Imageries and Symbols in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Use of Imageries and Symbols in Shakespeare's Macbeth
How is imagery used in Macbeth?
The Imagery in Macbeth
appears to be more rich and varied, more highly imaginative, more unapproachable
by any other writer than that of any other single play. A. C. Bradley has
superbly commented “The vividness,
magnitude and violence of the imagery in some of the passages are characteristics
of Macbeth almost throughout.”
Keats says “Shakespeare led a life of allegory; his works are the comment of it.”

What does clothing symbolize in Macbeth?

Spurgeon considers the images in Macbeth
more imaginative, subtle and complex than those of other plays. Firstly through
the clothing imagery Shakespeare shows us his imaginative view of the hero, Macbeth. When Rosse greets Macbeth
as ‘Thane of Cawdor’, Macbeth replies:  

                             “The Thane of Cawdor lives; why do you dress
borrowed robes?”
watches Macbeth absorbed in ambitious thought, and says:

                             “New honour come upon him
our strange garments.”

reacts similarly:

                             “Now does he feel his title
loose about him, like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief.”

again Lady Macbeth taunts her husband:

                             “Was the hope drunk
your dressed yourself?”

What is dark imagery in Macbeth?
Day and Night, Light and Darkness appear
as things contrasted. Day and Light represent virtue and goodness, while
darkness stands for evil and death. Darkness pervades the entire play. It
symbolizes the actual time to fulfil the darkened design (murder). Duncan arrives
at Inverness as night falls; he is murdered during the night. Banquo returns
from his last ride as night falls and is murdered in the way. Lady Macbeth
invokes darkness:

                             “Come, thick night
pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell.”

equals evil, as does hell. She is well aware of the presence of light and
                             “Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the

addresses darkness:

                             “Come seeling night
up the tender of pitiful day.”

both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s goodness is not totally put out although evil
darkens their mind:

                             “There’s husbandry in heaven
candles are all out.”

darkness stands as a natural cover for the unnatural action.

Also Read:

👉Macbeth as a Morality Play

👉Explained Tomorrow
and Tomorrow and Tomorrow Soliloquy

👉Significance of Porter Scene

👉Macbeth as a Tragedy

👉Character of Macbeth

👉Character sketch of Banquo

👉Character of Lady Macbeth

👉Macbeth Book Review, Synopsis

👉Character Analysis of Macduff

“black” is used in the play
numerous times as a
symbol. In a tone of murderous thought Macbeth expresses:

                             “Star, hide your fires;
not light see my black and deep desires.”

keynote of the tragedy is struck in the lines:

                             “Good things of day begin to droop and
night’s black agents to their preys do rouse.”

greets the Witches as “secret black and
midnight hags”
Van Doren finds three types of images in Macbethblood, sleep and fear. The colour blood heightens the
horror of the play. “Every scene” said Stopford  Brooke “is crimson with blood; it is like a
garment in Isaiah’s battle rolled in blood.”
The surgeon who informs Duncan of
Macbeth’s victory is “a bloody man”. He speaks of Macbeth whose “bandished
steel smacked with bloody execution.”
The second witch comes from the bloody
task of killing swine. The illusionary dagger is marked with “gouts of blood”
which informs the “bloody business”. The earth is referred to as a “blood stage”.
sees the “blood-boltered” face of Banquo. He imagines his hands are stained
with blood. Macbeth again speaks of the “golden blood” of Duncan. He refers
Malcolm and Donalbain as “bloody cousins”. The second apparition, a “bloody
refers to Macduff. Lady Macbeth says that all the perfumes of Arabia
cannot wipe out the blood sign from her hands.
Sleeplessness looms
large before our vision. In the world of chaos and disorder, there cannot be
soothing rest and sleep. With the murder of Duncan sleep has also been murdered:
                             “Methought I heard a voice cry “sleep no
doth murder sleep.”

whole Scotland is suffering from sleeplessness. Macbeth “lacks the season of
all nature – sleep.”
In the Sleep Walking scene Lady Macbeth cannot have a wink
of sleep.
babe imagery is used in a number of
occasions to show pity, humanity, sympathy outraged by the murderers. Lady Macbeth
invites the black spirit to “take my milk for gall”. Again she says “how tender
it is to love the babe that milks me.”
Macbeth in his famous soliloquy merges
the babe image with the cherubim image to indicate his fear of judgement of
human heart.

Why does Shakespeare use animal imagery in Macbeth?
Macbeth plenty of animal imageries
are masterly used to intensify the tragic suspense and tension of the play.
Animals mentioned in the play are all fierce and ill-omened – owl, cricket, ‘grey
malkins’, maggot pies, raven, choughs, rooks, the wolf, the ‘Hyrcan tiger’, ‘armed
rhynoceros’, bat. All these suggest life threatening hideous and it culminates
life in the holocaust of filth prepared by the Weird Sisters in the Cauldron
if drawn from humble things, Shakespeare has made the images great in the
alembic fancy of his magnificent poetry.

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