Imagery and Irony

Home*The Play*Dramatis Personae*Theme*Imagery and Irony*Setting and Background*On Film and Stage*


-Shakespeare?s plays rich in imagery
-use of repetition, interweaving of related images - play?s important themes
-SIMILE Banquo: ?The earth has bubbles, as the water has...? (I. iii.)
-Banquo attempts to explain the sudden appearance of the witches, like they popped like bubbles
-METAPHORS Macbeth: ?Why do you dress me/in borrowed robes?? said when Ross calls Macbeth, ?Thane of Cawdor?, a title Macbeth still thinks belongs to someone else

i)Repeated Images:
-blood animals, clothes, sleep, illness/health, light/darkness, banquets, children

ii) Blood: -100 references
-first connected with good (ex. good captain)
-later linked with Duncan?s death and revenge
-Macbeth and Lady Macbeth reactions to blood on their hands in contrast to Lady Macbeth?s words when she was sleep walking
- ?I am in blood/Stepped in so far...? (III. iv. 135 - 137) Macbeth at the peak of his evil

iii) Animals:
-Elizabethan times saw animals as a part of natural order of universe
-animal bravery used to describe Macbeth?s bravery
-theme or order/disorder clarified by animals unnaturally (II. iv. ; III. iv - vi.)

iv) Clothes:
-idea of ill-fitting or unsuitable clothing symbolizes Macbeth?s unsuitability as a king
-imagery is underlined by frequent use of ?clothes? words such as ?cloaked? or ?wrapt?
-key quotations - (I, iii, 107 ; II, iv, 37 ; V, ii, 20 )
-significantly, Macbeth seems most comfortable in his armor - good point to his role as a warrior

v) Sleep:
-seen as natural and healing
-murder of Duncan made Macbeth feel he has murdered sleep
-sleeping is associated with innocence

vi) Illness/Health:
-images of sickness and health are used to support the theme of order/disorder
-both Caithness and Macbeth himself seek a medicine to cure the country of all its ills
-notice that Edward (good king) is able to perform miracle cures while Macbeth worsens

vii) Light/Darkness:
-common imagery of light to represent goodness and innocence
-darkness symbolizes evil
-appropriately, Macbeth is a ?dark? play with many murders occurring at nighttime
-Macbeth is hardly seen in daylight

viii) Banquets:
-banquet also used to support theme of order/disorder
-when Macbeth?s banquet is disrupted, it is a symbol of breakdown of natural order of things
-all caused by death of Duncan, the rightful king

ix) Children:
-symbolize innocence and goodness
-Shakespeare stresses hatefulness of Macbeth by showing his fear of children and viciousness toward them
-Lady Macbeth?s cruelty also revealed when she says:
?I have given suck.....? (I, viii, 54 - 59)
-he has Macduff?s children killed and tries to kill Fleance
-he fears Malcolm (rightful child) and Banquo?s children who were prophesied to come to the crown
-children may also represent the future and Macbeth greatly fears the future


1) refers to the kind of twist of fate, where the result of and action "bounces back" and affects the person who committed the action
- ex- when Duncan had the Thane of Cawdor executed for treachery, and gives the vacant title to Macbeth
- when Macbeth expresses the insencere wish that Banquo be present, during the Banquet scene
- irony- Banquo's ghost appears and terrifies Macbeth

2) Dramatic Irony- when the audience are in on a secret, but one or more characters are unaware
-ex.- when Duncan arrives at Macbeth's Castle and exclaims over the pleasant setting
- the audience knows that his gracious host and hostess will be his killers

Double Meaning of Words:
- ex- Macbeth- "twas a rough night"
- "Had I but died an hour before this chance, / I had lived a blessed time. "
=> one-side shows the cover up for the deed
- on the other side shows his remorse
**important: Act I, sc iv Duncans speeches

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