All plants begin as seeds, and grow to their full potential from their implanted root. Both weeds and roses both begin as simple seeds that then scale into polar opposites. In William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, plants are a common imagery to track character development. Similar to seeds, the motif acts as a checkpoint that emphasizes which characters are roses and which are weeds. In Shakespeare’s five-act play, the plant imagery symbolizes Macbeth’s transformation from nobility to failure, innocent to deceptive, and from aspiring royalty to a bad seed.
In Shakespeare’s five-act, Macbeth undergoes a character change from a nobility to a failure that can be traced in the text through plant motifs. In the first act, Macbeth appears to be noble war hero. He is immediately commended in the words of a captain to King Duncan, proving his fearlessness. When he pays his respects to Duncan, the king admits, “I have begun to plant thee, and will labor/ To make thee full of growing” (I.iv.29-30). This suggests that Duncan believes that appointing Macbeth as the Thane of both Glamis and Cawdor marks the beginning of his career. Here, Duncan refers to Macbeth as a seed to symbolize that he has not yet reached his capacity of greatness. At the end of the play, however, before the ending couplet that symbolizes the restoration of order, Malcolm describes the future of Scotland’s ‘seed’ when he states “...[It will] be planted newly with the time..” (V.viii.67). Macbeth’s reign introduced murder and treason to Scotland. He developed from an aspiring war hero to a failed king, that Malcolm must clean up after, through the plant imagery in the text.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth also conveys the theme of appearance and deception through the imagery of nature. Macbeth starts off as an innocent open book, but as the secrets build up he is forced to change into a more deceptive character. In the fifth scene of the first act, Lady Macbeth convinces her husband to fulfil his prophecy of becoming king through regicide. She provokes, “Look like th' innocent/ flower,/ But be the serpent under ’t” (I.v.56-58). Through this, Macbeth is taught how to perform acts of murder without suspicion. Because of this, Macbeth protects his true actions from the rest of Scotland for the rest of the play. He even hires three assassins to carry out Banquo’s planned murder in order to have nothing tracing the crime back to him. In the final showdown between Macbeth and Duncan’s eldest son, Malcolm shouts to his enemy, “Now near enough. Your leafy screens throw down,/ And show like those you are” (V.vi.1-2). Malcolm is suggesting that Macbeth no longer has anything to hide, because he has nothing to hide behind. It is evident that no matter who wins the war, Macbeth’s position will be controversial in Scotland because people will know his crimes and hold opinions. Through the nature imagery conveying appearance and deception, Macbeth’s strategy for hiding his actions alters his character and the lengths he will go to see himself in an ideal position of power.
Finally, in Macbeth, the motif of plants represent the character developments of Macbeth from aspiring royalty to a dangerous biennial. The imagery also is a representation of the future, in that seeds represent people with unfulfilled potential. In the plot, the three witches have the ability to create prophecies, most of which are successfully resolved within the lines of the text. After foretelling Macbeth’s future, Banquo requests, “ If you can look into the seeds of time,/ And say which grain will grow and which will not,/ Speak then to me...” (I.iii.60-62). In this context, the seeds are symbols of Macbeth and Banquo’s futures. A few scenes earlier, Lennox, in particular, speculates, “Or so much as it needs,/ To dew the sovereign flower and drown the weeds” (V.ii.29-30). He is stating that an endless amount of bloodshed would prove necessary if it waters the rightful plants of royalty, Malcolm, and...
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