Sunday, February 24, 2008

Macbeth Act 4: The night is long that never finds the day

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your portfolio. He who does not trust enough will not be trusted. Or: If you must play, decide upon three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.

Has Macbeth really thought through this plan of his? Did he really have a plan in the first place? Or has he been thrust into a situation where he is only reacting to prompts? How does his rejection of all advisers other than the witches affect the events in this act?

As Act 4 opens, we see the three witches in what is arguably one of Shakespeare's more familiar (no pun intended) rhyming scenes. Macbeth has rejected seeking counsel with Lady Macbeth, instead seeking out the Weird Sisters for advice. They show him some omens, which Macbeth believes, and which affect his confidence. He gets a little cocky, saying "Then live Macduff;what need I fear of thee?" (93).
Why does he feel this way?

The witches also give him confidence in the form of riddles: Macbeth won't be defeated until the woods rise and move to a hill; and no man born of woman can harm Macbeth. Well, that would make me feel invincible.

How do you think this will contribute to Macbeth's downfall? Check the definition of hubris and see if you think it applies to Macbeth.

Scene ii shows how Macbeth's drive for absolute power has corrupted him. He will kill innocents without a second thought.

Scene iii contains dialogue between Macduff and Malcolm that is either a) a test of Macduff's loyalty or b) an ominous portent that Scotland is doomed to be ruled by bad leadership.

Malcolm says: "I speak not as in absolute fear of you./ I think our country sinks beneath the yoke./ It weeps, it bleeds,and each new day a gash/ Is added to her wounds" (48-50).

How is this a universal theme? How does the last line of this act: "The night is long that never finds the day" pertinent to the events of this act?

Think of how Shakespeare might have used King James's heritage in writing this part of the play.

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