The Tragedy of Macbeth

Trent Oberlander

Fear the Fear

Fear is to blame for Macbeth’s downfall. It is seen that fear plagues Macbeth early in the play, “O, yet I do repent me of my fury that I did kill them” (II.III.121-122). Here it is seen that Macbeth had fear of being caught, so he murdered the guards who were to be blamed. This effectively put the blame on Malcolm and Donalbain, Duncan’s sons. Their own fear driving them away and giving them feelings of contempt towards their father’s murderer. Later it can be read that Macbeth commands that one of his best friends, Banquo, and his son, Fleance, to be murdered out of fear of his family losing lordship. “Both of you know Banquo was your enemy” (III.I.125-126). Macbeth fears losing his kingship to Banquo’s son(s), so he orders that possibility to be eliminated. This endeavor fails, as Fleance escapes. Macbeth’s fear of a messenger’s report causes him to go confront his enemy and, in turn, end up fighting the one not born of woman. “As I did stand my watch upon the hill, I looked toward Birnam, and anon methought the wood began to move” (V.V.36-38). Macbeth fears that the witches have led him astray, so he goes out to face his enemy instead of staying within the castle. In going out to face his enemy, he has caused the man not born of woman, Macduff, to be able to reach him alive. Macduff then kills him as “Birnam Wood” conquers his castle. Fear has caused Macbeth’s downfall.

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Literary Devices

Throughout Macbeth a multitude of literary devices can be found. One such device is a paradox; a paradox is something that contradicts itself. Paradoxes occur multiple times throughout Macbeth, but one to focus on might be in Act 1. This paradox is where Macbeth contemplates whether or not the witches' prophecies are a good thing or a bad thing. "This supernatural soliciting cannot be ill; cannot be good. If ill, why hath it given me earnest success, commencing in truth?... If good, why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs against the use of nature?" (I.iii.152-158). Here as Macbeth is meaning, these prophecies are good or bad because they show him a great future for himself, where some has already come true; but that Duncan might be murdered by his own hands. Another literary device seen in Macbeth is comic relief; comic relief is using comedy to lighten the mood before or after something dramatic has happened. Comic relief can be found in Act 2. In the previous scene Macbeth is following a hallucination of a dagger to the deed he "must" do; kill Duncan. The comic relief follows as the drunken porter responds to the knocking at the gate and talks about the effects of alcohol. "... drink sir is a great provoker of three things.... Marry, sir, nose-painting, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes: it provokes the desire, but takes away the performance" (II.iii.24-29). Here the porter is answering the gate and discussing what the alcohol has done to him at that time; involving some innuendos. A third a final literary device found in Macbeth is tragedy; tragedy is human suffering. Tragedy can be seen throughout Macbeth, one such example is when Macbeth learns that his wife has passed. "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!" (V.v.21-24). Here Macbeth reveals his thoughts on life; the past is bound to repeat and that an individual life is just a brief candle burn. These are just three of the many literary devices that can be found in Macbeth.

Scream for the Fear

The Scream, by Edvard Munch, demonstrates fear in that it portrays a screaming person. A scream is heard usually when one is in duress. Macbeth is under duress throughout the whole story; that is, he feared being caught or losing his throne. An instance where Macbeth yells/screams out of fear is when he sees Banquo's "ghost". "Prithee see there! behold! look! lo! How say you?... If charnel houses and our graves those that we must bury back, our monuments shall be the maws of kites" (III.iv.85-90). Seen here Macbeth's fear of the fact that Fleance has escaped manifests itself into his loud outburst of a reaction towards the apparition that is Banquo. The Scream is simply thus, a man screaming. It can be interpreted as intense fear or maybe just surprise; but either way, it shows itself as a depiction of a loud outburst.
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Stone Cold

The Stone Child by Dan Poblocki relates to Macbeth because fear is the driving force of most the events in the story. In Macbeth Malcolm and Donalbain are fearful of their own murders, it also drives them to have contempt towards their father's murderer. "What should be spoken here, our fate hid in an auger hole, may rush and seize us? Let's away our tears are not yet brewed" (II.iii.140-145). While The Stone Child is not a tragedy and therefore no downfall to burden something or someone with, fear is still the driving force. In Poblocki's work, Eddie discovers the truth about his favorite author and his books. The books written by Nathaniel Olmstead are horror stories written first by hand, then typed. Eddie learns that the pen used to write these stories is supernaturally connected to a statue that is basically a gate to hell, and that is now in his mother's possession. This pen influences people's minds to write about monsters, which will release them from their banishment. Eddie proceeds to do all in his power to rid his mother of this pen. "The pendant is dangerous, and he understood now that it had a mind of it's own" (Poblocki 236). In both stories fear drives action.