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The images of darkness and disease in Macbeth

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The images of darkness and disease in Macbeth are very important in creating the atmosphere and mood of the play. Shakespeare uses verbal imagery as well as the physical images acted out in the play to affect the audience; these effects were enhanced by the fact that Macbeth was first performed in front of a small audience and lighting would have been provided by candlelight. Threatening darkness seems to envelop Macbeth who appears oppressed by fear and danger and obsessed with thoughts of Duncan's death. Macbeth combats his fears with thoughts of more violence. The imagery of dark and light relates to the metaphorical fight between good and evil. Macbeth symbolizes a disease affecting Scotland. Throughout the play, the use of imagery connected with darkness and disease help to create the atmosphere of surrounding evil: Come seeling night, Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day, And with thy bloody and invisible hand Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond Lines such as these, as much as the appearance of the witches and the terrible acts committed, give the play its increasing sense of a world besieged by appalling injustice. ...read more.


This imagery of dark and light, clearly relates to the metaphorical fight between good and evil, which is also shown by word pictures where darkness "struggles" with light. For example when Duncan links nobility with the stars: which honour must Not unaccompanied invest in him only, But signs of nobleness, like stars, Macbeth almost immediately says in an aside, "Stars, hide your fires..." (So that his, "black and deep desires," cannot be seen,) so that the audience can see that he is even plotting to become King just after he has been praised, setting in stone that he is evil. Also early in the play, in Act 2, Scene 4, Ross says to the old man, "...dark night strangles the traveller's lamp". The traveller's lamp is a metaphor of the sun, and, when it has been covered by darkness, it symbolizes the battle between light and darkness with darkness, temporarily winning. Although later in the play light dominates again once Macbeth is killed: As calling home our exil'd friends abroad that fled the snares of watchful tyranny; Producing forth the cruel ministers Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like Queen Macduff symbolizes the light conquering darkness when he is ...read more.


This lie shows us that people would relax more around him if they knew that the fit he had just had was a lifelong thing that hadn't affected him badly. Macduff compares his revenge on Macbeth to medicine at the end of Act 4, "Let's make us medicine of our great revenge, / to cure this deadly grief", this means that when he takes revenge on Macbeth, it will be a cure for Scotland. The Elizabethans believed that a persons character was also very closely linked to diseases they had or have, in Macbeth's case his fiery temperament could have been linked to a disease causing yellow bile, whereas Banquo's temperament could be related to blood which bring about jolly, optimistic feelings. They also thought the elements were involved, Fire with anger, Air with Sanguine, Water with sluggishness and Earth with sadness. Darkness and disease are images that feature throughout Macbeth and they help to create the mystical mood. They are likely to affect the audience by dampening their spirits. The disease theme helps to illustrate the differences between Edward the Confessor, who can cure disease, and Macbeth, who is seen as the source of Scotland's "ill health". The witches are seen as instrumental in the development of disease. ...read more.

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