2/04/2019

Soliloquy of "Macbeth" and it's Dramatic Significance.

 A popular dramatic device: Soliloquy is a kind of “dialogue with the self." Etymologically it means "speaking while one is alone". When a character, alone on the stage, is speaking aloud he is making a soliloquy. A soliloquy is effectively employed by a dramatist to reveal the inner and secret thoughts of the characters in a drama and supply to the audience the necessary information not conveyed through dialogue or action.  Shakespeare's use of soliloquy: Shakespeare, like other Elizabethan playwrights, has utilised the literary device of soliloquy for a variety of purposes. He has used them very ably for analysis of motives and purposes of the characters concerned and to help in the development of the action of the play. He has also used this device to heighten the tragic or comic effect of his plays to such an extent that even in this respect no other dramatist can come near him. Shakespearean soliloquies are, like his poetry and dramatic art, a true reflection of his literary genius.  Macbeth's soliloquies:  Macbeth's asides after hearing the prophecies are in fact soliloquies that amply reveal the secret going-on in his mind and expose his character. They show Macbeth as a person given to reflection. When the Witches have uttered their prophecies Banquo finds him "rapt" in thought. When Rosse and Angus inform him of the conferment of title of Thane of Cawdor on him he cannot restrain himself from revealing to the audience his secret ambition of becoming King: "The greatest is behind". He looks upon the partial fulfilment of the prophecies "as happy prologues to the swelling act” of the imperial theme, He then goes on to express the inner conflict in his mind through a longer aside. He cannot decide whether this "supernatural soliciting" is evil or good. He admits that the thought of murdering Duncan has entered his mind and has frightened his conscience. These asides bear special dramatic significance. They expose the birth of evil in Macbeth's mind which leads to Duncan's assassination, the central act of the play.  Macbeth speaks another aside in Act I, Sc. iv just after Duncan nominates his son as the Prince of Cumberland and heir to the throne. In this Macbeth expresses greater determination for achieving his goal. He still has some scruples, but he wants to overcome them. So he invokes the stars to hide their fires so that he himself may not see his "black and deep desires". This aside shows a further growth of the thought of murder in Macbeth and thus helps the plot move forward.  The most famous soliloquy in the whole play is the one spoken by Macbeth in Act I, Sc. vii where Macbeth is contemplating the murder, with Duncan already in his castle as a guest. This soliloquy beginning “If it were done, when 'tis done" shows Macbeth's reflections on consequences of the murder. There are moral objections to the crime as Duncan is at once his king, kinsman and guest. The soliloquy ends with his realisation that there is no spur to his "intent” except "vaulting ambition”. The poetical lines in the soliloquy disclose his innermost soul and through them we can trace the gradual hardening of his heart and searing of his conscience. It is from no "compunctious visitings of nature" but from sheer moral cowardice-from a fear of retribution in this life-that we find Macbeth hesitating, at the last moment, to commit his enormous crime. Once convinced that punishment in this life can be avoided, Macbeth regains his determination and proceeds to kill his sleeping guest.   Macbeth's next soliloquy, made just before he proceeds to murder Duncan, is a product of his heated mind. He can see a bloody dagger which is nothing but a hallucination, an expression of his guilty mind. This soliloquy once again reveals the highly imaginative mind of Macbeth. The soliloquy that he makes in Act II, Sc. ii shows a mind totally upset by a strong sense of guilt. Any noise terrifies him now. He can see blood on his hands that will make the “multitudinous seas" red.   His soliloquy in Act III, Se. i confirms his transformation into an absolute criminal. In this speech he expresses his jealousy and fears of Banquo whom he proposes to eliminate. The soliloquy is also significant as it throws light on Banquo's character. It is also a prelude to the next important development of the plot Banquo's murder.   Of the other minor soliloquies, one that Macbeth makes in Act V, Sc. v deserves attention. This soliloquy where he says, "I have supped full with horrors", shows the numbness that has overcome Macbeth's feelings, and evokes a distinct sense of pathos.  Before the end of the play Macbeth makes two brief soliloquies on the battlefield. In one he compares himself to a trapped animal-a bear tied to a stake and baited by dogs.But he expresses the confidence that he fears no man born of a woman. In the other brief soliloquy he expresses the determination to go ahead and fight and not kill himself. But in the ensuing duel with Macduff, he is killed.   Lady Macbeth's soliloquies:  Lady Macbeth also makes a few soliloquies in the play. The most important of them occurs in Act I Sc. v after she has read her husband's letter in which he has informed her of the prophecies. The soliloquy plays an important role in the revelation of Macbeth's character. No one knows Macbeth more intimately than his wife. So her analysis of Macbeth's nature through this soliloquy has to be accepted as authentic. We are told that Macbeth is "not without ambition" but that he is "without the illness should attend it". She tells us that her husband "wouldst not play false,/And yet wouldst wrongly win". She deplores that Macbeth is too full o' th' milk of human kindness". As the speech tells us much about Macbeth, so it tells us a good deal about Lady Macbeth, for in analysing the character of others a speaker must reveal something of his own self. She exemplifies to a high degree the influence of ambition as a force that sustains the will to a certain point, and overbears all scruples in self and others. It can also be noted that she never hints at personal animosity towards Duncan. It is Shakespeare's purpose to show that she acts solely for her husband's sake as Verity observes.  Lady Macbeth makes her second soliloquy in the same scene after she receives the news of the imminent arrival of the King in her castle. She begins to look upon Duncan's visit as his "fatal entrance" into her castle. She invokes the Spirits to "unsex” and harden her so that her feminine instincts do not stand in the way of the achievement of her purpose. Her speech also shows her as a woman of extreme nervous sensibility, She knows that she must bend her will to the breaking point, if she is not to fail in the middle of the work which now she means to do herself, though afterwards she makes Macbeth do it. This intense strain on her will, by the natural process of reaction, contributes greatly to her ultimate breakdown. Coleridge thus comments on the last few lines of the soliloquy:  "Her speech, 'Come, all you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts' etc. is that of one who had habitually familiarized her imagination to dreadful perceptions, and was trying to do so still more. Her invocations and requisitions are all the false efforts of the mind accustomed only hitherto to the shadows of the imagination, vivid enough to throw the everyday substances of life into shadow, but never as yet brought into direct contact with their own correspondent realities”  Lady Macbeth's third soliloquy in Act iii, Sc. ii reveals her state of depression. Her words, "Nought's had, all's spent", reveals the profound melancholy that has been enveloping her whole being from the moment of achieving her ambition. Bradley thus narrates her present state of mind:   "The glory of her dream has faded. She has thrown away everything and gained nothing. She reached at the golden diadem, which is to sear her brain".   The soliloquy also serves the dramatic purpose of contributing to the pathos of the tragedy.   Banquo's soliloquy:  Banquo's soliloquy at the opening of Act III, Sc. i is significant in that it throws some light on his character. Here we find that Banquo's assumed nobility and honesty are in no way perfect. He is also guilty of unlawful ambition. He hopes that the prophecies of the Witches which have proved true in Macbeth case should also come true in his case. This belief in the Witches does not at least show him as an embodiment of moral perfection.   Conclusion: The soliloquies in “Macbeth” then, as those in other Shakespearean plays, function as an effective dramatic instrument of illuminating character and conflict, for accelerating the action, and for the evocation of its intended atmosphere.

