Explore feelings of horror and tension are created in Macbeth and I'm the King of the Castle Essay Example

Explore feelings of horror and tension are created in Macbeth and I’m the King of the Castle Essay

Explore the ways in which feelings of horror and tension are created in ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare and ‘I’m the King of the Castle’ by Susan Hill

By examining Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, we see he uses horror and tension to describe the dramatic downfall of a once noble man. Macbeth’s pursuit of ambition is shown by the murder of his king and his best friend. Whereas Hill’s ‘I’m the King of the Castle’ is about Kingshaw and Hooper who are two ten year old boys, who have very different personalities and the novel ends with the tragic suicide of Kingshaw due to the bullying he experiences. Both writers use various writing techniques to create the feeling of horror and a build-up of tension in their texts.

Firstly, Hill describes Warings as a horrifying place. She describes it as being ‘entirely graceless, rather tall and badly angled, built of dark red brick.’ This description builds up the horror in the first chapter. The word ‘graceless’ effectively describes the house in its entirety as frightening and purposely so. It also builds up a sense of unease and a terrifying sense of foreboding as it gives the reader a sense of anticipation of what will happen to Kingshaw. It is also described as a place where ‘the summer air was close and still’. The word ‘still’ really builds up the tension as you can imagine the sense of stillness and maybe silence that makes the build-up of the horror in the novel really believable. This is also shown with the isolation of the house, as it is ‘some distance from any other house’. Not only does this evoke as sense of horror and the isolation of the house, but is also symbolic to the isolation of Kingshaw as well. The Red Room is also used very effectively to build up the feeling of horror. It is described as ‘very dark inside the Red Room’, which is a key image in building up the horror for the reader. She may have included it for the only purpose of horror, as a popular ghost story at the time which is a very ironic way of building up a sense of horror in the novel.

Shakespeare also uses setting to build up a feeling of tension and horror in the play. Dunsinane Castle is used to build this up, when Duncan arrives and says, ‘this castle hath a pleasant seat’. This evokes a sense of dramatic irony because the audience know that he and Lady Macbeth plan to kill him. The words ‘pleasant seat’ shows he has no idea which is horrifying, and he actually believes it has a pleasant atmosphere. Also, the weather is used to create a sense of unease in the play, almost straight from the off. In Act 1 Scene 1, the witches say, ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair, Hover through the fog and filthy air.’ This gives a sense of unease with the use of pathetic fallacy, as it is used to describe the feeling not only for that scene, but also for the rest of the play. The same can be said for any scenes which contain the supernatural witches as the weather is almost always used to describe the feeling of that scene, without the use of speech. In Act 1 Scene 3, thunder is used when the witches are prophesising Macbeth’s rise to kingship. The thunder is symbolic to the evil of the scene. Another setting point is at the heath where the witches are introduced to the audience. The ‘desolate place’ where they are introduced evokes a sense of horror and dramatic tension for the play. The word ‘desolate’ presents an isolated place where evil things happen. The evil witches meet there, which is a sign that it is a dark, bad place which is used to symbolise the horrifying nature of the scene.

Shakespeare also relies on his introduction of his characters as well when he is building up the horror and tension and it is often his primary description of them that makes their fall from grace even more horrifying. This is shown by the main character; Macbeth. He is introduced using the opinions of others, and was described as brave and noble. The captain praises Macbeth calling him, ‘brave Macbeth’, and with Banquo, ‘As cannons over-charged with double cracks’. The word ‘brave’ shows the reader that he is a noble man, with a very good sense of honour. Shakespeare then throws the play into turmoil with the witches’ prophecies. The ambitious trait of Macbeth becomes evident especially after their prophecy that he will be made thane of Cawdor comes true. Macbeth is a brave soldier and a powerful man, but he is not virtuous. He is easily tempted into murder to fulfil his ambitions to the throne, and once he commits his first crime and is crowned king of Scotland, he embarks on further atrocities with increasing ease. Macbeth cannot maintain his power because his increasingly brutal actions make him hated as a tyrant. His fall from grace is shown well from ‘brave Macbeth’ to ‘the tyrant, Macbeth’ shows his dramatic fall in his actions that is the key feature of horror and tension in Macbeth. Macbeth’s wife is a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position. Early in the play she seems to be the stronger and more ruthless of the two, as she urges her husband to kill Duncan and seize the crown. This is shown by, ‘Thou must do’ if thou have it’.

The word ‘must’ is the compelling nature that persuades Macbeth that killing Duncan is justified. Unlike Macbeth, Lady Macbeth’s ambition overcomes her maternal womanly nature shown when she says, ‘And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this.’ She is commenting on the fact she would rather kill her own child than break a promise like Macbeth has done which is frightening for the audience, as it really shows her pure sense of evil that she would rather kill her own child than break a promise of a wicked deed. This creates horror as the maternal instinct of a woman is usually huge, whereas here we see her saying she would kill the child if she had broken such a promise, which is frightening for the audience

Hill’s introduction of the characters, like Shakespeare’s, is very effective at building up the horror at the start of the novel. Hooper is one of those who she introduces dramatically which really gives the reader a sense of unease and tension. Kingshaw arrives and this is the first time when we see Hooper’s really evil side. Almost immediately we first see Hooper, one of the first things he says is ‘I didn’t want you to come here.’ He actually sends this down to Kingshaw and this must have made him petrified. Hooper’s complete lack of empathy means that he can’t grasp the consequences of what he says to other people and he can’t put himself into other people’s shows, so doesn’t know that what he says, is deeply hurtful to others. When Hooper sends his message to Kingshaw, Kingshaw ‘stuffed the message fearfully into his pocket.’ This immediately illustrates Kingshaw’s unease at being there, which builds up the tension for the reader as they get a sense of anticipation knowing that something bad will happen to him. In contrast to Hooper however, he does have a strong sense of empathy, as when Hooper becomes ill he chooses to not leave him, even after all Hooper has done. It is summarised with his thought that he would have left him, ‘if he had been vindictive … but he was not.’

