Macbeth and Fear

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Laura Riina
ENG 280: Essay #1
Due: Thursday, October 11th
Word Count: 930

Macbeth is filled with symbols that work to shed light on the nature of the play and the inner workings of its characters. In The Well-Wrought Urn, Cleanth Brooks confidently and effectively argues the image of the babe as the most powerful symbol in Macbeth by both comparing the babe to other symbols within the play, showcasing the babe as a symbol of superior importance, and representing it as a marker of Macbeth`s future. Brooks` arguments regarding the babe are indeed paradoxical, which I intend to prove throughout my own argument.

In Macbeth, Brooks states that the babe acts as the most powerful symbol in the play, of special importance as it "demonstrate(s) for Shakespeare how obsessive the symbols were." (Cleanth Brooks pg. 31) He does this by first analyzing the other symbols at work in the play: the symbolism of clothing, cloaking & darkness, the significance of "manliness", planting and growth. Brooks uses these minor symbols to gain new insights into characters, whereas the babe is more often used to explain plot. An example is Macbeth's pride in his new dressing clothes: "Macbeth here is proud of his new clothes. He is happy to wear what he has truly earned." (Brooks 35) Brooks is careful to not just present Macbeth's emotion (happiness), but to showcase the emotions to shed light on his character. We now know that Macbeth values hard work and is prideful of his image and self worth. By giving a simple and illuminating insight into Macbeth's personality through something as simple as clothing, Brooks provides a foundation for later exposition of symbolism within the play.

Brooks works to show that the babe is integral to the plot and worthy of defining the play itself. When describing the babe, Brooks uses it as the sole justification and reasoning for the play's action- rendering the play useless without it. Brooks signifies the future which Macbeth...
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