Imagery in Macbeth

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Imagery in Macbeth

Shakespeare's powerful imagery has never been more apparent than in Macbeth.

He begins the play with a startling image of three witches chanting in a furious

thunderstorm, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air"

(1.1.10-11). The eerie chanting creates a dark, mysterious tone that leaves the reader

feeling uncomfortable and expecting odd and evil things to happen. Later, when

Macbeth and Banquo come across the three weird sisters, the underlying evil creeps back

up when Macbeth says, "So foul and fair a day I have not seen," and Banquo comments,

"What are these So withered, and so wild in their attire, That look not like the inhabitants

o' th' earth" (1.3.38-41). Again the tone is one of dark uncertainty. The reader is forced to

pay close attention through the connotations of pure evil, and Shakespeare uses the

opportunity to relay early in the play Macbeth's motivation and other important

information that will determine the character's fate. The act ends by introducing the evil

incarnate character Lady Macbeth, whose ambition is communicated in her soliloquy,

"...unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full Of direst cruelty!" (1.5.41-

43). Her plan to make her husband king brings the evil, dark, cold tone full circle for the

desired effect of intriguing the reader and kicking the play into high gear. The tone's

effectiveness can be felt in the reader's desire to proceed deeper into the evil thoughts and

developing plots of the drama.

Act II begins the recurring image of Macbeth's struggle with his decision.

His soliloquy in which he says, "Is this a dagger which I see before me...

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...he room in which the events took place. The act ends with a return to the

dark, mysterious, evil tones of the witches and their leader.

The witch scene signals the beginning of the downfall, and the tone becomes more

hopeless towards Macbeth and the reader senses that he won't be suffering much longer.

This dark tone ends the act with Lennox saying, "May soon return to this our suffering

country...". The tension still stimulates interest in the conclusion of the foreseeable tragedy.

Throughout the act and the play, Shakespeare continually emphasizes the ever-present evil

through images of fear and inner struggle and keeps the tone quite morose with few breaks

for pleasure and relaxation. All the aspects of the tone provide almost a character sketch

of Macbeth and epitomizes the attitude which he takes toward his life and goals.
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