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

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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.

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