The Contribution of the Robe Motif to the Theme in William Shakespeare's Macbeth

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  • Topic: Macbeth, Banquo, Lady Macduff
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  • Published : November 20, 2005
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From Macbeth's question to Ross, "Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?" (1.3.108), to Angus's observation that Macbeth's robe "hang[s] loose about him, like a giant's robe / upon a dwarfish thief" (5.2.20-22), William Shakespeare adds this "robe motif" purposely in his Tragedy of Macbeth play, in order to reflect Macbeth's tragic decisions. Falling from "valiant, worthy, and noble thane" (1.2) to "hell hound" (5.8.3) due to his "vaulting ambition" (2.7.27), Macbeth tries to blame others for his mistakes, ultimately, he must take responsibility for his actions. Macbeth is a well liked character, respected by all and held in high regard. Many noblemen think highly of him such as the high ranking captain of a ship stating, "For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name)... (like valors minion), carved out his passage." (1.2.16-19) Even the king trusts Macbeth, Duncan is even heard saying how Macbeth is an "honored hostess!" (1.6.11) "We love him highly and shall continue our graces toward him." (1.6.28) If the king is friends with him and cares enough to even be a guest in his house, then Macbeth prove to be a presentable character. The whole robe motif begins with Macbeth's question to Ross, "Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?" (1.3.108) This statement is ironic because Macbeth tries to dress himself in "borrowed" robes when he becomes king. Once Macbeth's vision is clouded by the witch's equivocations he quickly takes action and his madness and downfall begins. Banquo warns Macbeth by telling him, "Might yet enkindle you unto the crown, betray's [i]n deepest consequence." (1.3.23-26) His madness soon begins with Duncan's murder with this statement: Is this dagger which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee! I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
to feeling as to sight? Or art but
a dagger of the mind, a...
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