“Although terrifying, many of the stories are also darkly comic.” Consider at least two of the stories from The Bloody Chamber in the light of this comment.

“Although terrifying, many of the stories are also darkly comic.”

Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ certainly embeds an element of terror within the collection. However, despite claims of horror apparent in the Marquis from the very start, it is also reasonable to argue that the tale also combines elements of dark comedy within the text provided by the very uncanny male protagonist. By the “leonine” portrayal of the Marquis, to his obvious fascination with murder; The Bloody Chamber could be seen to be crafted as too melodramatic and surreal, therefore setting itself up as dark comedy rather than a text of Gothic literature.

A sense of foreboding is created within the first paragraphs of The Bloody Chamber as the female heroine is constantly referring to the childhood that she “had abandoned.” The tale is set in retrospect and therefore alludes a Romeo and Juliet style tone, by stating the fate of the young girl by her opening lines: “I remembered”; she survives. One reading could suggest that Carter sets up the framework of a young girl telling her horrors from the past as an account, and therefore makes her story more dramatic as the events are gradually unfolded. However, it could also be argued that by the use of telling readers that the young girl survives, Carter steals the tension away from readers in the novel, by allowing us to approach the text with a more light hearted and almost dark comedy style approach to the text by knowing she eventually survives.

Indeed, an insane Marquis’ obsession with murder is surely terrifying, as he possesses a chamber of bodies in his very own castle. Despite one of the bodies being fresh from the “blue imprints” that the Marquis had left, she lay with “dead lips smiling.” Here, Carter combines a very much oppressed taboo of the 1970′s, death, with the slightly uneasy thought of masochistic behavior and the dead victim’s pleasure at feeling pain. It is clear that the juxtaposition of the deep, melancholy feelings associated with death, against the healthy and positive connotations of “smiling” is created to stimulate an unrealistic tone to the story, and therefore Carter reduces the tension in the story, so that it does not overpower the true message hidden within the novel in a way that becomes ineffective: Carter effectively emphasies her traditional feminist criticisms of the complicit female nature.

In addition, it could be argued that the “faery solitude” of the castle, and the abhuman feel of a man that “moved as softly as if all his shoes had soles of velvet” all adds to the tone of creating surrealism within the short story and thus Carter removes the room for almost any realistic aspects in the story. By emphasising the ghostly, uncanny features of the Marquis, as well as detaching the narrative “away from Paris” (symbolising civilisation,) Carter begins to shift away from any reality in the narrative, almost in attempt to allow the terrifying events of discovering a gallery of dead bodies seem dreamlike and unreal and inevitably as far away from reality as possible. Thus, consciously separating the two, The Bloody Chamber is constructed in a matter that shifts away from the true possibility of humans and the real corruption of men. It could be argued that through this, Carter’s The Bloody Chamber allows for a dark comical reading, as it is set up to say that these horrors are impossibilities to real life and therefore, as readers, gives us the permission to laugh at the extent of horror that goes on in the Castle, almost as if it is all too surreal to be true.

Similarly, the review “Carter-Gothic Terrorist” argues that Carter’s aims to shock readers in The Bloody Chamber are ineffective due to being written post World War 2. It argues that the War exposed the brutal capabilities of man in a manner that such butchery is no longer an idea created to instill fear into readers, but an actual real life event. Therefore, The Bloody Chamber is received as a text of pure reality, as opposed to a short story exposing potential human corruption and thus The Bloody Chamber is no longer a text that can be approached with amusement, but a confirmation of excessive terror seen in history.
However, this is not to say that none of the events that occur in The Bloody Chamber appear slightly humorous to readers. Upon finding pornographic material “suffused in [the Marquis] library,” the Gothic protagonist comments “my little nun has found the prayerbooks, has she?” followed by asking “have the nasty pictures scared Baby? Baby mustn’t play with grownups’ toys” the questions in which the Marquis uses to mock the narrator, adds an almost teasing tone to the narrative allowing readers to find amusement in the conversation. However, as with all Gothic literature- things do not always appear ‘black or white.’ Here, Carter uses the question asked by the Marquis to allow readers an insight to what men appear to value most. Through referring to the sexual material as “prayerbooks” it becomes clear that the Marquis worships sexual gratification instead of traditional values of God and religion. Additionally, the playful mocking that the Marquis talks to the young girl appears almost pedophilic and therefore Carter comments on the utmost serious issue of child abuse, echoing that this is far more alarming than an ephemeral piece of “dark comedy.”

Despite the few, if any, instances of dark comedy that Carter incorporates in to her Gothic literature, it is clear that her stories are overpowered by the element of terror- in a way that dark comedy can no longer be sustained in The Bloody Chamber.


