The Importance of Sound in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Essays

The Importance of Sound in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Essays

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The Importance of Sound in Macbeth

     Macbeth, the shortest and perhaps darkest play by Shakespeare, is a tale of over-riding ambition, human nature, and supernatural meddling. Macbeth is the main character in the play, and although he begins the story a loyal subject and brave hero, the power bestowed on him poisens and corrupts him until he eventually turns evil and seeks more, to his downfall. As the central figure of the play, Macbeth sets in motion a sequence of events that brings about the destruction and eventual rebirth of Scotland, giving the play an essentially dark tone. There are, however, varying degrees of evil, subtly different in texture and context. One way Shakespeare indicates the styles of evil throughout the play Macbeth is through the use of sounds. Sounds in the play fall under four categories: nature, man-made, the sounds of battle, and human cries.


The first category of sounds used are that of nature, which symbolize evil deeds and death. Animal sounds most prevalent throughout the play are those of birds, specifically those of owls and ravens. Traditionally, owls symbolize death and to hear the call of one is considered ill omened. In Act II, Lady Macbeth - a creature of evil herself- comments, "Hark! Peace! / It was the owl that shrieked, the fatal bellman, / which gives the stern'st goodnight" (II, ii, 3-5). The goodnight referred to, somewhat ironically, is that of eternal sleep, as she knows King Duncan has just been murdered, perhaps at the very moment the owl called. This omen could have been interpreted as either good or ill by her, since her designs were evil and the owl could have represented the Darkness' acceptance of her, or as a foreshadowing of her own sinking into darkne...

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...ird) like all together." And so it is, and always shall fair be foul and foul be fair.


Works Cited:

De Quincy, Thomas. "From On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth." Elements of Literature, Sixth Course. Eds. Robert Probst, et. Al. Austin: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 1997: 330-331

Evans, G. Blackemore. "Macbeth." In The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blackemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mufflin Company. 1974: 1307- 1311

"Imagery in Macbeth." Anonymous. September 15, 2014. Http://

"Imagery of Disease and Corruption." Anonymous 2. September 15, 2014. Http://

"Importance of the Last Two Scenes in Macbeth." Anonymous 5. September 15, 2014. Http://

"Macbeth." Anonymous. September 15, 2014. Http://

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