Word Count: 931Darkness Imagery in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Ambition and evil are the basic elements in William Shakespeares Macbeth. Macbeth is a tragedy which was written by Shakespeare in the Elizabethan Era. There was much use of Raphael Holinsheds Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland as it was necessary for creating the environments and situations in the play. Macbeth takes place mainly in Scotland and is a play about an ambitious thane, named Macbeth, and his wife whose flaws lead to their demise. Since Macbeth is a tragedy, probably nothing else would be as suitable for the play than darkness imagery.
Imagery is a very important aspect of literature. Many different types of imagery exist and there is at least one dramatic purpose for each image. By analyzing William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it is evident that darkness imagery is used for three dramatic purposes. Those three purposes are to create atmosphere, to arouse the emotions of the audience and to contribute to the major theme of the play.
Thecontributes to its ominous atmosphere. In the very beginning of the play the three witches are talking and the first witch says, “When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” This is a good example of darkness imagery because when thinking about the crashing thunder, lightning, and rain, thoughts of ominous things are brought forth. Later on, the Sergeant is talking with Duncan and Malcolm when he states, “Ship wrecking storms and direful thunders break.” Again this darkness imagery contributes to the ominous atmosphere of the play, having reference to thunder and dark storms. Finally, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are talking in the scene just before the murder of Banquo and Macbeth says, “Light thickens, and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood: Good things of day begin to droop and drowse, whiles night’s black agents to their preys do rouse.” This example of darkness imagery is saying that the day is turning into night, all the good things are going to sleep, and the evil creatures are coming out. The evil in this previous quotation and the two before adds to the ominous atmosphere. Since the imagery creates an ominous atmosphere it would then lead to the second dramatic purpose, to arouse the emotions of the audience.
Darkness imagery is a very good tool for arousing the emotions of the audience. It enables people to create a mental picture of what they are reading. For example, Duncan and Macbeth were talking when Macbeth says aside, “Stars, hide your fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires.” When words like “black” and “desire” are put in that context it creates many horrible mental pictures about murders and fights which arouses peoples emotions. Ross is later talking with an old man when he states “By the clock `tis day, and yet dark night strangles the traveling lamp.” In other words; although, the sun should be out, something is blocking the light. This example of darkness imagery creates an eerie feeling in the reader because it is very abnormal for the sun to be blocked. To help this example of imagery, the sun can also symbolize a monarch or king. Another case of darkness imagery happens when Lady Macbeth and a messenger are talking and Lady Macbeth states, “That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark to cry, ‘Hold, hold!'” It creates an sensation of terror in the reader because of the something that is unknown. With night covering the earth like a blanket, no one knows what might happen. Also, Lady Macbeth seems to explain that her attack will be blind. She will be unable to see what she wounds and nothing will be able to come out of the darkness to stop her.
Darkness imagery works well in characterizing as well as arousing the emotions of the audience. Darkness imagery also is very useful for a further dramatic purpose, to characterize, and specifically in characterizing Macbeth. Through the use of darkness imagery Shakespeare was able to characterize Macbeth as evident in this next quote where Macduff and Malcolm are talking and Macduff pronounces, “Not in legions of horrid hell can come a devil more damned in evils to top Macbeth.” It is understood that Macduff views Macbeth as a man even further corrupt than any devil and would consequently characterize him as evil. Subsequent to that, Macbeth enters a scene with Young Siward and Young Siward asks for his name. Macbeth replies and Young Siward replies with “The devil himself could not pronounce a title more hateful to mine ear.This shows that, as well, Young Siward views Macbeth as a bad man and would also characterize Macbeth. Lastly, Malcolm is speaking with Macduff and saying how he will reveal his real evil self and states “When they shall be open’d, black Macbeth will seem as pure as snow.” This characterizing Macbeth as a dark person but contrary to previous beliefs, Malcolm is actually more evil
Consequently viewing the previous, it is undoubtedly true that darkness does play a big role in developing the dramatic purposes. Darkness imagery does help convey to the audience the atmosphere, it does provoke the audience’s response to the play, and it did help illustrate the characters in Macbeth. Imagery plays a huge roll in the development of any piece of literature.