Macbeth’s Modern Audience

8 August 2016

Modern Audience The Shakespearean classic Macbeth features many themes and issues that were around in the 1600’s, but are they still relevant modern audiences today? The main themes in Macbeth are mainly issues that we still encounter every day in modern society. The themes that are explored in Macbeth that would still have relevance today in modern society include guilt, power, bravery and violence. Let’s begin with guilt. In the play, Macbeth’s guilt prevents him from enjoying what he has gained after the murder of King Duncan.

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For example, in Act 3, Scene 4 of the play, Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost at the banquet table. His guilty conscience is projecting visions of Banquo because he is responsible for his murder. But how is this relevant to modern audiences? Well I’m sure we’ve all felt guilty of doing something at one point, and that guilt can prevent you from enjoying what you’ve gained, like what it did to Macbeth. Now let’s take a look at Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth was the one who convinced Macbeth to kill King Duncan in the first place. However, even though Lady Macbeth was the one who convinced her husband to do so, she still feels guilty.

However, unlike Macbeth’s conscious guilt, Lady Macbeth’s guilt is subconsciously expressed through her dreams. It’s very well possible for something to come back and ‘haunt’ you in your dreams, like with Lady Macbeth. In Act 5, Scene 5 of the play, Lady Macbeth dies, and her guilt is believed to be the cause of her death. In modern society, people do take their lives purely out of guilt. For example, the term ‘survivor’s guilt’ is one of the causes that leads a serviceman in the decision to take their own life. Power is another theme explored in Macbeth, which is also an issue both in the play and in modern society today.

A key factor that would have led to the decision of the murder of King Duncan would have definitely been Macbeth’s hunger for power. In the play, Macbeth says “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’er-leaps itself and falls on the other. ” (Act 1, Scene 7) This quote reveals Macbeth’s hunger for power. A modern day example of someone going to great lengths to gain power would be Adolf Hitler. Hitler tried to take over the government using brute force, though that was unsuccessful and landed him in gaol, I’d call that going to great lengths to gain power, wouldn’t you?

Another modern example of power-hungriness is Josef Stalin. Stalin, like Macbeth, was power-hungry and ambitions. He used the Revolution to climb to power, then secured his position by purging leaders who had been loyal to Lenin. Sound familiar? Macbeth pretty much did just that with King Duncan and those loyal to him. Let’s move on to bravery. At the very start of the play, Macbeth is commended for his bravery in battle by King Duncan, and rewarded with the title ‘Thane of Glamis’. Macbeth apparently showed great bravery in battle, for one of King Duncan’s Captain’s said ‘For brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name’.

Bravery, is of course, still relevant to our society. Bravery may mean something different to the each of us, it may mean conquering a fear of heights, standing up for yourself or another person, risking your life to save another or even making, what same may call, the ‘ultimate sacrifice’. Violence. Macbeth is full of it. You’ve got the murder of King Duncan, Duncan’s attendants and Banquo. Then you’ve got that violent battle at the end of the play between Malcom’s army and Macbeth’s, and during that battle, you’ve got Young Siward and Macbeth fighting to death, which ends in Macbeth’s head being cut off.

I don’t think a play can get more violent than that. These days, society is wrought with violence. Every week in the news you hear about another murder, a stabbing or a brawl. Fights happen all the time, and they do get violent. I think violence is very relevant to modern audiences, don’t you? So, is a 400 year old play still relevant to modern audiences? Definitely. Guilt, power, bravery and violence all still exist in the 21st Century and are still very much like how they were back in Shakespeare’s time, and probably will be for years to come.

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