Imagery in Macbeth

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Shakespeare’s Effective use of Imagery to Display Powerful Themes

“Fair is foul and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air.” (1.1.11-12). This famous chant lies in the opening scene of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, providing dark evil imagery to evoke the senses and set a tone for the play. Images are strong sensory techniques that can be used as a basis for much further development in any piece of literature. A black cat, a dark alley and a stormy night are all modern day symbols of mystery and evil doings. Authors often times use these or similar images to embellish the plot by designing a setting or giving the characters more depth. More significantly, images provide a solid ground which gives underpinning to important themes of the writing. William Shakespeare very skillfully uses imagery to support prevalent themes of his drama Macbeth. Poison of the mind, the power of ones thoughts and hypocrisy are all significant themes carried throughout the play by effective use of imagery in reference to serpents, ghostly visions and ill-fitted clothing. Powerful images creep through the tragedy at every scene to construct a venomous atmosphere of false virtue and self-deceit.

To start, Shakespeare effectively uses serpent imagery to illustrate the idea that power may act as a virus that poisons the mind and leads to moral and self-destruction. For instance, the power that Macbeth achieves through the violent act of murdering Duncan acts as a disease embedded into his mind that warps and twists his thinking. His only focus now is what evil acts must be done in order to ensure that his crown is safe. He expresses these poisonous thoughts when speaking to his wife about

his idea to exterminate those threatening his title “O, full of scorpions is my mind.” (3.2.36). The powerful image of scorpions crawling through his brain, injecting their venomous thoughts effectively demonstrates how power can act as a poison that challenges moral...
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