We cannot understand why Kingshaw does not just leave him, after the intense bullying experienced by him. This is frightening for the reader as they know that if he doesn’t try and stop the bullying, then it will just continue. This is nicely summarised by, ‘Kingshaw wanted to hit him and hit him and then he was frightened at the way Hooper made him feel like this.’ The fact that he was actually frightened when he thought of hitting him shows us that there is no way Kingshaw will end up well, which again gives the reader a sense of apprehension and fright. The fact that the two children are left to their own devices by the adults also gives the reader a feeling of horror as it makes them wonder whether with more input the end wouldn’t have been as horrible as it was. The 1970s were a time when the relationship between parent and child was a lot less intimate than it is now. This is possibly why Mrs Kingshaw doesn’t notice Kingshaw’s unhappiness even when he tells her straight He tells her ‘I hate him, I told you.’ but her reply is not one of compassion or sympathy. No, she says ‘That is a wicked, wicked way to talk. Whatever can poor Edmund have done to you?’ She believes that Kingshaw is being silly and childish, ‘when Charles was a very small boy, he used to be a little bit frightened. But that of course is forgotten,’ however Kingshaw is still plainly terrified of the circus yet she still can’t see that.

Both texts revolve around tyrannical characters and both of these are willing to do anything to achieve their aims. Interestingly Macbeth does seem to get deeply affected by his deeds, whereas Hooper doesn’t and, if anything seems to enjoy it. This gives a sense of horror to the reader or audience, as this is a ten year old boy, who has such a complete lack of empathy that when he drives Kingshaw to suicide, ‘a spurge of triumph went through him.’

Imagery is also key in both texts when building up the horror and tension. In Macbeth one image is dark which is present in the play during most of the bad deeds, such as Duncan’s and Banquo’s murder. In Macbeth, imagery is used in the form of sleep and dreams, to get across the horrifying feeling of the evil deed committed. After the bloodshed begins Lady Macbeth falls victim to guilt and madness to an even greater degree than her husband, even if it is only in her dream state. Her conscience affects her to such an extent that she eventually commits suicide. Before this, in her troubled state, she sleepwalks. The gentlewoman says ‘It is an accustomed action with her, washing her hands.’ This is showing her troubled state as she is trying to theoretically wash the blood from her hands, showing the audience her conscience has shone through.

This is horrifying for the audience as we see that she feels empathy and is really troubled by it, yet she can only show this empathy and conscience through sleep showing us that she only really feels it when she is in the deep recesses if her mind. This image is also used in I’m the King of the Castle, when Kingshaw has the dream about the puppet show. In this case, the dream is used to show his distraught mind and how distressed he is. ‘ ‘. Both writers use the image of dreams, to get across how troubled the characters are even if the reason they are troubled are very different and this is frightening for the reader or audience as seeing someone so troubled in their sleep, when it is meant to be a time of rest and peace, is a terrifying experience.

Hill uses the style of language to build up the feeling of horror, as throughout the horrible events that Hooper brings onto Kingshaw, we are constantly reminded that these are children. This is shown by their constant childish language, such as ‘Aren’t you scaredy, all by yourself in the dark.’ This is such a childish thing to say, as children always go around saying ‘scaredy cat’, so we don’t think much of it but this almost drives Kingshaw to insanity, ‘he felt himself slipping backwards, into the appalling dream.’ The part where ‘he felt himself slipping backwards’ is showing that he is close to passing out into the nightmare, which shows how terrifying it is for him.. Shakespeare uses the style of Macbeth’s speech to express his deteriorating sanity and his gradual downfall. His speech starts like we would expect someone of his calibre to be, quite arrogant yet very well-spoken, shown by,

‘Kind gentlemen, your pains

Are registered where every day I turn

The leaf to read them. Let us toward the King.’

This part of speech gives us the feeling that he is a very noble man, and

loyal to his king, however when the witches proclaim their prophecy, he immediately starts questioning himself also shown by,

‘Why hath it given me earnest of success,

Commencing in a truth?

His question shows he is troubled with the moral implications of the witches’ predictions. He is horrified at the thought of killing Duncan, but resolves to accept whatever has to be. The question shows that he has immediately been thrown into turmoil by this prophecy, and he gets worse from this point on. Although used differently in context, both use the characters’ style of language to help to build up the horror and tension in the texts.

Shakespeare uses dramatic techniques to show the dramatic downfall of a once noble man into a tyrant, whereas Hill writes about the bullying between two ten year-old boys. There are many similarities between Macbeth and I’m the King of the Castle. Both texts contain evil characters and terrifying plots.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *