Macbeth

by

William Shakespeare

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Macbeth: Tone 1 key example

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Definition of Tone
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical or mournful, praising or critical, and so on. For instance... read full definition
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical or mournful, praising or critical... read full definition
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical... read full definition
Act 1, scene 2
Explanation and Analysis:

The tone of Macbeth undergoes several changes throughout the play, but there is always an undercurrent of gloom.

Many scenes that occur just before or after episodes of battle have a cheerfully morbid tone, with characters pairing violent imagery with a triumphant attitude. In Act 1, Scene 2, for example, a captain gleefully describes how Macbeth disemboweled and subsequently beheaded the rebel Macdonwald, news that the supposedly saintly Duncan receives with joy:

Captain: For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name),
Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like Valor’s minion, carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops,
And fixed his head upon our battlements.

Duncan: O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!

Other sections of the play have a thoroughly mournful tone. In Act 4, Scene 3, for instance, Ross delivers a long speech lamenting Scotland's plight:

Ross: Alas, poor country,
Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot
Be called our mother, but our grave, where nothing
But who knows nothing is once seen to smile;
Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rent the air
Are made, not marked; where violent sorrow seems
A modern ecstasy. The dead man’s knell
Is there scarce asked for who, and good men’s lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps,
Dying or ere they sicken.

Aside from the porter's appearance in Act 2, Scene 3, there are few moments of true levity, but some scenes have a darkly ironic tone. In Act 3, Scene 6, as Lennox ponders the deaths of Duncan and Banquo, his sarcasm is palpable, as he cuttingly asks of Macbeth's horrific, murderous behavior: "Was not that nobly done?"

Elsewhere, in Act 5, Scene 3, Macbeth's acerbic tone creates a moment of comedy in an otherwise solemn episode:

Macbeth: The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!
Where got’st thou that goose-look?

Servant: There is ten thousand—

Macbeth: Geese, villain?

Servant: Soldiers, sir.

Aside from this somewhat comedic moment, the majority of Act 5 has a bleak and increasingly fatalistic tone. Macbeth's speech in Act 5, Scene 5, for example, is totally apathetic, and by the end of the play, his attitude is more indifferent than despairing, and the tone is one of begrudging acceptance of death and fate.

Act 4, scene 3
Explanation and Analysis:

The tone of Macbeth undergoes several changes throughout the play, but there is always an undercurrent of gloom.

Many scenes that occur just before or after episodes of battle have a cheerfully morbid tone, with characters pairing violent imagery with a triumphant attitude. In Act 1, Scene 2, for example, a captain gleefully describes how Macbeth disemboweled and subsequently beheaded the rebel Macdonwald, news that the supposedly saintly Duncan receives with joy:

Captain: For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name),
Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like Valor’s minion, carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops,
And fixed his head upon our battlements.

Duncan: O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!

Other sections of the play have a thoroughly mournful tone. In Act 4, Scene 3, for instance, Ross delivers a long speech lamenting Scotland's plight:

Ross: Alas, poor country,
Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot
Be called our mother, but our grave, where nothing
But who knows nothing is once seen to smile;
Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rent the air
Are made, not marked; where violent sorrow seems
A modern ecstasy. The dead man’s knell
Is there scarce asked for who, and good men’s lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps,
Dying or ere they sicken.

Aside from the porter's appearance in Act 2, Scene 3, there are few moments of true levity, but some scenes have a darkly ironic tone. In Act 3, Scene 6, as Lennox ponders the deaths of Duncan and Banquo, his sarcasm is palpable, as he cuttingly asks of Macbeth's horrific, murderous behavior: "Was not that nobly done?"

Elsewhere, in Act 5, Scene 3, Macbeth's acerbic tone creates a moment of comedy in an otherwise solemn episode:

Macbeth: The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!
Where got’st thou that goose-look?

Servant: There is ten thousand—

Macbeth: Geese, villain?

Servant: Soldiers, sir.

Aside from this somewhat comedic moment, the majority of Act 5 has a bleak and increasingly fatalistic tone. Macbeth's speech in Act 5, Scene 5, for example, is totally apathetic, and by the end of the play, his attitude is more indifferent than despairing, and the tone is one of begrudging acceptance of death and fate.

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Act 5, scene 3
Explanation and Analysis:

The tone of Macbeth undergoes several changes throughout the play, but there is always an undercurrent of gloom.

Many scenes that occur just before or after episodes of battle have a cheerfully morbid tone, with characters pairing violent imagery with a triumphant attitude. In Act 1, Scene 2, for example, a captain gleefully describes how Macbeth disemboweled and subsequently beheaded the rebel Macdonwald, news that the supposedly saintly Duncan receives with joy:

Captain: For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name),
Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like Valor’s minion, carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops,
And fixed his head upon our battlements.

Duncan: O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!

Other sections of the play have a thoroughly mournful tone. In Act 4, Scene 3, for instance, Ross delivers a long speech lamenting Scotland's plight:

Ross: Alas, poor country,
Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot
Be called our mother, but our grave, where nothing
But who knows nothing is once seen to smile;
Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rent the air
Are made, not marked; where violent sorrow seems
A modern ecstasy. The dead man’s knell
Is there scarce asked for who, and good men’s lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps,
Dying or ere they sicken.

Aside from the porter's appearance in Act 2, Scene 3, there are few moments of true levity, but some scenes have a darkly ironic tone. In Act 3, Scene 6, as Lennox ponders the deaths of Duncan and Banquo, his sarcasm is palpable, as he cuttingly asks of Macbeth's horrific, murderous behavior: "Was not that nobly done?"

Elsewhere, in Act 5, Scene 3, Macbeth's acerbic tone creates a moment of comedy in an otherwise solemn episode:

Macbeth: The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!
Where got’st thou that goose-look?

Servant: There is ten thousand—

Macbeth: Geese, villain?

Servant: Soldiers, sir.

Aside from this somewhat comedic moment, the majority of Act 5 has a bleak and increasingly fatalistic tone. Macbeth's speech in Act 5, Scene 5, for example, is totally apathetic, and by the end of the play, his attitude is more indifferent than despairing, and the tone is one of begrudging acceptance of death and fate.

Unlock with LitCharts A+