The Many Symbols in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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The Many Symbols in Macbeth

Shakespeare used clothing both symbolically and as a vehicle of character definition. Clothes were often used in Macbeth's case to symbolize his titles. Symbolic clothing is identified when Ross tells Macbeth of his new title Thane of Cawdor when Macbeth does not know of the Thane's treason,

Macbeth: "The Thane of Cawdor lives: why do you dress me in Borrow'd robes?" (I, III,108)

Symbols using clothing such as borrowed robes, disguises and cross-dressing are found in several plays where they betray a range of situations from sheer mischievousness to dark, treasonable or murderous plots. The symbol appears again when Banquo and Macbeth are discussing whether the witches' prophecy about Macbeth becoming king will come true as well, "New honours come upon him, Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mold But with the aid of use. (I,III,144)" Later, when Macbeth shares the news of his promotion with Lady Macbeth, he speaks with a clothing metaphor again, "Golden opinions from all sorts of people, Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, Not case aside so soon. (I,vii,33-34)" Again it is mentioned in (V,ii,21) by Angus, "Nothing in love; now does he feel his title Hang loose about him, like a giant's robe Upon a dwarfish thief."

Blood as a symbol in the play assumes many different meanings as the story progresses, ranging from virtuous honour to the guilt of murder.

The first reference to blood occurs in (I,ii,1) when Duncan meets the bleeding sergeant and remarks, "What bloody man is that?" The man is bleeding after having fought to protect the noble Malcolm, which makes the blood a symbol of honour. Blood symbolizes another virtuous trait when it appears again in ...

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...mples of this in world dictators, military juntas and corporate criminals. So Macbeth can be seen as having contemporary significance.

We may now ask why the works of Shakespeare enjoy an undiminishing acceptance in most countries of the world and an aura of immortality. It is perhaps because we see in Shakespeare the mirror of the human condition with which we may all identify and gain a sense that in some strange way his plays belong to us.

Works Cited

I. The Tragedy of Macbeth New Haven: Yale University Press Revised 1954

II. Shakespeare's Macbeth Total Study Edition Coles Editorial Board 1990

III. Holinshed R. Historie of Scotland (2nd Ed. Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland 1587) "Historie of Scotland"

IV. Paul. Henry N. The Royal Play of Macbeth 1950 pp. 213-17

V. Bradley A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy 1912 pp. 468-9
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