“In the stories in The Bloody Chamber Carter is excessively interested in violent instincts.” How far do you agree with this view? June 2011

“In the stories in The Bloody Chamber Carter is excessively interested in violent instincts.” How far do you agree with this view?- taken from the June 2011 paper.
From an obsessed Marquis: inherit with his fascination of having a serial routine repetitive of murder and marriage to the “good child” armed with her fathers “hunting knife,” Carter’s interest in violent instincts is certainly prevalent, with sadism playing a dominant role in The Bloody Chamber and other stories. Yet, through her combination of love, pride and the oppression of women, Carter introduces readers to a number of themes beyond the apparent “violence” that formulate the debate of “excessiveness” within the text.
The first of the Bloody Chamber stories introduces us to a chamber of bodies, fresh with the “blue imprint of his strangler’s fingers.” Indeed, this in itself unveils an extremely shocking projection of the violence taken towards women as the word “fingers” echoes murder being a definite instinct of the Marquis, as he is able to do it with the brutality of his own hands. Murder, being a much oppressed taboo during the 1970′s is juxtaposed against the “dead lips” that “smiled.” lady Therefore, it could be argued that it is not Carter’s fascination with violence that is prevalent in her writing, but her criticism of the complicit and passive nature of women, accepting the dire concequences of curiosity. Thus, violence is not as “excessive” here, but plays as a stimulus to present Carter’s feminist view.
In addition to the “gallery” of murdered wives, Carter presents us with a very uncanny male protagonist, and his compulsion to the “ruby choker.” During the newlyweds honeymoon, he is shown to “kiss them before he kissed [her],” symbolising where his carnal values are placed: the rubies. Carter uses his obsession to the jewels to foreshadow the plans of decapitation of the young girl. Some may say that the Marquis’ constant fixation with the choker represents his inherit violent nature, and thus Carter subverts the readers expectations of love and passion and taints it with the Count’s thirst for murder and his obsession with sadism.
The Werewolf is one of the shortest stories in the collection, also possessing the typical theme of violence in Gothic literature. Readers are presented with a “child” that encounters a wolf on the way to her grandmothers where she “slashed off it’s right forepaw.” Carter transgresses beyond the expectations of the children’s moral story Red Riding Hood in order to allow readers into the dark possibilities of evil. Similar to The Bloody Chamber, Carter presents us with an innocent heroine, who soon becomes detached with her purity as a result of her “potentiality” for “corruption.” Through the use of a “good child” committing such violence, Carter suggests that even the most pure also has the possibility to become contaminated. Certainly, by making a child become the bearer of such evil, Carter shows an obsession with corrupting the most naive with violence.

In addition, Carter also shows violence in The Werewolf through the death of the young child’s grandmother. Carter starts the short story by creating a mundane, domestic setting. Yet, the village is a superstitious one, where “wreaths of garlic on the doors keep out the vampires.” When the Wolf’s paw is recognised as “her grandmother’s hand,” the young girl takes her out onto the “snow” and “pelted her with stones until she fell dead.” A contemporary reader of this text was more likely to be more familiar with wolf hunting practices, and therefore may interpret the death of a grandmother being much more cruel than deciding to “beat the old carcass” of a wolf. It could be said that because Carter decides to murder the wolf when it is in human form, only echoes the brutality of the death and therefore enhances the idea of violence within The Bloody Chamber. However, some readers may refute and argue that due to Carter creating a superstitious setting, the young girl is merely a product of society and therefore perpetuates the traditions of her village. Thus, it is not the young girl who is violent, but the customs of the village that has resulted in the harsh murder of her grandmother; the young girl is simply carrying out what she knows.

How do you respond to the view that the supernatural elements in Macbeth represent Macbeth’s own internal struggles?

How do you respond to the view that the supernatural elements in Macbeth represent Macbeth’s own internal struggles?

This is a past question from the “Tuesday 24 January 2012” paper. It includes an introduction and the first two sections: the witches and the ghost of Banquo. I will complete this later 😀 If you have any tips on how I can improve my essay, please comment! 😀

Despite Macbeth being written long before what is traditionally accepted as the first gothic novel: “The Castle of Ortranto,” it is not to say that Gothic elements such as the supernatural do not exist in Shakespeare’s plays. It could be argued that Macbeth’s inner turmoil is often expressed through the use of magic realism and the supernatural, however; the character of Macbeth is much too complex to make such straight forward statements.

