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How are darkness and light used as symbols of good and evil in the play Macbeth?

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Introduction

How are darkness and light used as symbols of good and evil in the play? Shakespeare uses the symbols of light and dark to represent good and evil in 'Macbeth' to add dramatic atmosphere throughout the play. Darkness is used to convey evil; it conceals the unknown which many people fear while light is connected with religion, a state of purity, innocence and openness. In Act 1 Scene 4 King Duncan states that the signs of nobility are 'like stars' and 'shall shine on all deservers,' just before Macbeth reveals in a short soliloquy that he has 'black and deep desires.' He calls upon the stars to 'hide their fires,' not to shine their light on his thoughts. The audience sees a darker side to Macbeth, an evil streak that he does not want revealed yet brought to light. Just in the same way Lady Macbeth calls upon evil spirits to take away her natural womanliness, her compassion and kindness, 'Come thick night...smoke of hell..' ...read more.

Middle

Witches were seen as old women who had peculiar habits, for example making medicines with herbs or talking to animals, in the 21st century this would be passed as nothing but a herbal remedy and nothing of it would be classified as unnatural. The penalty in the seventeenth century for anyone caught practising witchcraft or accused of connections to the world of the abnormal were burnt at the steak. This was after King James I and his wife, Anne was involved in a storm at sea where they were both nearly shipwrecked in 1950. The 'witches of Bevrick' were accused and found guilty of trying to kill the king and queen by calling spirits to cast a storm at sea. Jacobeans regarded the king and queen as chosen people from God therefore it was a sacrilege to plot against him. Satan was often accused for evil deeds as they were usually against God. This is why many religious symbols of good and evil are used throughout 'Macbeth'. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is clear that Macbeth is deeply shaken about the state his soul, whether it will reach heaven conveying how Shakespeare believed that such evil deeds were not committed heartlessly and without regret, To know my deed, 'twere best not know myself.' In Act 2 Scene 1 Banquo's short soliloquy reveals that he assumes that Macbeth has become King by foul means. His main concerns are the awareness of the influence the witches have had on Macbeth and how their predictions are coming true. His comment on becoming a 'borrower of the night' comes true in that he will 'borrow' some time from the world of darkness to return and haunt Macbeth. In a similar way Macbeth has 'borrowed' from the dark forces of chaos and for this meddling he will have to repay the debt with his life. The imagery of clothing, 'borrowed robes' is carried throughout the play implying he is not himself. Just as a costume can be worn and acted in Macbeth takes the place of King, puts the crown on his head and does not realise the consequences. ...read more.

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