Use of Night and Darkness in Shakespeare's Macbeth

Use of Night and Darkness in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Use of Night and Darkness in Macbeth

Shakespeare is known for his descriptively rich plays. He also ways does an excellent job of describing both the characters as well as the setting. One specific area of the play MacBeth is the use of night and darkness to show evil or happening that are not right. Examples of this are the many appearances of the witches, the murders that occur, and the conflicts that MacBeth faces with his mental health. The following three paragraphs will further discuss these topics.

The first example of Shakespeare’s use of night and darkness in the appearances of the three witches. The witch sisters are the main sources of evil within the play MacBeth. When the witches are in an act, storms or the darkness of the woods always accompanies them. This shows great evilness. " Thunder and lightning. Enter three witches." This is the opening scene description just before the introduction to the witches. This shows their evil nature as the are followed by rough storms in dark conditions. Another quote is " Fair is fowl and fowl is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air." This is another example of the disgusting and dirty, dark atmosphere around the witches. Then, towards the end of Hecate’s, queen of witches, speech, she says "Hark! I am called. My little spirit, see: Sits a foggy cloud and it stays for me." This shows a clear mental picture of the fogy, ugly conditions, which are prominent, when the witches are around. So this is a very good example of Shakespeare being able to link darkness and stormy conditions with evil.

The second example of Shakespeare writing techniques to show evil as darkness is the number of murders and when it was that they occurred. When there was a murder, it was often committed at night or in the dark. This then also ties in with the entire connection of darkness with evil, murder being the source of evil.

The most known example of murder is when MacBeth kills Banquo. During his speech where he is proceeding to kill Banquo he says " ...Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse the curtained sleep. Witchcraft celebrates pale Hecate’s offerings , and withered Murder , alarumed by his sentiel , the wolf , who’s howl’s his watch....." The references to the dreams, sleep, witches and the wolf’s howl all depict the nighttime as this is when most of those words are seen.

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Another example of the evilness of night with murder is when the son of MacDuff is murdered and Lady MacDuff goes running out into the night screaming "Murder!!" continuously. This then is another perfect example of the terrible occurrences at night which occur during the play MacBeth. These two quotes are two more phrases that portray mental pictures to the readers and show Shakespeare’s dark creativeness.

 The final examples of the use of darkness and night to show evilness in the play MacBeth, are those that show MacBeth slip in to madness. Madness in this case allows MacBeth to commit horrendous crimes and act as evil as Satin. MacBeth slips into madness after the three warnings he receives from the witch sisters. an example of his madness is " Still it cried "Sleep no more" to all the house; " Glamis has murdered sleep , and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more ; MacBeth shall sleep no more"." said by MacBeth to his wife explaining a dream which he had at night and his conscience is eating away at him. He is now just about to crack when with his friends, he sees the ghost of Banquo, when enjoy dinner and drink with his friends. He says when seeing the Ghost, "Thou canst not say I did it. Never shake thy gory locks at me" when he is trying to sit down to enjoy dinner and sees Banquo’s ghost in his place. He thinks it’s a prank to prove that MacBeth committed murder when ironically they have no idea what he is talking about. This was yet another perfect example of Shakespeare use of nighttime to show evil.

 In conclusion, on purpose, Shakespeare made all that was evil occur during the night in order to show that evilness is tied with darkness, which is associated by night. From the display of the witches to the mass amount of murders, to the final portrayal of Macbeth’s slip into madness. All of these aspects were very well expanded on proving Shakespeare was one in not the greatest literary playwright’s in the world.


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