Essay about The Images and Imagery of Shakespeare's Macbeth

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The Imagery of Macbeth

Who can contest the statement that William Shakespeare in the tragedy Macbeth very skillfully uses imagery to strengthen the theme and other aspects of the play? In this paper we explore the imagery in all its dimensions.

L.C. Knights in the essay "Macbeth" explains the supporting role which imagery plays in Macbeth's descent into darkness:

To listen to the witches, it is suggested, is like eating "the insane root, That takes the reason prisoner" (I.iii.84-5); for Macbeth, in the moment of temptation, "function," or intellectual activity, is "smother'd in surmise"; and everywhere the imagery of darkness suggests not only the absence or withdrawal of light but - "light thickens" - the
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Mr. Kenneth Muir, in his introduction to the play - which does not, by the way, interpret it simply from this point of view - aptly describes the cumulative effect of the imagery: "The contrast between light and darkness is part of a general antithesis between good and evil, devils and angels, evil and grace, hell and heaven . . . and the disease images of IV, iii and in the last act clearly reflect both the evil which is a disease, and Macbeth himself who is the disease from which his country suffers."(67-68)

Roger Warren comments in Shakespeare Survey 30 , regarding Trervor Nunn's direction of Macbeth at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1974-75, on opposing imagery used to support the opposing notions of purity and black magic:

Much of the approach and detail was carried over, particularly the clash between religious purity and black magic. Purity was embodied by Duncan, very infirm (in 1974 he was blind), dressed in white and accompanied by church organ music, set against the black magic of the witches, who even chanted 'Double, double to the Dies Irae. (283)

The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in a desert place with thunder and lightning - lots of imagery -- and three Witches who are anticipating their meeting with Macbeth, "There to meet with Macbeth." They all say together the mysterious and contradictory "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." King Duncan learns that "brave Macbeth" and Banquo are bravely resisting the "Norweyan banners" and

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