Physical setting

Shakespeare’s Macbeth was written in the Elizabethan era around 1506 but it is set in the 11th century in the Scottish Middle Ages. Medieval Scotland is depicted as a wild and dangerous place where power struggles are common. Scotland was also the native country of King James I who was King of England when Macbeth was written and the protector of Shakespeare’s theater company.

The physical setting plays an active role in many ways

The specific setting of the scenes is often vital to understanding the play. The scenes in Macbeth are set either outdoors, typically on desolate heaths or battlefields, or indoors, typically within claustrophobic castle walls. The gloomy settings underline the dark themes of the play. One example is the play’s opening scene in which we meet the three witches. Their presence and the stormy weather make up the setting and indicate to us that we are in for a dramatic story.

Also, many of the scenes are set at night, for instance the murder of Duncan, the murder of Banquo, and the banquet scene with Banquo’s ghost. This contributes to the gloomy atmosphere of evil which generally runs through the play. In Act 1, Scene 5, Lady Macbeth actively addresses the night, asking it to conceal the upcoming murder of Duncan:

Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes.
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry, ‘Hold, ho...

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