In act 1 scene 1, the audience are introduced to the typical supernatural feature of three “wyrd” sisters. To the modern audience, the connotations of “weird” suggest themes of unusual and the uncanny; however, to the audience during the period of 1606, the term “wyrd” reflects the belief of fate and serendipity. Through the use of the question “when shall we three meet again?”- asked by the First Witch, Shakespeare immediately portrays the sisters as having power over natural order. In this case: the sisters being able to determine weather. Therefore, the audience are likely to envisage the witches as devices for potential corruption, and predict them as a stimulus for evil. It could be argued that the supernatural element of the witches represent Macbeth’s inner stuggle, as later on in Act 2 Scene 1, Macbeth cries “The handle toward my hand? Come let me clutch thee.” By asking if the dagger is the handle coming “towards” his hand, Shakespeare suggests that it is the dagger that taunts Macbeth into committing regicide, as opposed to being his own inner evil force of the mind. In their abhorrence to nature, the witches become a tool of delivering Macbeth’s fate, and therefore use their power to torment the troubled and perplexed Macbeth with a dagger “before [him].” The witches could be seen as conjuring up an evil plan in order to set up Macbeth’s fall. Here, the sisters’ power over natural order is reflected by Macbeth calling “Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going,” echoing the idea of losing the ability to stay in control.

The ghost of Banquo becomes a fundamental element in portraying Macbeth’s transgression from guilt to madness. Shakespeare uses the ghost to reveal the level of disruption in the character of Macbeth, as well as evoking a number of different responses from the audience. Certainly, the ghost of Banquo is purposeful in fulfilling conventions of the Gothic by instilling fear into the reader; but is Shakespeare trying to do much more than that? In act III scene IV, Macbeth cries “Which of you have done this?” suggesting he is conscious of the consequences of murdering Banquo: revenge. Indeed, sighting the ghost of an old “friend” at the dinner table in itself reflects the inner destruction of Macbeth’s character, as well as projecting a questionable feeling of guilt and madness. Macbeth’s false visions reflect his feeling of guilt, as he is unable to let go of the sins he has committed and therefore begins to evoke an almost sympathetic response from readers.



Certainly, another definite supernatural feature of Macbeth is the use of the prophecies. It could be argued that the purpose of the apparitions are much more than to merely deliver Macbeth’s fate. The first apparition appears showing Macbeth’s head; despite it reflecting Macbeth’s later destiny, this apparition also mirrors Macbeth’s inner fear of Macduff that readers are gradually presented with,

“Some say he’s mad; others, that lesser hate him,Do call it valiant fury” (Caithness: Act 5, Scene 2) Consider Macbeth as a gothic protagonist in the light of this comment.

Some say he’s mad; others, that lesser hate him,

Do call it valiant fury” (Caithness: Act 5, Scene 2) 

Consider Macbeth as a gothic protagonist in the light of this comment.

Honestly, this was my favourite essay to write. I found the question on another WordPress site and could not wait to start formulating my answer to it. There’s a lot to talk about when considering Macbeth as “mad” but also, as our “valiant hero” and therefore it invites a lot of debate. If you have any feedback on how I could improve my essay please let me know 🙂 ..


Although Macbeth was written long before the Gothic genre arose within literature, to hold the view that Macbeth fits into the mould of a typical Gothic protagonist is also fair, as he too shares traits of inner struggle, ambition and progression into madness along with a number of other Gothic protagonists such as Frankenstein and Heathcliff. However, to argue whether Macbeth is ‘mad’ or carries out his actions due to ‘valiant fury’ is open to debate.

Madness is a typical convention seen in Gothic texts, where we often see the protagonist’s progression from ambition slowly transgress into the realms of madness. Macbeth is seen as being driven by his own mental manifestations, as he wonders if “a dagger of the mind” hovers in front of him, and begins to question the likelihood of his “heat-oppress’d” mind being the force behind his vision. Therefore, Macbeth is surely driven by his madness. It could be argued that if Macbeth was certain that a dagger had appeared before him, he could then be seen as showing actions of “valiant fury,” but through his soliloquy, Macbeth projects his infested mind; a typical feature of a gothic protagonist. It is clear that Macbeth has lost the ability to think properly, thus it is unreasonble to argue that Macbeth is acting upon “fury” as these Witches have provided themselves as catalysts to contribute to the vulnerable Macbeth, constantly suseptible to the forces of the supernatural.

Gothic protagonists often possess a credible place on the social hierarchy, which the “noble” Macbeth noticeably adheres to as he works up to the “worthy” position of King. Therefore, it could be argued that regardless of its retaliance against the divine right, which during the Elizebeathean era would have been seen as extremely unnatural and thus mad; a more modern approach to Shakespeare’s play is likely to consider Macbeth’s strive and ambition for more power down to his role as a warrior. Shakespeare sets up the structure of the play so that Macbeth is presented as “worthy” and heroic before Macbeth is actually introduced, showing bravery on the battle field as he ran his sword “from his nave t’the chops.” Here, Macbeth’s “butchery,” described by Malcolm, is an act of bravery and honour and therefore may lead to the view that Macbeth is not “mad” and is fully aware of his potentiality of brutality, and that the root for Macbeth’s actions are infused by his “valiant fury” from the moment he hears the witches’ prophecies.

