The Structure of Macbeth "William Shakespeare"

Before studying the structure of the play, we should mention one important point about the play. The Equivocation (theme of appearance and reality) which is central to Macbeth. Macbeth is a play about illusions where its situations are ambiguous. The murder of Duncan is the main theme of the play. Murdering Duncan is the right thing for Macbeth; however, this is the worst thing he did for himself and for his people. 

The WitchesThey appear to be predicting success, yet the prophecies appear to be disastrous for Macbeth. Their prophecies are interpreted in someway, but in fact they mean something different.

Macbeth: He seems to be a loyal hero, yet he reveals to be a traitor.

Lady Macbeth: she is not at all what she seems. Even though she appears very strong and confident at the beginning of the play, she declines (after the banquet scene) and becomes a pathetic character. At the end, she is nothing more than a mortal woman. She becomes a weak person who is suffering, feeling guilty about the pains of her conscience. 

Malcolm: he seems to be a villain, but in fact he is a hero, and he was thinking in order to rebuild his country. He is ready to give himself to Scotland and to Macduff. Although he seems to be innocent and inexperienced man, he is the one who recognizes the equivocation of the witches prophecy. 

     "Everything the witches said was only an illusion." 

Therefore, we could say that the language, the verse, and the structure of the whole play is built on this equivocation. 

Language: (images)
Macbeth is the play that has a distinguished quality because the images evoke more action than any other play. In this play, thought and consequent movement become nearly one.

Soliloquy: every soliloquy that Macbeth speaks is active, but it implies evil. There are images that are very evocative (Macduff's family). 

Supernatural elements: in Hamlet and Julius Caesar, these elements seem to add in the action of the play, for we could easily dismiss the ghost in Hamlet because the appearance of the ghost added to Hamlet's melancholy, but it was not the cause. By nature, Hamlet is melancholic. The ghost just added his melancholy (his character didn't really change with the appearance of the ghost). We could dismiss the ghost from our experience of the play. The ghost of Hamlet's father can't escape our tendency to be skeptical, irritated, and amused (it doesn't have an effect). 

The witches: they are the "weird sisters". They are not described as ghosts, and the fact that they are "weird sisters" gives them a status that is more real (natural). Their appearance makes everything weird to be more natural (domestic). The power of the witches is expressed in different ways. We can't look at the witches in the same way as we look at the ghost because the ghost is a supernatural power. 

In all shakespeare's plays, the most part is written in blank verse-iambic pentameter. Occasionally, Shakespeare uses in this play rhyming couplets (the witches speech). Macbeth uses rhyming couplets more often than any other character in the play.

We have 4 situations: 
1) Macbeth's letter to his wife - Act 1 scene 5 
2) The porter scene - Act 2 scene 3        
3) The dialogue between Macduff's lady and her son - Act 4 scene 2 
4) The sleep walking scene - Act 5 scene 1 

Prose denotes the low social position or situation that is abnormal (sleep walking scene). 
The play is full of tumult (no calm), wherever, the witches appear, we can hear a thunderstorm. When they are absent, we can hear shipwreck, blowing down churches, trees and castles. We have profusion of storms, sounds, and tumult.

The Structure: (How the play is built)
It is the shortest play among the shakespearean tragedies, for it consists of five acts. One of the most striking aspects is the rapidity at which the action happens. It is a play that is full of events and actions. Our attention is focused on Macbeth. It is his letter that Lady Macbeth speaks. He doesn't appear in the act, but it is his letter and his character (even if he is not present).

Act 4 scene 3: It is in the English court and we have a long discussion between Malcolm and Macduff about loyalty. In addition, throughout the conversation, we can't prevent ourselves from remembering Macbeth. We know that Macbeth doesn't have any of the qualities of the king. Anyway, Macbeth is referred to throughout the play. Although Lady Macbeth is important, she disappears and never been mentioned. 

Unlike many of Shakespeare's plays, in this play we don't have any sub plots or secondary actions. The concentration is on Macbeth and his action. In this play, Shakespeare uses fewer characters especially to comment on the central action. We have a series of contrasts (parallels) through the 'we' of the dramatic ironies. 

Act 1 scene 4: We know from the previous scene that Macbeth has intentions (because of what we know, we can't prevent ourselves from applying this talk to Macbeth).

Act 5 scene 1: Irony lies in the contrast between what is obvious and the hidden meaning of the apparition of the bloody child, yet the most striking irony in the play is the answer which Banquo gives to Macbeth.

At any of Shakespeare's plays, we have a comic relief and it is used in order to relief the atmosphere (the porter's scene in act 5). The first act of the play is speedy and very intense. At the end of act 1, we have a new Macbeth. He is confident that he can kill the king. He becomes different (change). He is confident that he can pretend to be the host. In this play, we have two parts: the first half is greater than the second one. Lady Macbeth appears more in the first half than in the second one. It is a one man play. Acts 1and 5 are speedy, for the end comes very quickly. 

It is here that all of Macbeth's hopes are stripped away: his wife died - Birnamwood seemed to move - his forces desert him - he is cornered in the castle - he is left alone. 
Finally, Macbeth will die just as the beginning (in a courageous way). So, we have the repetition of the same act, but in different purpose. Macbeth is distinguished by its simplicity although it contains a lot of images. Two great figures are Macbeth and Lady Macbeth: they are simple except being compared with Hamlet.

We have three important passages because they distract us from Macbeth:
1) In the first passage, where the porter appears, the tone changes in a way so as to give us relief. 
2) The second passage between Lady Macbeth and her son. 
3) The third passage when Macbeth receives the news of his wife's death. 

Shakespeare constructs the hero in a way that it gives a new dimension in the struggle between good and evil. Macbeth is a noble man and a soldier, but these qualities are a mere surface if we compare them to what he thinks in his mind.

The fact that Macbeth murdered the king is not just a political rebellion, but it is a violation of all the laws of hospitality, kingship and human decency. 

Chaos is defeated, order is reestablished. We find it fair to find Macbeth dead because as long as he lives there will be chaos. 

Tragic flaw:
In Shakespeare's tragedies there is always a tragic flaw of his main character. Macbeth's tragic flaw is his evil ambition. On the other hand, the tragic flaw of Hamlet is hesitation and lack of decision, whereas Othello's tragic flaw is jealousy.