First…
The word structure means the way in which the plot (the basic story) is organized, so the audience finds it satisfyi
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Shakespeare: "Macbeth"
ng – this lecture will be dealing with the elements in the plot and structure which the audience finds fascinating. Knowing the structure helps the audience to get a better understanding of the plot.


The play Macbeth by William Shakespeare is organized into 5 acts – the so-called Five-Act Structure. The plot is chronological and there aren’t flashbacks. Each act contains several scenes; an example is act three which contains six scenes. The play starts with a prologue scene given by the three witches who occasionally appear between major scenes to foreshadow or comment on events, e.g. act 1, scene 3 (the drums). The three witches start the play with a prophecy that Macbeth will become king and that Banquo’s children will become kings after Macbeth – the scene with the witches is like an initial incident. Furthermore, Shakespeare has some offstage actions in the plot, for example Duncan’s murder and Lady Macbeth’s death. The audience isn't involved in these two scenes.

The Five-Act Structure
Macbeth is organized into five acts:

1. Act I: Exposition: The exposition is quite unclear since the characters are introduced throughout the first part of the play. The entire first act might be a very long exposition. The Witches’ predictions.

2. Act II: Complication: The main conflict becomes more and more complex. The rising action is when some of the prophecies are coming true and Lady Macbeth is trying to convince Macbeth to kill King Duncan. The murder of Duncan.

3. Act III: Crisis: The turning point in the action – point of no return. The murder of Banquo.

4. Act IV: Resolution: The dramatic elements become clearer – the two forces in conflict (good versus evil) grow stronger. All the events occurring after the murder where Macbeth tries to hide his crime and maintain his position as a king " the falling action. Furthermore, Lady Macbeth goes insane. The murder of Lady Macduff.

5. Act V: Dénouement/Disclosure: The “untying of the knots” " Lady Macbeth dies and Macbeth is executed. Malcolm becomes a king. The dénouement contains the catastrophe and the emotional climax. Retribution: Crime doesn’t pay.

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The Five-Act Structure

This structure is like the Hollywood Model, which is seen below:

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The Hollywood Model


A poem – acted out in the seven letters of Macbeth’s name


The poem is acted out in seven letters of Macbeth’s name: seven lines, seven events from the plot:


Meeting three Witches on the blasted heath
Ambition grew and poisoned brave Macbeth.
Cunning, his wife led him to stab the king,
Banquo was next. His Ghost spoiled everything.
Evil now reigned as Macbeth killed all dead,
Tyranny ended when Macduff saw red.
Hope came with Malcolm, Macbeth lost his head.

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The poem
Vocabulary

  • Catastrophe: Katastrofe: The final event of a tragedy, in which the protagonist dies (in Macbeth: Macbeth dies)
  • Climax: Klimaks/højdepunkt: The point at which the intensity of the emotions of the audience reach a peak
  • Complication: Forvikling
  • Cunning: Listig (some would say that Lady Macbeth is cunning)
  • Dénouement: Afsløring
  • Exposition: Redegørelse (The opening stage of a play)
  • Offstage: I kulissen (scenen “finder sted” i kulissen – publikum ser ikke den specifikke scene)
  • Resolution: Opløsning
  • Retribution: Gengældelse – “Crime doesn’t pay” (Macbeth is killed)