A popular dramatic device:
Soliloquy is a kind of “dialogue with the self." Etymologically it means "speaking while one is alone". When a character, alone on the stage, is speaking aloud he is making a soliloquy. A soliloquy is effectively employed by a dramatist to reveal the inner and secret thoughts of the characters in a drama and supply to the audience the necessary information not conveyed through dialogue or action.

Shakespeare's use of soliloquy: Shakespeare, like other Elizabethan playwrights, has utilised the literary device of soliloquy for a variety of purposes. He has used them very ably for analysis of motives and purposes of the characters concerned and to help in the
development of the action of the play. He has also used this device to
heighten the tragic or comic effect of his plays to such an extent that
even in this respect no other dramatist can come near him.
Shakespearean soliloquies are, like his poetry and dramatic art, a true reflection of his literary genius.

Macbeth's soliloquies:
Macbeth's asides after hearing the
prophecies are in fact soliloquies that amply reveal the secret going-on in his mind and expose his character. They show Macbeth as a person given to reflection. When the Witches have uttered their prophecies Banquo finds him "rapt" in thought. When Rosse and Angus inform him of the conferment of title of Thane of Cawdor on him he cannot restrain himself from revealing to the audience his secret ambition of becoming King: "The greatest is behind". He looks upon the partial fulfilment of the prophecies "as happy prologues to the swelling act” of the imperial theme, He then goes on to express the inner conflict in his mind through a longer aside. He cannot decide whether this "supernatural soliciting" is evil or good. He admits that the thought of murdering Duncan has entered his mind and has frightened his conscience. These asides bear special dramatic significance. They expose the birth of evil in Macbeth's mind which leads to Duncan's assassination, the central act of the play.

Macbeth speaks another aside in Act I, Sc. iv just after Duncan nominates his son as the Prince of Cumberland and heir to the throne. In this Macbeth expresses greater determination for achieving his goal. He still has some scruples, but he wants to overcome them. So he invokes the stars to hide their fires so that he himself may not see his "black and deep desires". This aside shows a further growth of the thought of murder in Macbeth and thus helps
the plot move forward.

