The Use of Mood in Macbeth

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The Use of Mood in Macbeth

Noah Webster, author of Webster's Dictionary, defines mood as the "temporary state of the mind in regard to passion or feeling" and "a morbid or fantastic state of mind." E. L. Thorndike and Clarence L. Barnhart, authors of Scott, Foresman Advanced Dictionary, define mood as "the overall atmosphere or prevailing emotional aura of a work." Shakespeare's Macbeth, especially the pivotal and ominous second act, exemplifies both denotations of mood. The act has an "overall atmosphere," even though the mood shifts, while this mood places a sense of cliff-hanging anxiety at the beginning, an ambiance of hysterics towards the middle, a feeling of tragic realization directly following, and an unsure aura of occult extractions. Shakespeare cleverly uses six key elements to further shape and add to the mood: the characters, the imagery, the setting, the sounds, the characters' actions, and the characters' dialogue. In scene one, the setting is revealed. It is late, past midnight, and there are no stars, making extremely dark and a dramatically perfect opportunity to commit murder. In any good horror movie, all the deaths occur at night, when it is dark. The location is a castle, which would have to be the eeriest, coldest, darkest piece of architecture ever constructed. Banquo's "cursèd thoughts" (II, i, 8) keep him without sleep, in exact contrast with the eternal sleep Duncan will soon begin. Then, as Banquo retreats to his quarters, Macbeth's imagination and intensified emotional exhaustion and strain generate a looming image of a dagger pointing to Duncan. "I see thee still . . ." (II, i, 35), he yells at the vision, creating a sense of madness. Again, "I see thee still . . ." (II, i, 45), but this time the hallucination is glistening with blood (and in all likely hood, that of Duncan). He casts this apparition aside and awaits his signal to make the final walk into his beloved king's chambers. The bell rang by Lady Macbeth...
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