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Vocabulary Words
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Writing Assignments
Critical Review


Basic to every plot is conflict, or struggle. External conflict occurs when a character struggles against another person or an outside force.  In Macbeth there is external conflict between Macbeth and Macduff.  Internal conflict is that which occurs within the ming of a character.  Macbeth's agonizing over whether or not to kill Duncan is an example of internal conflict. *


Setting is the time and place in which the events in a literary work take place.  The general setting of Macbeth is Scotland (and briefly England) in the tenth and eleventh centuries.  Specific scenes are set at Inverness, on a desolate heath, in the royal palace at Forres, and so on.  Because of the limited scenery in Elizabethan drama, Shakespeare often had his characters describe their surroundings. *


The atmosphere in Macbeth is one of doom and foreboding.  Much of the action takes place in foul weather or in the "thick night" of darkened castles.  The witches and apparitions cast a pall whenever they appear.  Except for the porter's brief speech, there is little in the play resembling lightheartedness. *


Imagery is usually visual, but it can evoke responses from any of the senses.  Images, wrote one critic, like thos of"...pouring the sweet milk of concord into hell; of the earth shaking in fever;...of the tale told by an idiot...-all keep the imagination  moving 'on a wild and violent sea.'..." *


The theme of a literay work is its central idea, an idea that can usually be expressed as a general statement about life.  Every element in a work of literature-plot, character, setting, and so on- contributes to the theme.  In many works of literature, including Macbeth, the theme pertains not only to the lives of the characters on stage but also, and more importantly, to the lives of the members of the audience.  Sometimes it is possible to state a theme in one sentence, althought complex literary works may require a lengthier explanation.  A theme may be directly state, but more commonly it is implied. *

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