Darkness in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”
This paper explores the symbolism of darkness in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”
Darkness, Beacon of Chaos in Macbeth Darkness in our society is indicative of evil. For instance, a black cat, a dark night, and a dark place are all symbolic of diablerie. Authors use these symbols to describe an evil character or setting. William Shakespeare employs the imagery of darkness in Act 4 of his play Macbeth to describe the agents of disorder. The witches, Macbeth, and Scotland are all described as dark because they represent the agents of chaos.
The witches in the first scene of Act 4 are depicted as agents of chaos because of the dark domain around them. The witches meet in a dark cave. The cave is an appropriate setting for the witches because caves tend to represent the under-world and hell, creating a feeling of evil. The witches appearance, “secret, black, and midnight hags” also indicates their evil nature.
The witches dark meeting place and dark appearance all emphasize their destructive nature.
Macbeth in Act 4: consulted with the witches, murdered Macduff’s family, and continued to create chaos in Scotland. Macbeth in Act 4 is described as an agent of disorder, “untitled tyrant bloody-sceptered”. The language in Act 1 that described Macbeth has changed from “noble” and “kind” to the diction of Act 4 witch describes Macbeth as “black Macbeth” and a “tyrant”. The Castle that Macbeth lives in, Dunsanine is also indicative of darkness. Dunsanine is similar to the word dungeon a dark and dirty place. In Act 4 Macbeth is an agent of disorder, he murders and he consults witches, because of this he is described using dark imagery. Scotland under the rule of Macbeth is described as, “shrouded in darkness”, by Malcolm. Scotland in Act 4 has fallen off the “Chain of Being” and is now occupied with the forces of chaos and disorder. Scotland in Act 4 is filled with “sighs, and groans, and shrieks, that rent the air”. Scotland is described by Ross as, “O Nation Miserable”.
All these descriptions of Scotland portray Scotland as a place where the agents of darkness have shrouded the land. The agents of chaos and disorder were symbolized by darkness in Act 4. The witches were described as, “dark as midnight”; Macbeth was described as , “devilish and dark”; and Scotland was described as “dying”. The imagery of darkness also plays an important role in character development. Macbeth in Act 1 was an agent of order and thus was described with words such as “noble” and “loyal” but when Macbeth became an agent of disorder he was described with words such as “dark” and “devilish”. This same character development is true for Scotland which in Act 1 was described as the land of light; but in Act 4 when it became the land of evil was described with diction such as dark and grave like.
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