Macbeth

by

William Shakespeare

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Macbeth: Mood 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Definition of Mood
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes in the reader. Every aspect of a piece of writing... read full definition
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes in the reader. Every aspect... read full definition
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes... read full definition
Act 2, scene 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout Macbeth, Shakespeare deftly utilizes imagery, dramatic irony, and pacing to establish a grim and foreboding mood. The majority of important scenes, including the murders of Duncan and Banquo, take place at night, and characters' use of visual imagery presages the illicit deeds that will be carried out under cover of darkness. In Act 2, Scene 1, for example, Banquo uses a vivid metaphor to draw attention the lack of starlight, which portends the murder of Duncan:

Banquo: There’s husbandry in heaven;
Their candles are all out.

Shakespeare extensive use of auditory imagery also contributes to this sense of foreboding. Macbeth opens with the sound of thunder, indicating that nature will be thrown into chaos, while the cries of night birds produce an ominous atmosphere. At the end of Act 2, Scene 1, the sound of a bell forebodes the death of Duncan:

Macbeth: The bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell

In Act 2, Scene 2, the sound of knocking at the castle gate creates a frantic mood, as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth must hurry to conceal evidence of their crime. As the knocking continues, Macbeth becomes increasingly agitated:

Macbeth: Wake Duncan with thy knocking. I would thou
    couldst.

Shakespeare also produces this sense of dread through dramatic irony. Over the course of the play, the audience often learns information long before the characters do: In Act 2, Scene 3, the audience is aware that Duncan is dead and must wait for the Macduff to discover his corpse; they know that murderers are lying in wait for Banquo in Act 3, Scene 3; and they know that assassins will arrive for Macduff's family in Act 4, Scene 2. This dramatic irony creates the impression that the play's events are fated to occur.

Shakespeare reinforces this tense mood through his use of pacing. Moments of violence or intense emotion are often preceded by slowly paced monologues and conversations:  In Act 2, Scene 1, Macbeth pauses before killing Duncan to delivery a lengthy soliloquy, and in Act 4, Scene 3, Ross delays for nearly 60 lines after his entrance before finally delivering the news that Macduff's family has been murdered. The sluggish pace creates a feeling of anticipation and heightens the oppressive, anxious mood.

The pacing of other scenes, by contrast, can feel quite rapid. The entirety of Act 5 consists of short, high-velocity scenes, none of which exceed 100 lines. This pacing reflects the frantic, energized mood of battle, and indicates that that events are moving fatalistically toward their ends.

Act 2, scene 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout Macbeth, Shakespeare deftly utilizes imagery, dramatic irony, and pacing to establish a grim and foreboding mood. The majority of important scenes, including the murders of Duncan and Banquo, take place at night, and characters' use of visual imagery presages the illicit deeds that will be carried out under cover of darkness. In Act 2, Scene 1, for example, Banquo uses a vivid metaphor to draw attention the lack of starlight, which portends the murder of Duncan:

Banquo: There’s husbandry in heaven;
Their candles are all out.

Shakespeare extensive use of auditory imagery also contributes to this sense of foreboding. Macbeth opens with the sound of thunder, indicating that nature will be thrown into chaos, while the cries of night birds produce an ominous atmosphere. At the end of Act 2, Scene 1, the sound of a bell forebodes the death of Duncan:

Macbeth: The bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell

In Act 2, Scene 2, the sound of knocking at the castle gate creates a frantic mood, as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth must hurry to conceal evidence of their crime. As the knocking continues, Macbeth becomes increasingly agitated:

Macbeth: Wake Duncan with thy knocking. I would thou
    couldst.

Shakespeare also produces this sense of dread through dramatic irony. Over the course of the play, the audience often learns information long before the characters do: In Act 2, Scene 3, the audience is aware that Duncan is dead and must wait for the Macduff to discover his corpse; they know that murderers are lying in wait for Banquo in Act 3, Scene 3; and they know that assassins will arrive for Macduff's family in Act 4, Scene 2. This dramatic irony creates the impression that the play's events are fated to occur.

Shakespeare reinforces this tense mood through his use of pacing. Moments of violence or intense emotion are often preceded by slowly paced monologues and conversations:  In Act 2, Scene 1, Macbeth pauses before killing Duncan to delivery a lengthy soliloquy, and in Act 4, Scene 3, Ross delays for nearly 60 lines after his entrance before finally delivering the news that Macduff's family has been murdered. The sluggish pace creates a feeling of anticipation and heightens the oppressive, anxious mood.

The pacing of other scenes, by contrast, can feel quite rapid. The entirety of Act 5 consists of short, high-velocity scenes, none of which exceed 100 lines. This pacing reflects the frantic, energized mood of battle, and indicates that that events are moving fatalistically toward their ends.

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