events in Shakespeare’s plays. This essay sets out how some events might be interpreted differently in Macbeth. Bad things that happened to people were blamed on the supernatural like curses, witches and ghosts e.t.c. First of all was the whole idea of witches. For everything bad that happened to people, witches were blamed for them. Witches were seen as real people who had magical powers and could do almost anything. In Macbeth the witches appear at the very start of the play and accompanying them was thunder and lightning. The Jacobeans see that type of weather to be a bad omen and meant forces of evil or bad things were coming, whereas nice weather meant good things were going on. Today we see bad weather as being caused by scientific reasons; to do with air pressure for example. It has nothing to do with any events happening in the world. In Act 1 scene 2, the witches go on to create a massive thunderstorm. A Jacobean audience would believe this really happened because they thought witches did actually have the power to do that. Nowadays, a modern audience would see that as simply just made up, because we don’t believe in witches anymore. Adverse weather conditions are caused by natural phenomena not by supernatural evil witches. When Macbeth sees the witches for the first time they say â€Å"Hail Macbeth hail to thee Thane of Glamis,† â€Å"Thane of Cawdor† then â€Å"King hereafter†. The witches are saying he definitely will have those titles, not just might be. A Jacobean audience would see this as the witches predicted the future because people back then believed that they could do that. Today we do not believe in witches and again; it would be seen by a modern audience as the witches guessing what would happen. Next is the Thane of Cawdor’s execution. No-one has been executed in Britain for many years; the death penalty has effectively been abolished. But in Jacobean times, it was regarded as the natural thing to do. Therefore a modern audience would see this execution as very serious and would feel he would not deserve that punishment as much as we did 400 years ago. A Jacobean audience would see that he does need to be executed because betraying the king’s (monarch’s) army was considered a very serious crime because it would be a crime against God as well; as the monarchy was considered to be run directly by God. When Lady Macbeth calls on evil spirits to make her powerful and string-minded to carry out the murder of Duncan she says, â€Å"Unsex me here,† and, â€Å"Make thick my blood.† She actually wants to be changed into a man (on the inside) from a woman and be praying out to spirits somewhere she can do this. A Jacobean audience would believe that this is really happening because they believed in sprits; good or bad, and that if you call for them, they can do what you want. A modern audience however would see this as Lady Macbeth thinking that she has lots of power when really she can’t and she’s got too much energy and feels really powerful when really nothing will happen like that. I.e. she has a big lust for power. Today we don’t believe in spirits and that they never exist. We now would think that she’s just feeling lots of power and wants to get it very badly. But just before Macbeth goes to commit the murder of Duncan, he imagines a dagger leading him to Duncan’s room. He says, â€Å"Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?† He’s seeing this dagger actually taking him to Duncan’s room meaning the dagger should be used to kill him. Macbeth is really convinced and believes it’s there. Because of that, a Jacobean audience would think the witches have put it there in his head because they told the future earlier on in the play, that Macbeth will become king, and he would have needed to kill Duncan to do it. A modern audience on the other hand would think he’s having a hallucination and he’s just simply imagining it; probably explained by the stress of being about to kill the King. Jacobean’s might not have thought that because they didn’t appreciate people can imagine things deliberately or because of stress or mental illness. They would not understand those things. In addition, Macbeth sees a vision of Banquo’s ghost at a banquet. He says to the other guests, â€Å"Which of you have done this?† Again, like the dagger only he can see it and he believes it really was there. A Jacobean audience would have believed in ghosts and life after death. Macbeth had just unlawfully killed Banquo so a Jacobean audience would see that it would make sense for his ghost to haunt him and only him and appear real. But, a modern audience would see this as Macbeth being so stressed by the murder of Banquo and Duncan that one of his victims comes back to haunt him in his mind. The fact that only Macbeth can see it proves that it’s probably his stress. Jacobean’s believed in the â€Å"Divine right of Kings† meaning that the king’s reign is so because it is what God wanted; it’s God’s will for him/her to be king. Therefore if you kill the monarch (called regicide), it was the worst possible crime anybody could commit at the time. If you did it, you were committing a sin against God and the audience would be so shocked they would be petrified. So when Macbeth murders Duncan, the audience would be petrified with disbelief that that just happened. Today, we believe that kings and queens reign because we allow him/her to reign over us and it’s nothing to do with God. So a modern audience would see the murder of Duncan as just a very serious murder, not a crime against God. This is also because we believe much less in religion now than we did 400 years ago. Plus, the monarch today does not have it much power as it did back then; since the English civil war, laws are passed by parliament, the king or queen virtually has no power and can be abolished by parliament at any time. When Macbeth sees the witches for the final time to show him the apparitions, again in thunder and rain, they cast a spell in rhymes in order to do that. For example one says, â€Å"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes†. Jacobeans would see this as the witches truly casting a spell but today we this as just a poem. Also, the apparitions that the witches come up with would have been seen to have really done that by a Jacobean audience, because again, they thought witches had unlimited magical powers and could do almost anything, including bringing out naked out of a bubbling pot children or futuristic visions out of their cauldron. A modern audience would see this as Macbeth being drugged by the witches and that potion made him go on to see those apparitions, perhaps in some sort of trans or dream. We don’t believe in witches having the magical power to do that themselves. The final thing whose perception has changed is Lady Macbeth sleepwalking. In Jacobean times, people did not understand that anyone can sleepwalk for whatever reason and thought anyone who did was mad meaning they thought Lady Macbeth was mad and stressed because of what her husband had just been doing. Today however, we think that anyone can sleepwalk and hence Lady Macbeth could have been feeling fine and she was doing a totally random thing. We no longer link sleepwalking with madness. So to conclude, in Jacobean times 400 years ago, people were less knowledgeable about science, weather and how the mind worked. This combined with poor education for most people then, meant that the Jacobeans had to make up phenomenon like witches and ghosts to explain why bad things happen or things go wrong. Nowadays, more people live in urban areas and are well-educated and less religious. Kings and queens have mostly been replaced by fully elected party leaders and the monarch is now just a person and far less important in decision making and politics. Doctors and psychology mean we can understand people’s emotions better and events such as bad weather are now explained by science.

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