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Use of Dramatic Poetry in "Macbeth"

The Use of Dramatic Poetry in "Macbeth"

William Shakespeare uses the passage of poetry in Act I, scene iii, lines 127-42 to dramatize the tragic and supernatural aspects of the action in "Macbeth." The passage delineates the action in the play by raising the questions of morality and honor that Macbeth will face and to which he will fall victim. It makes clear that Macbeth has a choice about which path he may choose to follow after the witches' prophecy. However, it also raises the question of the double-edged nature of ambition and the uncertainty of vision that can lead from blind ambition.

Macbeth begins the passage by stating that "[t]wo truths are told, As happy prologues to the swelling act Of the imperial theme" (I. iii. 127-29). He is referring to the witches' three-fold prophecy that he shall be first thane of Glamis, then thane of Cawdor, and then King of Scotland. When the first two prophecies come to pass, Macbeth is faced with the question of how the third could come to pass while Duncan, the present King of Scotland, is living with two sons to serve as heirs. But more than the mechanics of such an ascension, Macbeth is faced with the question of why such a prophecy would be revealed to him. Why would the witches stimulate his ambition to such a position?

Macbeth is forced to question that "[t]his supernatural soliciting Cannot be ill, cannot be good" (I. iii. 130-31). For if it is ill, why would the witches, who represent the supernatural forces of fate and nature, arouse his ambition by proving to him that their prophecy could come true to force him to pursue an action in which there is no truth? Macbeth does not interrogate the witches' motives sufficiently to ask himself whether the prophecy is in fact merely a test of his honor and his character. This is so because the witches have tapped into Macbeth's unarticulated desire and ambition. Undoubtedly, most men in his position would wish themselv...

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