MYTUTOR SUBJECT ANSWERS

382 views

How is violence portrayed in Macbeth?

Violence is an integral theme in Macbeth  - indeed, the word ‘blood’ occurs forty-two times throughout the play. The action of the play is a cyclical one; a traitor to the crown is vanquished, those who violate the social codes of rule die violently, and a benevolent king is restored. The question remains however, whether the play considers violence as unnatural and related to the Gothic transgressive, or whether it is acceptable – or even praised – in particular social spaces.

The act of violence given the most weight in the play is the murder of Duncan. Like classical Greek tragedy, his death is off-stage, which strikes us as potentially reserved for a play which features the brutal on-stage murder of a child. However, witnessing the murder through the panicked and visceral dialogue between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth – Duncan’s body with its ‘gash’d stabs [that] look’d like a breach in nature’ – allows the play to focus more intently on the psychological effect on the main characters, and frames the regicide of Duncan as an act that is too horrific to be seen, only horrifically imagined. Written sometime after the Gunpowder Plot against James I  in 1605, the play places the divine right of kings as sacred and integral to the well-being of the nation.  The actions of the Macbeths in turn corrupt Scotland, turning the sky dark and animals cannibalistic, and this corruption doesn’t stop at nature. Donalbain claims that ‘the near in blood, the nearer bloody’ – while this comment contextually refers to the dangers posed to the king’s heirs, it can also be seen as a comment on how the nearer to violence people are, the more likely they are corrupted by it. Macbeth’s murder of Duncan leads to the murder of Banquo, Lady MacDuff, her Son and Young Siward, his blood-lust only cut short by his own death.

Yet, in regards to this, there is much violence in the play that is not framed so negatively.  Both Macbeth and Banquo originally win their glories in battle, the ‘worthy’ Macbeth ‘smoked with bloody execution’, and the death of Young Siward is considered honourable. The cyclical narrative of the play – battles begetting battles – could imply that the world is naturally violent, but that violence becomes unnatural when it is associated with the transgressive – Macbeth’s association with the barely-human supernatural and Lady Macbeth’s part in the action, going against  expected female gender roles.

Kate M. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature tutor

8 months ago

Answered by Kate, a GCSE English Literature tutor with MyTutor


Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist

177 SUBJECT SPECIALISTS

£20 /hr

Emily L.

Degree: Law (Bachelors) - Durham University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Maths+ 1 more

English Literature
Maths
English

“I am a first year undergraduate reading Law at Durham University. Prior to this, I attended the Tiffin Girls' School in Kingston upon Thames where I studied English Literature, Chemistry and Fine Art at A2 Level (with additional Mathe...”

£18 /hr

Sophie B.

Degree: International Relations with Chinese (Bachelors) - Exeter University

Subjects offered: English Literature, German+ 3 more

English Literature
German
English Language
-Personal Statements-

“Hello! I am currently studying International Relations at university with both German and Chinese at the University of Exeter. My friends would say something is very 'Sophie' if it shows sings of hard-work and attention to detail. At ...”

£18 /hr

Rebecca M.

Degree: History (Bachelors) - Southampton University

Subjects offered: English Literature, History

English Literature
History

“About me! I study History at the University of Southampton, and have always had a love for reading and literature. As well as studying, I spend my time weight lifting at the gym, playing badminton for the history society, kickboxing, a...”

About the author

Kate M.

Currently unavailable: for regular students

Degree: English Literary Studies (Masters) - Durham University

Subjects offered: English Literature

English Literature

“Hi there! I'm Kate. Having previously studied English Literature at the University of Warwick”

You may also like...

Posts by Kate

Comment on the theme of revenge in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

How is violence portrayed in Macbeth?

Other GCSE English Literature questions

How do i approach poems?

How do I structure each argument in my English Literature essay?

How do I embed a quotation in my essay?

How can I write a good essay in exam conditions?

View GCSE English Literature tutors

Cookies:

We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss

mtw:mercury1:status:ok