It is open to interpretation that Macbeth’s madness is driven by a typical feature of a gothic protagonist; being ultimately determined. For Macbeth, it his thirst for power to become King. Some critics may refute this argument and say that Macbeth does not possess such a strong passion, and it is our femme fatale-like female Gothic, the character of Lady Macbeth, that plays the purpose of instilling her ambition into Macbeth, by taunting her husband saying “I would be ashamed to wear a heart so white.” Through her harsh and demeaning language, Lady Macbeth is able to manipulate Macbeth into committing regicide and therefore it is her ability to ‘work’ Macbeth that leads into his one of many murders.

Macbeth’s “madness” is often expressed by the figurative language used by Shakespeare. Macbeth cries “full of scorpions is my mind” and Lady Macbeth tells the audience that she shall “pour [her] spirits in thine ear/And chastise with the valour of [here] toungue.” Here, Lady Macbeth reveals that she is going to poison Macbeth’s mind of all “human kindness.” This reflects the turmoil in Macbeth’s mind, and echoes the chaos and disruption that he is facing as a Gothic protagonist. In addition to his constant “to kill or not to kill” battle that he faced in Act 1 scene 7, Macbeths inner struggles and detachment of his thoughts mirror  the destructive character we are revealed to.

Certainly, it could be said that Macbeth acting upon “valiant fury” echoes his heroic and “noble character.” The word “valiant” suggests a courageous and fearless character, and therefore to say Macbeth’s act of murder was committed that reinforced Macbeth’s bravery would be correct. However, I object. Macbeth displays his struggle by not even being able to say the word ‘murder’ and uses the euphemism of “bloody business.” The idea he cannot even say the words suggests Macbeth cannot come to terms with such sin in his mind and therefore finds himself and his mind detached from one another.  It could be said that Macbeth feels ashamed about his actions, or has completely become ignorant to reality, and therefore presents signs of madness. Anyhow, Macbeths disconnected character definitely meets the criteria of a typical Gothic protagonist.

To say that Macbeth is either acting upon “valiant fury” or “madness” is far too reductionist. A recognised feature of a Gothic protagonist shares the cloak of duality and complexity, and therefore it is fair to say that through his bravery and loyalty shown at the start of Act 1, combined with his brutal murder he presents himself as a “hero.” However, Macbeth’s constant inner battle initiates a debate of “madness” in the character.

“The mortals in Macbeth are more evil than the witches.” Discuss Act One in light of this statement.

My teacher left us this question as cover and told us to write an “introduction” for this essay. However, in the name of revision, I will try and finish as much of it as I can!

The theme of evil is certainly prevalent in Macbeth; through the “bloody execution[s]” and the treacherous actions of our Gothic protagonist, the audience are constantly forced to debate whether the driving force behind the “evil” is down to the witches or the humans in the play.

In act 1 scene 3, the Macbeth refers to the witches as “weird.” Despite the connotations of the word to the modern readers, suggesting unusual- the word “wyrd” during the Shakespearean era referred to the idea of fate and destiny. Therefore, it could be argued that Shakespeare uses the witches as merely a device of fate, eliciting Macbeth’s kismet and then allowing Macbeth to act upon their prophecies. Consequently, after hearing the possibilities of his destiny, a metaphorical seed is then planted in Macbeth, becoming the root of his conquest in becoming king. In their abhorrence to nature, the witches do not take on the role of the ‘villain’ in Macbeth, but act as a catalyst towards human corruption.

The use of magic realism in act 5 scene 1 questions the mortality of Lady Macbeth. While trying to remove the blood, a metaphor for guilt- off her hands, Lady Macbeth cries “Out, damned spot!” It could be argued that blood being permanently stained on her hands is unnatural and therefore Lady Macbeth is excused from the “mortals” in Macbeth as she too possesses characteristics that lend her to the supernatural realm. Through this, Shakespeare raises the question of the capabilities of humans, and questions the potentiality for their murder. However, some critics may refute, suggesting that through her evident guilt, Lady Macbeth posses human traits that shape an even more ‘human’ character. Therefore, through taunting her husband, asking questions like “Are you a man?” Lady Macbeth is able to manipulate Macbeth, instilling her ambition into him. As a result of Lady Macbeth’s manipulation, Macbeth then goes on to commit his one of many sins. Therefore, this is evidence in supporting the idea that humans are more evil than the witches in Macbeth.