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Dark & Light Imagery In Shakespeare’S Macbeth

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Shakespeare is known widely for his amazing talent in play writing. His use of intense detail builds up the setting and personality of the characters in his plays. In the play Macbeth, Macbeth himself, drowned by greed and complete darkness, kills the king in an effort to be crowned. His reign of terror, driven by insanity and darkness builds the suspense in the play. The evil atmosphere in Macbeth grows darker with every pain staking casualty the characters encounter. The use of pathetic fallacy darkens the mood and atmosphere of the play as the natural world foreshadows upcoming events. It is Shakespeare’s use of dark and light imagery that intensifies the evil atmosphere in the play. Examples of these would be the numerous appearances of the witches, the dagger scene followed by the murder of Duncan and Banquo.

The witches are the main sources of evil in the play Macbeth. Whenever the witches make an appearance, a storm or darkened forest accompanies them. This represents great evilness and darkens the atmosphere. The opening scene description states, “Thunder and lightening. Enter three Witches.” (Act I sc.i) Which is said before the witches are introduced, proves that a dark and evil atmosphere surrounds them. It also depicts how they are followed by that kind of nature due to the storm conditions. The witches also carry with them, an atmosphere that resembles pure filthiness, “Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.” (Act I sc.i, l.11-12) This shows that they are dirty, evil, and nothing more than a walking plague. An example to show how dark imagery also gives a clear picture of the conditions would be towards the end of Hecate’s, queen of witches, speech, “Hark! I am call’d; my little spirit, see. Sits in a foggy cloud, and stays for me.” (Act III sc.v, l.34-35) This could possibly give a clear picture of the ugly and foggy conditions that are shown with this type of dark imagery. These are effective examples of Shakespeare being able to form a link between dark imagery to intensify an evil atmosphere with stormy weather and ugly conditions to develop the darkness and evilness of the mood as well as the atmosphere.

Shakespeare’s use of dark and light imagery also works well with the murders that occur. Whenever a murder is committed, it is either at night or in the dark. This also links the idea of darkness itself being evil, and that the murders are the source of evil. The night Duncan dies displays enormous amounts of darkness and evilness in the plays atmosphere. The setting is dark and at night with nothing but silence. After Macbeth finishes speaking with Banquo, he notices a dagger on the ground and says, “Is this a dagger, which I see before me,” (Act II sc.i, l.33) Macbeth then finds out that the dagger is actually a trick of the mind, that it symbolizes what will happen next. The scene casts a dark shadow over the play, taking it into a deep, dark atmospheric condition. Then Macbeth speaks, “Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going,” (Act II sc.i, l.42) Here the dark imagery adds suspense because it has appeared that the dagger is acting as a guide for Macbeth, guiding him towards Duncans room to do what he has come to do. This intensifies the evilness in the atmosphere, foreshadowing a murder soon to happen. Afterwards, Macbeth follows the dagger and says, “And on thy blade and dudgeon, gouts of blood.” (Act II sc.i, l.46)



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