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Imagery in Macbeth

Mar 18, 2011 574 Words
Imagery in Macbeth

One of British literature’s most eerie settings is found in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, which deals with the theme of good versus evil and the results of when power and ambition get totally out of control. In order to create the necessary macabe setting for the performance, the playwright uses certain gothic elements. In other words, in Macbeth, the aura of darkness, deception, and horror that envelope the entire play is evoked by the visual imagery throughout the five acts.

The imagery of evil is conveyed through out the play with the use of many elements, one of which is nature. In the first scene of the play the three witches are talking when the first witch asks: "When shall we three meet again?  In thunder, lightning, or in rain?" (1.1.1). This is a good example of the imagery of evil being conveyed through nature to create a dark and ominous setting. Later on, the Captain is talking with Duncan and Malcolm when he states "Ship wrecking storms and direful thunders break" (1.2.26). Again nature contributes to the ominous atmosphere of the play, having reference to thunder and dark storms. Lastly, after the murder of Duncan, Ross and the Old Man talk of strange happenings outside of the castle. They talk of an eclipse, a hawk eaten by an owl, and that Duncan’s horses had eaten each other. These are all very odd occurrences in nature that work together to symbolize the murder of King Duncan. Shakespeare’s tragedy of Macbeth does very well in utilizing the element of nature to effectively create a dark and evil tone and setting.

Another element in the play that helps to create the imagery of evil is the darkness of night. All of the evil deeds committed in the play are done under the curtain of night; for instance, the vision of the dagger, the murder of Duncan, the Murder of Banquo, and Lady Macbeth's sleep walking. It shows that the darkness could partially blind out all of the horrible things that occur in the night; for only in darkness can such evil deeds be done. In Act III Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are talking just before the murder of Banquo and Macbeth says "Light thickens, and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood: Good things of day begin to droop and drowse, whiles night's black agents to their preys do rouse" (3.2.l50-53).  What Macbeth is saying is that the day is turning into night, all good things are going to sleep, and with the darkness of night comes evil and deceptive deeds. Within the whole play, the sun seems to shine in only one scene when the army has gathered to avenge Macbeth. Therefore, the reader can conclude that Shakespeare portrays darkness to establish the evil parts of the play; whereas, we employ daylight to define victory or goodness in the play.

In retrospect, the imagery of darkness and aura of evil are portrayed through out the play through the use of nature and the darkness of night. The utilization of these elements helps to emphasize the dramatic nature and dark tone of many scenes. Without the use of these elements the tragedy of Macbeth would have a far less evil tone. The visual imagery in Macbeth is responsible for establishing one of British literature’s most eerie settings.

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