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Light and Darkness in Macbeth

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Introduction

Light and Darkness in Macbeth William Shakespeare's "Macbeth" is an ominous tale that illustrates the danger in violating the Great Chain of Being, the hierarchy of things in God's ordered universe. The Chain ranked all of creation and human society as well. It ranked kings above nobles and nobles above the poor. When Macbeth murdered King Duncan and assumed the throne, the Chain was violated... chaos resulted. The atmosphere of the play symbolized this resulting turmoil. Specifically, light and shadow were used to exemplify the unnatural chaos and ominous tone of the work. This essay will explore the role of light and the role of darkness as it relates to the chaos resulting from the violation of the Great Chain of Being. ...read more.

Middle

The idea that light signifies the natural order of things is enforced when the nobleman Ross says, "And yet dark night strangles the traveling lamp [the sun]" (Shakespeare 206). The sun is the symbol of the Great Chain of Being and God's order in harmony because it is the source of all natural light. Macbeth's act of regicide disturbed the natural order of things and so subdued the sun. In "Macbeth", light is a symbol of harmony and order, but darkness is just the opposite. Darkness is the chaos and evil that results from a broken Great Chain of Being. Macbeth sent Scotland into turmoil and dark night when he murdered King Duncan. In response to the announcement of the Prince of Cumberland as the successor to the throne of Scotland, Macbeth said, "... ...read more.

Conclusion

Is't night's predominance, or the day's shame, / That darkness does the face of the earth entomb/ When living light should kiss it" (Shakespeare 206). After Macbeth broke the Great Chain of Being, light was obscured and darkness was ever-present. The unnatural condition of the atmosphere was result of Macbeth's unnatural and ill-gotten place on the Great Chain of Being. Shakespeare used traditional symbolic concepts of light and dark to accentuate the Elizabethan concept of the Great Chain of Being in his play "Macbeth". When the Chain is in order everything is good and light is dominant. When the Chain is violated, darkness and evil reigns supreme. When Macbeth killed King Duncan and assumed his thrown, the Great Chain of Being was shattered. With his sinful act, Macbeth brought darkness that could only be righted when the balance was restored. ...read more.

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