The most famous soliloquy in the whole play is the one spoken by
Macbeth in Act I, Sc. vii where Macbeth is contemplating the murder, with Duncan already in his castle as a guest. This soliloquy beginning “If it were done, when 'tis done" shows Macbeth's reflections on consequences of the murder. There are moral objections to the crime as Duncan is at once his king, kinsman and guest. The soliloquy ends with his realisation that there is no spur to his "intent” except "vaulting ambition”. The poetical lines in the soliloquy disclose his
innermost soul and through them we can trace the gradual hardening of his heart and searing of his conscience. It is from no "compunctious visitings of nature" but from sheer moral cowardice-from a fear of retribution in this life-that we find Macbeth hesitating, at the last moment, to commit his enormous crime. Once convinced that punishment in this life can be avoided, Macbeth regains his
determination and proceeds to kill his sleeping guest.

Macbeth's next soliloquy, made just before he proceeds to murder Duncan, is a product of his heated mind. He can see a bloody dagger which is nothing but a hallucination, an expression of his guilty mind. This soliloquy once again reveals the highly imaginative
mind of Macbeth. The soliloquy that he makes in Act II, Sc. ii shows a
mind totally upset by a strong sense of guilt. Any noise terrifies him now. He can see blood on his hands that will make the “multitudinous seas" red.

His soliloquy in Act III, Se. i confirms his transformation into an absolute criminal. In this speech he expresses
his jealousy and fears of Banquo whom he proposes to eliminate. The
soliloquy is also significant as it throws light on Banquo's character.
It is also a prelude to the next important development of the plot
Banquo's murder.

Of the other minor soliloquies, one that Macbeth makes in Act V, Sc. v deserves attention. This soliloquy where he says, "I have supped full with horrors", shows the numbness that has overcome Macbeth's feelings, and evokes a distinct sense of pathos.

Before the end of the play Macbeth makes two brief soliloquies on the battlefield. In one he compares himself to a trapped animal-a bear tied to a stake and baited by dogs.But he expresses the confidence that he fears no man born of a woman. In the other brief
soliloquy he expresses the determination to go ahead and fight and not kill himself. But in the ensuing duel with Macduff, he is killed.


Lady Macbeth's soliloquies:
Lady Macbeth also makes a few
soliloquies in the play. The most important of them occurs in Act I
Sc. v after she has read her husband's letter in which he has informed her of the prophecies. The soliloquy plays an important role in the revelation of Macbeth's character. No one knows Macbeth more
intimately than his wife. So her analysis of Macbeth's nature through
this soliloquy has to be accepted as authentic. We are told that Macbeth is "not without ambition" but that he is "without the illness should attend it". She tells us that her husband "wouldst not play false,/And yet wouldst wrongly win". She deplores that Macbeth is too full o' th' milk of human kindness". As the speech tells us much about Macbeth, so it tells us a good deal about Lady Macbeth, for in analysing the character of others a speaker must reveal something of
his own self. She exemplifies to a high degree the influence of ambition as a force that sustains the will to a certain point, and overbears all scruples in self and others. It can also be noted that she
never hints at personal animosity towards Duncan. It is Shakespeare's purpose to show that she acts solely for her husband's sake as Verity observes.

Lady Macbeth makes her second soliloquy in the same scene after she receives the news of the imminent arrival of the King in her castle. She begins to look upon Duncan's visit as his "fatal entrance" into her castle. She invokes the Spirits to "unsex” and harden her so that her feminine instincts do not stand in the way of the achievement of her purpose. Her speech also shows her as a woman
of extreme nervous sensibility, She knows that she must bend her will to the breaking point, if she is not to fail in the middle of the work which now she means to do herself, though afterwards she makes Macbeth do it. This intense strain on her will, by the natural process of reaction, contributes greatly to her ultimate breakdown.
Coleridge thus comments on the last few lines of the soliloquy:
"Her speech, 'Come, all you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts' etc. is that of one who had habitually familiarized her imagination to dreadful perceptions, and was trying to do so still more. Her
invocations and requisitions are all the false efforts of the mind accustomed only hitherto to the shadows of the imagination, vivid enough to throw the everyday substances of life into shadow, but never as yet brought into direct contact with their own correspondent
realities”

Lady Macbeth's third soliloquy in Act iii, Sc. ii reveals her state of depression. Her words, "Nought's had, all's spent", reveals the
profound melancholy that has been enveloping her whole being from
the moment of achieving her ambition. Bradley thus narrates her
present state of mind:

"The glory of her dream has faded. She has
thrown away everything and gained nothing. She reached at the
golden diadem, which is to sear her brain".

The soliloquy also serves
the dramatic purpose of contributing to the pathos of the tragedy.


Banquo's soliloquy:
Banquo's soliloquy at the opening of Act III, Sc. i is significant in that it throws some light on his character.
Here we find that Banquo's assumed nobility and honesty are in no
way perfect. He is also guilty of unlawful ambition. He hopes that the prophecies of the Witches which have proved true in Macbeth case should also come true in his case. This belief in the Witches does
not at least show him as an embodiment of moral perfection.


Conclusion: The soliloquies in “Macbeth” then, as those in other
Shakespearean plays, function as an effective dramatic instrument of illuminating character and conflict, for accelerating the action, and
for the evocation of its intended atmosphere.

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