This essay will prove that in the play Macbeth, the author of the play William Shakespeare uses darkness imagery for three dramatic purposes. Those three purposes are, to create atmosphere, to trigger the emotions of the audience and to contribute to the major theme of the play. The darkness imagery in Macbeth contributes to its ominous atmosphere. In the very beginning of the play the three witches are talking and the first witch says "When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?" (1. 1.1). This is a good example of darkness imagery because when you think of the crashing thunder, lightning and rain, they all remind you of evil, scary and ominous things. Later on in the play when the Sergeant is talking with Duncan and Malcolm he states "Ship wrecking storms and direful thunders break" (1. 2.26). Again this darkness imagery contributes to the ominous atmosphere of the play, having reference to thunder and dark storms. Finally, when Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are talking in the scene just before the murder of Banquo, 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. 50-53). This example of darkness imagery is saying that the day is turning into night, all the good things are going to sleep, and the evil creatures are coming out. The evil in this previous quotation and the two before adds to the creepy atmosphere. Since the imagery creates an ominous atmosphere it would then lead to the second dramatic purpose, to trigger the emotions of the audience. Darkness imagery is a very good tool for triggering the emotions of the audience. It enables people to create a mental picture of what they are reading. For instance, in this instance of darkness imagery Duncan and Macbeth were talking when Macbeth says aside "Stars, hide your fires, Let not light see my black and deep desires" (1. 4. 50-51). When words like dark and desire are put in that context it creates many horrible mental pictures about murders and fights which trigger people’s emotions. Ross is later talking with an old man when he states "By the clock `tis day, and yet dark night strangles the traveling lamp" (2. 4. 6-7). In other words; although, the sun should be out, something is blocking the light. This example of darkness imagery creates an eerie feeling in the audience because it is very abnormal for the sun to be blocked.
One might think that God is punishing them or that there is the presence of evil, if the sun was gone and would stir up the emotions of the audience although it was probably only an eclipse. Another case of darkness imagery happens in the scene where Lady Macbeth is trying to call on the "dark spirits" and Lady Macbeth states "you murdering ministers, Wherever in your sightless substances You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, Hold, hold!" (1. 5. 49-54). It creates an illustration of terror because of the unknown. With it being night no one knows what might happen. Shakespeare also uses the imagery of darkness to trigger the emotions of the audience, darkness imagery works well in characterizing. And is very useful for a further dramatic purposes, to characterize, and specifically to characterize Macbeth. Through the use of darkness imagery Shakespeare was able to characterize Macbeth as perceived in this next quotatation where Macduff and Malcolm are talking and Macduff pronounces "Not in legions of horrid hell can come a devil more damn'd in evils, to top Macbeth" (4. 3. 55-56). It is understood that Macduff views Macbeth as a man even further corrupt than any devil and would characterize him as evil. Following that, Macbeth enters a scene with Young Siward, and Young Siward asks for his name. Macbeth replies with "The devil himself could not pronounce a title more hateful to mine ear" (5. 7. 8-9). This shows that, as well, Young Siward views Macbeth as a bad man and would also characterize Macbeth as evil. Lastly, where Malcolm is speaking with Macduff and saying how he will reveal his real evil that is way worst then Macbeth "When they shall be open'd, black Macbeth will seem as pure as snow" (4. 3. 52-53). This is characterizing Macbeth as a dark person but Malcolm is stating that he is actually more evil. Darkness imagery was very effective in characterizing Macbeth in all the preceding quotations. Concluding this essay, it is undoubtedly true that the imagery of darkness does play a big role in developing the dramatic purposes in Macbeth. Darkness imagery also does help convey to the audience the atmosphere, and it does provoke the audience’s response to the play, and help illustrate the characters in Macbeth. Imagery plays a huge role in the development of Macbeth, but also in any good piece of literature.
Adventures in English Literature. Shakespeare, William, “Macbeth.” Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985.