In the play Macbeth, Shakespeare makes the death of Duncan dramatic in many ways.
A way in which Shakespeare makes Duncans death appear so dramatic is by the fact that his loyal and trusted servant is the one to kill him. This sense of irony heightens the drama as from the description of Macbeth, he would be the last person to expect this from.
Macbeth is the hero of the play as well as being the villain and it is this dual role that makes the play seem so dramatic. Shakespeare adds a twist into the play by making Macbeth appear to be something which he is not. He is first presented to us as a loyal servant to the king and to Scotland. This is reflected by Duncans appreciative comments such as more is thy due than more than all can pay and the superlative o worthiest cousin. We are told that due to his heroic acts in the battlefield, he is going to replace the Thane of Cawdor, who has been deceitful, and betrayed Duncan. This tells us that Duncan has already been betrayed before. Macbeth is courageous and looks up to Duncan, to whom he sees it his duty to protect and honour. We find out that Duncan himself is not a fighter himself as he is unaware of what brutal things have happened on the battlefield because he says,
What bloody man is that? He can report, as seemeth by his plight
(Act 1, Scene 2, line 1)
This tells us Duncan is the type of King who stays in his castle and leaves the soldiers do the fighting. There has been a civil war in Scotland, which indicates to us that Duncans kingship is being doubted, hence the reason for the Thane of Cawdor betraying him and thus becoming a traitor. We are also made aware of the central issue of the chain of Beings and the Divine Right of Kings. The order is God, King, Nobles and finally ordinary people. The King sees himself, as does everyone else, as Gods representative on Earth, and killing him is by far worse than killing an ordinary person. If the chain is ever broken chaos is said to break out and in this way Shakespeare makes Duncans death dramatic as by killing him, Macbeth will cause chaos because he is in fact murdering someone who has been chosen by God.
Duncan is the King of Scotland. Recently there has been political unrest, and there has been an attempt to overthrow him. He is presented to us as a religious, innocent and na¯¿½ve man. Duncan is seen as na¯¿½ve. He says,
Theres no art to find the minds construction in the face.
(Act 1, Scene 4, line 11-12)
This metaphor indicates to us that he is a na¯¿½ve man. He is so innocent that appears that it will be easy for Macbeth to take advantage of him. Here he claims that one cannot tell by looking at someone what they are thinking. As he believes this, he makes no attempt to see through people. This makes us question his judgement as he had built absolute trust on a man that had betrayed him. This also makes the audience wonder whether he will be deceived again by the man that will take the The Thane of Cawdors position and therefore add to the sense of drama by giving the audience a sense of intrigue.
Macbeth is in a dilemma whether he should or should not kill the king. This is all revealed in Macbeths soliloquy where he speaks alone to the audience, revealing his inner most thoughts. This is a dramatic way in which Shakespeare lets us know what the characters are really thinking. In this speech Shakespeare creates a sense of catastrophe by the language with which he gives to Macbeth. He recognises that he should not do the deed when he states that as the Host he should against his murderer shut the door not bear the knife myself. This poetic language makes us realise that Macbeth is sensitive and adds a sense of drama as it makes us more aware that what he is doing is greatly wrong. The heavy sounding d of deep damnation sticks in the audiences ears as Macbeth is sensitive as indicated by the poetic language.
Hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels, trumpet-tongud, against the deep damnation of his taking-off
(Act 1, Scene 7, line 18-20)
The imagery of angels telling heaven and voices like trumpets to cry out against the deed, which is not what he wants, and so he eventually decides not to do it. This makes Duncans death dramatic because it is such a huge decision to make and there is a twist and turn in him making his decision, and the fact that Duncan is linked with religious imagery in the form of angels. Shows the impact of the death high lighting that every eye shall be affected reinforcing what a loved man Duncan is
Act Two opens dramatically with darkness surrounding the stage and the audience in suspense as to whether or not Macbeth will commit the horrid deed.
However, by the end of the scene, Macbeth decides to kill Duncan, after being persuaded by his wife. Lady Macbeth has ambitions for him. She wants him to be king and has always wanted this for her husband, and is determined that he fulfils his ambitions. She persuades him and tells him her plan. All Macbeth has to do is put it into action. This leaves the ball in Macbeths court. Everything is set up for him, and all that is left for him to do is commit the murder, which also adds to the drama.
Lady Macbeth also adds drama as she waits downstairs waiting for Macbeth to report to her after he has murdered Duncan. This leaves us in suspense over whether he is going to follow his own will or that of his wife, and we are kept in suspense. Just before killing Duncan, there is another soliloquy. Macbeth imagines that there is a dagger in front of him, which is guiding him towards killing Duncan. He is ready to kill, and he is in a horrific state. All the evil things are coming together, and he is breaking the order. In doing this, he is going against the Divine Right of Kings, and is going against the whole world. There is darkness and Macbeth does not want the whole world to see how evil he is. When the bell rings, that is the point where he proceeds to murder Duncan, who once again has failed to read the minds construction in the face.
We are not shown the killing and in this way it appears more dramatic as we are left to imagine for ourselves. After killing Duncan, Shakespeare makes things more dramatic and this is shown by the language that Shakespeare gives to Macbeth to convey his sense of guilt. He tells his wife,
One cried God bless us! and Amen the other, as they had seen me with these hangman hands, listning their fear, I could not say Amen when they did say God Bless us.
(Act 2, Scene 2, lines 29-32)
Macbeth cannot pray, and this is shown to us when Macbeth is obsessed with his inability to say Amen, as he knows that he has been seen with his bloody hands after murdering Duncan. He is conscience stricken as he struggles to say Amen. Macbeth now feels cut off completely from God, and there is no longer a relationship between himself and God and because God has seen everything he has done, he can never turn to him again, and pray.
Macbeth also feels haunted by a voice saying that he has murdered and will never sleep again,
Me thought I heard a voice cry, sleep no more: Macbeth does murder sleep
(Act 2, Scene 2, lines 37-39)
Now Macbeth thinks he hears a voice that is telling him that he will never sleep again. All this makes Duncans death so dramatic, not because of the way Macbeth killed him, but the consequences going through Macbeths head afterwards. Not only is Macbeth unable to pray, but now he is unable to sleep as well.
Also the fact that Macbeth feels that not even an entire ocean can wash his hands of the deed, suggests a state of total damnation. He says,
Will all great Neptunes ocean wash all this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incardine, making the green one red
(Act 2, Scene 2, lines 63-64)
Macbeth feels that not even an entire ocean can remove the guilt and wash the blood from his hands, and instead the countless masses of water will turn blood red, because there is so much of it, and the green sea a red sea. Macbeths guilt is expressed through the image of blood, and he believes no matter what he does or where he goes, the guilt will always be there with him.
Macbeth finally admits how great the crime he has committed is, when he says,
Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst
(Act 2, Scene 2, line 77)
Macbeth wishes he could turn back time. He wishes that the moment when he plunged the dagger into Duncans flesh never happened, and that he could make it disappear. He says that if it were possible to bring Duncan back to life he would. This seals Macbeths misery, and makes the death seem even more dramatic because the murderer himself is miserable and regrets killing Duncan.