top-rated free essay

Macbeth - Symbols

Oct 08, 1999 986 Words
Throughout Shakespeare's Macbeth, numerous symbols are used. Many of these depict characters' actions and appearances, emotions, and events that have happened previously in the play. Although there are many symbols used all through the play, there are three important groups of symbols that are used most regularly. These are blood, sleep and animals, which all have different representations. <br>

<br>Blood is an important symbol that is used continuously in the play. In the beginning of the play, blood is something which represents courage and bravery. Those who fought and created blood were thought to be heroic. However, towards the end of the play, blood has become something which everyone fears, it is evil, and symbolises guilt and murder. An example of this can be found in act three, scene four, starting at line one hundred and twenty-three: <br>

<br>Macbeth:It will have blood, they say: blood will have blood. <br>Stones have been known to move and trees to speak;
<br>Augures and understood relations have
<br>By maggot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth
<br>The secret'st man of blood. What is the night?
<br>The first line signifies that those who are involved in bloody crimes, will someday become victims of them. It is saying that people are always punished at some time in their lives for their wrong doings. The statement also signifies that murder and violence are something that Macbeth is very familiar with. Using blood as a symbol in this passage makes it somehow more emotional and gets its point across while making the viewer or reader think. The symbol of blood is used extremely well all throughout the play. <br>

<br>Sleep is another of the important symbols used in the play. Sleep signifies the nature and essence of a person, and is something which is very peaceful and innocent. Sleep begins in this way in Macbeth, but as the play progresses, it becomes something that people fear. The characters don't feel safe to sleep, as they are afraid that they will become victims of death if they do. An example that demonstrates this can be found in act two, scene two, from line thirty-four onwards: <br>

<br>Macbeth:Methought I heard a voice cry "Sleep no more!
<br>Macbeth does murder sleep" – the innocent sleep,
<br>Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
<br>The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
<br>Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
<br>Chief nourisher in life's feast ---
<br>Lady Mac:What do you mean?
<br>Macbeth:Still it cried "Sleep no more!" to all the house: <br>"Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor
<br>Shall sleep no more: Macbeth shall sleep no more"
<br>This passage is about the way that Macbeth has murdered sleep. He has killed an innocent man whilst he was asleep, and now it is something for all to fear. It also describes how Macbeth has murdered his own innocence as well as Lady Macbeth's. Their innocence is represented by sleep, and as their innocence has been murdered, they will no longer be able to sleep. It makes them realise how important sleep is, and it signifies that sleep now portrays fear and death. This is why the symbol of sleep is so important and effective in the play. <br>

<br>The third important symbol used all through Macbeth is animals. Many different types of animal symbols are used throughout the play, and many of them represent people. They represent the occurrences and personalities of the characters, with the animal representing the deeds that they have done, the way they look or their behaviour. Some of the animal symbols also represent death and bad happenings. A good example of this can be found in act two, scene two, on line three: <br>

<br>Lady Mac:… It was the owl that shrieked, the fatal bellman, <br>Which gives the stern'st good-night. …
<br>The owl is an important symbol in this play. In this instance, the owl's call, portending death, is like the town crier's call to a condemned man. This means that the owl is a sign death. Also it indicates that the owl can see everything that is happening, but the people involved cannot. Another good reference to an owl can be found in act two, scene four, from line ten: <br>

<br>Old man:‘Tis unnatural,
<br>Even like the deed that's done. On Tuesday last
<br>A falcon, tow'ring in her pride of place,
<br>Was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed
<br>In this reference, the falcon represents Duncan, and the owl represents Macbeth. It explains how Macbeth killed the defenceless Duncan, and how it was an unnatural thing to occur. The symbol represents something of an unnatural nature, as it suggests that the owl usually hunts mice, but on this occasion it hunted something far more powerful even than itself. This is true, as Macbeth killed Duncan, who was king, whilst his rank was well below this. These examples show how effectively animal symbols have been used in the play. <br>

<br>Evidently, symbols are of great importance in the play. This is due to the fact that the effect is greater using symbols than it would be if it were written plainly for all to see. It makes the viewer or reader think about what is happening, making it more interesting, and reinforcing ideas that have been addressed in previous parts of the play. The use of the three main types of symbols, blood, sleep and animals, ties ideas together, and at the same time shows the differing attitudes to particular issues as the play progresses. This is why Shakespeare has used symbols in his great tragedy, Macbeth.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Symbol of Shame

    ...Symbol of Shame Symbolism in literature is the hidden meaning in a piece of work. It is used to represent moral and/ or religious values and beliefs. As time goes on in the world, society and what makes up society changes. In today’s sense, pride is based on the individualism that one has developed. The diversity in today’s society allows...

    Read More
  • Symbol and Poem

    ...water or into the fire. It also takes place a long time ago because they are talking about chivalry, which I believe has to do with knights, bravery, and honor. The next element that I enjoyed from this poem is the tone that the author uses. I think there are two different tones that she is portraying, a sad tone and a stern tone. At the be...

    Read More
  • Symbol in 1984

    ...Symbolism in George Orwell’s 1984 George Orwell truly demonstrates his literacy prowess and his mastery of rhetoric in his dystopian novel 1984 through his use of symbolism. There are numerous symbols present throughout the story which serve to expand the narrative. Some of the most effective implementations of symbolism in the novel directl...

    Read More
  • Symbols & Ironi

    ...Symbols and Ironies The authors use irony in their writings because it creates a great closeness to a text and a feeling of satisfaction when the irony is recognized and understood, “- a little like a shared understanding between the writer and the reader - a kind of knowing wink!” (Englishbiz 1). On the other hand the symbols in the liter...

    Read More
  • The Great Divorce Motifs and Symbols

    ...Divorce” Everyday there is a sun. The sun rises and the sun sets. When the sun rises there is a beautiful glow to it yet very few watch it rise because it is so early. But when it sets many people think of it as the end of the day and fantasize on its romanticism into the night, pondering on achievements throughout the twenty-four hour time ...

    Read More
  • Symbol of The Wild

    ...Jeremy Chen Ms. Pat Cessna Grade 10 English 30 October 2008 Symbol of The Wild Symbol of The Wild The Call of The Wild by Jack London tells a story of a dog whose name is Buck. We follow Buck through his adventures in the Klondike. He experiences a transformation as he adapts to the cold temperatures, the heavy sled behind him, and t...

    Read More
  • Swastika: A Symbol of Good and Evil

    ...SOCS350-ON November 7, 2008 THE SWASTIKA-A SYMBOL OF GOOD AND EVIL The hackenkreuz, gamma cross, gammadion, St. Brigit’s cross, fylfot cross and swastika are all references to one symbol, the oldest cross in the world. This symbol is represented several thousand years B.C. in multiple cultures. It is not until the 1900’s that ...

    Read More
  • Symbols Tell Tale Heart

    ...Symbols are used in literature to represent something more than the literal aspect itself. They can come in the form of phrases, colors, objects or events. Through this, the writer can effectively suggest unsaid ideas and meanings within the audience. The use of symbolism serves as clues by the author, to infer something more or a deeper meaning...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.