Natural Imagery in Macbeth

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Natural Imagery in Macbeth

In the play Macbeth, Shakespeare uses a lot of natural imagery. He does this for a number of reasons. To portray the mood at the time, foreshadow important events, or portray his thoughts clearly and get the right message across to his readers.

In Elizabethan times animals resembled the natural order of nature. We are often presented with animal imagery in Macbeth which illustrates the disruption of the natural order caused by the events unfolding in the play. There are many instances where Shakespeare uses natural imagery in the play a few examples from act 1 and 2 will be analyzed below.

At the beginning of act 1 the play begins with the description of the weather in the battlefield, “thunder and lightning”, this imagery serves to reflect the violence of the battle and the introduction of the three evil witches at the beginning. This idea of violence on the battlefield is reinforced on page 2, “shipwrecking storms and direful thunders”, this emphasizes the violence associated with the bloody battle.

When we are first introduced to king Duncan he is in the presence of Macbeth and Banquo and is praising them for their fighting in the battle. He compares Banquo to a plant that he wishes to grow and care for, “I have begun to plant thee and will labour to make thee full of growing”, this image presents the friendship between Banquo and the king.

Birds are repeatedly presented in Macbeth for multiple reasons. On page 15 the image of the raven reflects the darkness and cruelty of Lady Macbeth, and acts as a foreshadowing device of a death in the play. Similarly, on page 26 when the “owl shrieks”, the image serves to represent bad luck and foreshadow lady Macbeth’s death because the shriek sounds during her speech. Lastly on page 37 the image of the owl is used again to portray murder and darkness, “was by a mousing owl hawk’d and kill’d”.

On page 17, Lady Macbeth explains to her husband that he has to act discreetly to prevent...
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