Disease as Imagery in Macbeth plays a predominant role in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. This stylistic device appears in several different forms throughout the play. Imagery of animals, nature, and darkness help create a foreboding atmosphere. In particular, the imagery of disease acts as a metaphor for evil and corruption. The idea of corruption spreading in Macbeth like a disease first appears in Act 1, scene 3, in one of Macbeth’s first soliloquies.
He states that the thought of murdering Duncan is weighing on his find so greatly that he is unable to function normally. Soon after, Lady Macbeth, in a soliloquy of her own, points out that Macbeth’s only “illness” (at that point) is his ambition. Despite the fact that he covets the throne dearly, he does not want to usurp Duncan. Unfortunately, as the disease of Macbeth’s mind spreads, it takes on the new form of evil. For example, by Act 2, scene 1, his “heat oppressed mind” sees apparitions of the dagger he will use to murder Duncan. Soon after Duncan is slain, Lennox, unaware of this dreadful deed, describes how the earth was “feverous.” Not only does this comment show that the natural order reflects the moral order, it is also the starting point of Scotland’s downfall under the rule of Macbeth as king.
In Act 3, scene 4, Macbeth has prepared a banquet that is seemingly in honour of Banquo, whom he has just murdered. During the banquet, Banquo’s ghost comes back to haunt Macbeth for his actions. Macbeth, unaware that he is surrounded by several Lords, openly expresses his shock when he sees Banquo’s ghost. Lady Macbeth quickly comes to her husband’s aid, saying that he is merely plagued by a common infirmity that causes him to hallucinate. Although this revelation is entirely false, it does have some ironic connotations: Macbeth is ill with the disease of evil. As the play progresses, the imagery of the diseased Macbeth becomes more evident.
In the beginning of Act 4, scene 3, Malcolm and Macduff,...
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