Imagery In Macbeth
Imagery is often used in literary work to convey a visual description of themes. In
William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, imagery plays a significant role of enhancing themes
of appearance vs. reality, natural vs. unnatural, evil and secrecy for the reader to better
conceptualize through characters and the atmosphere. Garments, nature, and
darkness, are three main images found within Macbeth that establish themselves with
figurative language and develop these themes found throughout the story to evince fear
of reversal of moral order within the audience. Notably, garment imagery contributes to
Garment imagery is used to illustrate that a character's “attire” may not “fit” well,
or is not suited for, associating with the theme of appearance vs. reality. This analogy is
used in reference to Macbeth, when Angus explains, “Those he commands move only
in command, / Nothing in love: now does he feel his title / Hang loose about him, like a
giant’s robe / Upon a dwarfish thief.” (5.2.22-25, Shakespeare). Angus compares the
title of “king” to a “giant’s robe”, as it’s a large honour to bear. Macbeth, having wrongly
stolen this title, wears it now over his dishonourable and “dwarfish” character,
symbolizing that the metaphoric robes in which he has attired are much too ill-fitting.
They are large as he lacks the greatness or ability a king should possess to fill them.
His appearance portrays him as a king, although in reality, he is denoted as deceitful
and is continually conscious of this, deepening his character and and the overall state of
Scotland. Similarly, Macbeth proclaims early in the play, “The thane of Cawdor lives:
why do you dress me / In borrow’d robes?” (1.3.114 -115). He believes the thane of
Cawdor to still be alive, therefore utilizing “borrowed robes” as a title that does not
belong to him. Prior to this announcement, Macbeth had no knowledge of the thane of
Cawdor’s betrayal nor his execution, leaving Macbeth to assume what he already knew
about the thane, perfectly alive and well, this also being an example of appearance vs.
reality. Later in the play, Caithness refers to the tyrant (Macbeth) as that, “He cannot
buckle his distempered cause / Within the belt of rule.” (5.2.14-18). Macbeth is
described to be so insane and mentally unstable that he’s unable to put a belt around
himself, or rule. Macbeth’s state of mind has grabbed ahold of his appearance, and who
was once an “all mighty soldier” has now diminished in level of authority and respect,
signifying reversal of moral order. These examples of garment imagery demonstrate
how Macbeth has taken on a role far beyond his capabilities and expresses the theme
he portrays regarding appearance vs. reality and how it influenced the concept of
reversal of moral order. Additionally, nature imagery also aids the reader in grasping the
themes of Macbeth.
Nature is another significant use of imagery as it emphasizes the theme of
natural vs. unnatural. Duncan...