• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

how does the characteristic imagery of ‘macbeth’ contribute to the creation of atmosphere and the deveolpment of key themes?

Extracts from this document...


HOW DOES THE CHARACTERISTIC IMAGERY OF 'MACBETH' CONTRIBUTE TO THE CREATION OF ATMOSPHERE AND THE DEVEOLPMENT OF KEY THEMES? Macbeth is a famous Shakespearean tragedy written around 1606. It is based on a true story but is generally interpreted as a moral tragedy rather than a history. It traces Macbeth's fall from 'prosperity to adversity'1 after his encounter with the witches. Macbeth was extremely ambitious and this characteristic is what made him Thane of Cawdor and the noble soldier that was presented at the start of the play. That same characteristic was what later led to his demise. Shakespeare wrote his plays in poetry and used a variety of linguistic devices to conjure up images in the mind of the reader. These images weren't just picked at random. Instead, they were used throughout the play and varied each time so that they echoed the previous image. The range of images running through the play build up to a number of key themes on which the play is based. The play portrays the pursuit of power at all costs. From this main theme arises a number of different, subsidiary themes. For the characters, there are problems regarding power, ambition, treachery, deception, murder, and betrayal. In the background, there is a constant battle between good and evil, showing a 'reversal of values and of unnatural disorder'2 . Throughout the play, the line 'Fair is foul, and foul is fair' is continually echoed. It is varied slightly but constantly implies that moral law boundaries are not rigid, and that good and evil are interchangeable. ...read more.


Lady Macbeth refers to 'the milk of human kindness' yet later the image of milk seems more malevolent in 'take my milk for gall.' When she is convincing Macbeth to carry through the murder, the image of milk was once again used. This time it was the image of breast-feeding a child as Lady Macbeth said that she would, 'Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless, And dash'd the brains out'. The crime that Macbeth commits is a convulsion of nature and is described as unnatural by witnesses. Macbeth himself says that Duncan's wounds 'look'd like a breach in nature.' When Macduff saw Duncan the next morning, he exclaimed, 'Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope The Lord's anointed temple, and stole thence The life o' the building!' Sacrilegious is a synonym for unholy. In Shakespeare's time, everything followed a divine order. God was said to rule everything and the King was his representative on earth. He controlled all humans, animals, and nature. God's universal order would be preserved as long as people chose to follow God and obey his laws. This included honouring the King and following his commandments. The murder of Duncan would seem incredibly sinful as not only was a life being destroyed, but also, it was a blatant sin against God. The crime that Macbeth commits is not only immoral, but it is unnatural too. When Macbeth returns after killing Duncan, Lady Macbeth casually remarks that, 'A little water clears us of this deed.' Water is supposed to symbolise purity yet here it is being used to clear them from suspicion. ...read more.


Just after Duncan's murder, Macbeth was terrified by the sight of the blood, saying that no amount of water could possibly clean his hands. This is echoed in act5, sc.i when Lady Macbeth says, 'all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.' After the murder had passed, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth seemed to have switched role. The sight and the smell Duncan's blood had driven Lady Macbeth insane, whilst Macbeth was describing the image of being in 'blood stepp'd in so far'. This enhances the image that Macbeth is so evil that there is no way his soul could ever be pure. The blood also makes us picture the colour red which combines with black (as mentioned above) to form a wonderful blend of colours for the underlying theme of the play. The image of blood is very important to the play because it acts as a physical reminder of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's sins. They show that although sins can be covered up, they cannot be completely forgotten. The imagery in Macbeth is what makes it an exceptional play. The imagery and key themes all intertwine and blend together to link up the whole play. The atmosphere and key themes do not rely on a single image but on a range of different images to invoke emotions of fear, horror, and pity in the audience. The fact that Shakespeare uses strands of imagery is one of the reasons that his plays are so popular. They make his plays unique and interesting and help his audience to understand and to empathise with the characters. Ting-Ting Zhang 10V 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Macbeth section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Macbeth essays

  1. macbeth- appearance vs reality

    Therefore she is deceiving the other characters and making them think that Macbeth is really ill, "Good-night; and better health attend his majesty" they leave after Lady Macbeth tells them to do so. Duncan is invited to Macbeth's castle, which he finds very nice and welcoming.

  2. How does Shakespeare create an atmosphere of evil and disorder in Act 1 of ...

    They see it as a bit of light entertainment, this illustrates the different morals the witches appear to have to humans. There is definitely an air of dramatic irony about it. This attack the witches make also shows how evil is associated with an attack on what is naturally good.

  1. How does Shakespeare invoke a sense of evil in Macbeth?

    With this development the sisters seem all the more potent as with their knowledge of the future comes also the ability to meddle and pervert it. Displayed also is the witches' association with the elements as the first witch questions "in thunder, lightning or in rain?", as though they have a slight mastery over the elements.

  2. Why is Act two Scene two an important scene in ‘Macbeth’?

    One of the parts with the most tension is probably lines 16-20, where Macbeth and Lady Macbeth exchange short, sharp dialogue, 'Macbeth: When? Lady Macbeth: Now. Macbeth: As I descended?' (II ii 16-17) which breaks Shakespeare's typical iambic pentameter, having ten syllables to each character's line.

  1. Discuss the impact Shakespeare is trying to achieve in Act 2 scene 3 of ...

    In Macbeth's speeches' he tries to make out that he is devastated by the murder but I think Banquo suspects him somehow, probably because Banquo has known Macbeth for a long time now. I think Lady Macbeth's faint is intentional because she knows he is failing to cover up well

  2. In all of Shakespeare's plays he uses many forms of imagery. In the play, ...

    While Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking she goes through the motions of washing her hands saying "Out damned spot! Out, I say", in reference to the blood that stained her hands after smearing it all over the servants. She also refers to Duncan's murder saying: "Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him!"

  1. Macbeths genre is a tragedy due to some of its themes. One theme of ...

    Macbeth also uses paradox in some of his lines like with the witches saying at start in scene 1 act 1, "Fair is foul, foul is fair". This quote from Macbeth is where the witches are saying things are not what they seem, but Macbeth writes the line differently than that in paradox, which is when it contrasts itself.

  2. Act 1 Scene 1 of Macbeth plays a significant role in the play as ...

    I am making this assumption from the line, ? when the battle?s lost and won? this example highlights their ability to foresee the future. Suddenly, for most it is not so obvious what Shakespeare is talking about? This line has a lot more complexity compared to the other lines in this first scene.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work