By using the heath and castles as contrasting settings in Macbeth, William Shakespeare reinforces and reflects various themes present throughout the play. Through the combined use of these settings, he contrasts notions of security and danger, fairness and foulness, and the natural and supernatural. Although the heath is a meeting place for evil and is represented as a grim location through a number of methods, the heath itself is safe. Contrarily, the castles that Macbeth inhabits, both Inverness and Dunsinane, are repeatedly described as safe, secure, and welcoming. These castles, however, are far more dangerous than the heath, acting more as traps than shelter. The notions of fairness and foulness are also reversed at the heath and the castles in the play. The witches at the heath are relatively benign and only deliver prophecies of truth to Macbeth, while conceptions of fairness are repeatedly distorted to the point of foulness at the castles he inhabits. Finally, while it is certainly true that the witches represent the supernatural world, the supernatural deeds which occur at the heath are far more subtle when compared to the unnatural events which take place in the castles. By examining the plot developments which transpire in their respective settings, one can conclude that Shakespeare intentionally contrasts the settings of the play with the deeds that happen there, creating a strong separation from appearance and reality throughout the play.
First, the concepts of security and danger are constantly in question when referring to the settings of the heath and the castle. As Hecate proclaims to the witches, “security / Is mortals’ chiefest enemy” (Mac. ...
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By examining the use of setting in Macbeth, one can infer that the castles in the play are the setting for much more horrid deeds than the heath. Although the heath is represented as a dark, scary place inhabited by creatures of the supernatural, no character is ever killed, or even injured there. The heath is safer than Macbeth’s castles, which are the scenes of multiple murders. Far more foulness evidently occurs at Macbeth’s homes, despite their pleasant appearance. This interesting contradiction resonates in the witches’ proclamation “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (Mac. 1.1.11), suggesting the duality of the settings in the play. The setting which appears most foul, the heath, is actually a relatively harmless place, while the castles, despite their fair appearance and inhabitants, are the scene of the supernatural, foulness and danger.
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