The Word Night In Macbeth Analysis

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “night” as “the period of darkness in each twenty-four hours; the time from sunset to sunrise.” However, “night” takes on a new meaning in William Shakespeare’s renowned play. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a tragedy set in eleventh century Scotland, focuses on the deterioration of a Scottish general named Macbeth. In the play, the title character is encouraged by his wife to kill the King Duncan so he himself can assume the role. He is persuaded to eliminate every obstacle in his way to the throne, including people. Macbeth lets a prophecy delivered through three witches guide him; his misjudgements of what they tell him in addition to his heightened pride wind up leading to his eventual death.…show more content…
The connotation and meaning of the word change greatly between Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and the Witches. Macbeth uses the word with a negative connotation. In Act Four, Scene One, Macbeth calls the Witches “midnight hags” (4.1.49). The word “hag”, by definition, has a negative connotation. Also, by using the word to refer to characters that are known to be evil, it brings forth feelings of distrust and fear. As for meaning, the character Macbeth uses “night” as his shield to hide his evil actions or deeds. When Macbeth feels guilty about what he has done, he calls up upon the spirit of “night” to cover his tracks. He uses “night” as interchangeable with unholy, as shown in his scenes with the Witches. The character of Lady Macbeth also uses the word with a negative connotation. The evil scheming and actions that she commits always happen at night. She uses it to imply death: “the stern’st good-night” (2.2.6). Lady Macbeth uses “night” to hide her traitorous thoughts and actions. In addition, the night time is when she is haunted by her guilt and personal demons, as shown in Act Five, Scene One. In contrast to Macbeth, who wishes for the night to hide his actions once he has committed them, Lady Macbeth longs for the shield before perpetrating the deeds. The third connotation/meaning change comes with the Witches who use “night” in a positive way. They praise the night for preparing a frog for their potion (4.1.4-9). With this in mind, the Witches use “night” in a literal sense. For example, the First Witch proclaims that “sleep shall neither night nor day hang upon his pent-house lid” (1.3.19-20). She uses “night” to provide contrast to “day,” meaning that the sailor that she plans to torture will be so tormented that he will not be able to sleep. Shakespeare purposefully had the Witches use “night” in its literal meaning to show their low class status, for the same reason why

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