Essay, Research Paper: Macbeth

Shakespeare: Macbeth

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In all of his plays, Shakespeare uses an assortment of motifs and symbols that
bear vivid imagery, almost bringing them to life, just like a character. In the
tragedy Macbeth, Shakespeare does an excellent job in using the element
darkness, and words associated to it, to create a type of “force” that has
an impact on the characters and the play itself. When we think of the dark, what
immediately comes to our minds are feelings of evilness, wickedness, and
negativity. Darkness is a tool that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth use to lead them
both to execute deadly, murderous acts. At first darkness is simply portrayed as
a blanket to cover up a bad deed when needed. As the play progresses, darkness
evolves into a personality (creature) that plagues Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
This evolution is evident in the deeds of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in the course
of the play. The plot directly affecting Macbeth starts off when he meets the
Three Witches who tell him a prophecy that piques his mind. They tell him that
he will soon be the King of Scotland: “All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king
hereafter!” (I.iii.49). This scene takes place in darkness, and it is the
first time we see darkness as being natural. There is thunder, and therefore
there are gray clouds and it is dark. With the combination of the witches (known
to society as being evil) and the darkness, we get the notion that there is
something vile going on. Banquo, at one point in the play, defines the witches
as being “the instruments of darkness” (I.iii.123). The witches’
prophecies lead him to consider the role and the privilege of being king which
he would have never considered before. Apparently darkness, even at its initial,
natural appearance, brought evil. The next appearance of darkness is used as a
“blanket,” a hider of bad deeds. Macbeth says to himself, “Stars, hide
your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires” (I.iv.51-52). In
other words, he is asking for darkness to hide his evil desires. Just before
Macbeth’s quote, Duncan names his successor, and it is not Macbeth. Duncan
names his son Malcolm. After previous pondering, Macbeth realizes then that he
must do something himself in order for the prophecy to come true. He decides to
become king through foul play. He instantaneously calls upon darkness to be a
blanket to hide his dark, evil desires so that he can preserve his benign
outlook. It is noticeable that he went straight to calling darkness instead of
dealing with “the instruments of darkness,” the three witches. This is an
indication of him taking matters into his own hands; perhaps the beginning of
his abusing of the power of darkness. Alongside to Macbeth, Lady Macbeth also
asks darkness to hide her evil deeds. After she reads Macbeth’s letter, she
too gets the whim of being queen and enjoying all the benefits that will come
with it. In her speech (I.v.36-52), she seems very determined to achieve the
goal of Macbeth’s crowning. She asks the spirits to “unsex” her, “make
thick my blood” as to stop its access to remorse, and, generally, to give her
the strength to do the evil deed. She too calls upon darkness to play a role in
hiding the deadly act, or rather “assist” her in the murder. “Come, thick
night, and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, that my keen knife see not
the wound it makes, nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark to cry,
‘Hold, hold!’” (I.v.48-52). After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth is crowned
king. At this point and after, darkness is not just an entity to be used when
needed. Before, when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth needed to kill Duncan, they called
upon darkness because they needed it. By now, darkness has evolved into an
entity that is always there as opposed to being there just when needed. Since he
became king in a foul way, Macbeth had to be careful that no one found out the
truth. With his crown lay a lingering thought that someone might find out the
truth and attempt to crush him. Upon finding out that Banquo would be a threat
to his security, he quickly refers to darkness, in this case evilness. There is
no other thought in Macbeth’s head. It is murder, plain and simple––and
dark. Now, in Banquo’s words, he is “a borrower of the night [darkness]”
(III.i.26). We can see him becoming more and more roguish, just like darkness is
a symbol of evil. Darkness is somewhat turning into a “companion” of Macbeth.
He refers to it instantaneously without thinking, as indicated by his
instantaneous decision to kill Banquo and his son, Fleance. With more
continuance of the play, we see the obvious change of darkness as it takes form
of a personality or creature that Macbeth’s mind becomes a host of. We can see
the plaguing of Macbeth’s mind and the transformation of darkness to a
personality in Macbeth’s speech during his talks with his wife. First he says:
“Come, seeling night, scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day...”
(III.ii.46-47). This can mean that with the personality in him, he can only
operate when night or darkness takes over light. He also says: “Good things of
day begin to droop and drowse, whiles night’s black agents to their preys do
rouse” (III.ii.53-54). This is enough proof that darkness has become a
creature because only creatures can rouse their prey. All this leads to the
conclusion that Macbeth now lives in the dark, and he sees everything as night.
Darkness is him at this point. When the murderers prepare to kill Banquo, one of
them observe that “the west yet glimmers with some steaks of day”
(III.iii.6). It is the light that versus the darkness. It is Banquo versus
Macbeth. The third murderer refers to Banquo as the light (III.iii.19). Macbeth
has killed the light––the only source of recovery. He is out of control:
darkness has taken over his life. He even has Macduff’s family killed in
daylight! Also to notice is whereas Macbeth is dwelling in darkness with no
problem, Lady Macbeth is in a frenzy. She sleepwalks, hallucinates, and carries
a light with her at all times. Darkness is a corruptor of the mind. In
conclusion, Shakespeare uses the term darkness in a very clever way. He brings a
life into an idea that pushes the play in one direction, just like a character.
Darkness evolved as first being simply a tool for ones evil usage, secondly
being an addictive “drug” that the user uses all the time, and thirdly
becoming a virus that plagues one’s mind and changes his whole mind into a
more ruthless mind. Of course, Macbeth is killed at the end of the play.
Darkness is evil and leads one to confusion and chaos in the end.
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