I am comparing the two plays ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Macbeth’. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in 1606, but it was set in around 1040. ‘Wake Up’, our devised piece, was written in 2005, where the play is also set. Macbeth is a Shakespearian tragedy, set loosely around the time of 1040. There are clear themes of suspicion, plotting, deception, blood and murder within the play. One of the reasons Shakespeare wrote the Macbeth was to please the king at the time, James I of England.
The story of Macbeth is generally based around Raphael Holinshed’s historical writing, Chronicles of England Scotland and Ireland, which depicts story of a Scottish king who murdered his way to the throne in 1040 as Macbeth does in the play. This tribute to James I’s Scottish ancestry, and the fact that Banquo is a noble man is not mere coincidence; this was the name of the founder of the royal family of Stuarts in Scotland, to whom James can trace his heritage. King James was also a sound believer in the occult, so Shakespeare included the supernatural idea of witches in order to appeal to James I’s theological interests.
‘Wake Up’ was both written and set in 2005. It was written as a devised GCSE piece, and the stimulus for the idea was a piece of text about dreams and reality. There are various underlying themes, such as dreams and reality, deception, and Heaven and Hell. The idea was to create a play which, while being realistic, was at the same time surreal in places. The plot in ‘Macbeth’ centres around the rise and fall of Macbeth himself. It opens with Macbeth being made Thane of Cawdor for his bravery in battle, killing the opposing leader Macdonwald. At this point, Macbeth appears a strong, noble character He then meets witches, who tell him he will become King. Banquo is told that his descendants will become Kings.
Banquo is suspicious, but Macbeth is easily swayed towards the witches favour, and his character weakens. After King Duncan has named his son the next King, Macbeth sees his chances dim; his intentions then turn malicious. Lady Macbeth learns of the prophecy, and plots with Macbeth to kill Duncan. After the deed is done, Duncan’s sons flee, leaving Macbeth the throne. He feels victorious, as the prophecy has come true.
Banquo becomes suspicious at this point, so Macbeth has Banquo and his son, Fleance, killed. This fills him with guilt, but he feels he has gone too far to back out at this point. Lady Macbeth then becomes insane, obsessed with ‘blood on her hands’ and commits suicide. Macbeth is disheartened by her death. Malcolm and Macduff plot against Macbeth and then attack. Macbeth feels invincible as he ‘cannot be killed by one of woman born’. But Macduff was born by caesarean so kills Macbeth. Malcolm becomes king.
In ‘Wake Up’, the plot is far simpler than Macbeth. In the beginning, Joe is a ‘nobody’ who lives with his football-crazed flatmate. He is quite depressed with his life. In his dreams, he meets his warped subconscious, Hughbert, and a being who he believes to be his ‘Guardian Angel’. Joe then brightens up, however Hughbert is suspicious of the ‘Angel’. The ‘Angel at this time believes that he has ensnared Joe, so is content but wary of Hughbert. As the play progresses, Joe’s flatmate, Junior, becomes concerned with his dream obsession. Joe obtains sleeping pills, and spends little time awake.
Hughbert tries subtly to warn Joe that the ‘Angel’ isn’t all he seems. The ‘Angel’ at this point believes he has Joe so rapt that Hughbert’s hints are futile, but is aware of Hughbert’s growing confidence and desperation. The ‘Angel’ then encourages Joe to overdose on sleeping pills, and indirectly influences him to kill Junior. He is an evil, deceptive character and knows that this will be the effect. As Joe leaves the ‘dream world’, Hughbert, in desperation, directly warns Joe, but he is already between dreams and reality at this point.
The ‘Angel’ then kills Hughbert, as he may give away the whole plot. Joe then kills Junior by ‘accident’ in a desperate search for his sleeping pills. When he finds them, in his pocket, he takes an overdose. Back in the ‘dream world’, the ‘Angel’ lures Joe into the ‘final room’, Hell. When Joe is inside, the ‘Angel’ (Devil) locks the door and the duality of his character is finally revealed to Joe. The only character left alive at the end is the Devil, if his immortal existence can be classified as ‘life’.
There are quite a few similarities between the plots and characters of these plays. They are both tragic plays, as the endings are of death in both plays: Macbeth kills Macdonwald and several enemy soldiers; he kills King Duncan in his sleep, due to the witches’ influence; he has Banquo and Fleance killed; Lady Macbeth commits suicide, and Macduff kills Macbeth in battle. In ‘Wake Up’, Joe kills Junior and himself, his actions influenced by the ‘Angel’. The ‘Angel’ himself kills Hughbert.
This leads to various similarities between the plays. The character of Macbeth kills Duncan due to the witches, as Joe kills Junior due to the ‘Angel’. The witches can thus be likened to the Angel, luring their prey with promise of greatness, causing death. This deception is common throughout both plays. The death of Banquo is also similar to the death of Junior; both Macbeth and Joe kill their best friends for standing in the way of their foretold elevation. The character of Hughbert bears little likeness to any characters in Macbeth, however. Deception and death are central to both plays.