imagery in Macbeth





Color Imagery in Macbeth
A Tragedy of Many Shades


Does William Shakespeare write with blood pouring from his pen? Do the violent images that his colors produce play a role in the tragedy, Macbeth? It is Shakespeare’s creative mind that produces each drop of blood that is evident with every new line of thought. Within Macbeth, an entire spectrum of colors helps develop and reveal the plot as each color brings a new meaning. William Shakespeare understands the importance of violence and bloodshed to assist in creating a suspenseful atmosphere, which will bring to the surface true emotions of guilt, regret, and remorse. He also knows that color images that are light in color easily associate with things that are wholesome. Contrary to light, shades of nightfall or darkness are indicative of wickedness. Shakespeare writes with a sense of realism that allows him to touch the emotions of any audience, whether they are living on the desolate poles of the earth or within a mighty nation. The common struggle between good and evil or light and dark is a thought of universal understanding and sympathy. Through color imagery, the characters leap from the stage of fiction into the reality of the audience. In Macbeth, the color images of light, darkness, and blood reveal, conceal, and control the emotions and actions, whether good or bad, of the characters.
The image of daylight in Macbeth magnifies emotions and actions that are heavenly and pure. Shakespeare uses the stars of twilight often to reveal the honorable morality within his characters. According to Caroline Spurgeon, “light stands for life, virtue, goodness and darkness for evil and death (324).” The first instance of this occurs when King Duncan promises that all that deserve reward will receive reward for their heroic effort in the wars. “But signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine on all deservers (1.4.41).” The comparison between ‘stars and nobleness’ aids the audience in the comprehension of light, even from the fire of a star, and is continuously in existence with feelings of righteousness. Shakespeare, again, creates a relationship between daylight and wholesome action when he allows Macbeth’s emotions toward Malcolm to be public, “Stars, hide your fires, Let not light see my black and deep desires (1.4.50).” Macbeth’s desires are to eliminate Malcolm and all that stand in his way of the throne. Through his words, Macbeth constructs another bridge between light and morality. Macbeth is asking for “a kind of moral anesthesia (Jorgensen 87).” Throughout the play, daylight controls every intension of the characters and reveals that only heavenly virtue can exist during the hours of daylight. The play moves in one direction constantly and daylight acts a precursor to protect the characters from unholy crimes. Macbeth word’s in act three sums up the basic understanding of the role of light within the play, “Good things of day begin to droop and drowse (3.2.52).” In one line of poetic genius, Shakespeare makes the obvious contrast between night and darkness being evil, and day and light linking with good. This contrast between light and dark is reiterated more than four hundred times throughout the play (Muir 49). In Macbeth, William Shakespeare constantly keeps the play moving in one direction by creating unique circumstances, such as light and dark, to control the character’s thoughts and actions.
Shakespeare uses darkness to portray several emotions and actions, but first and foremost, he uses darkness to foreshadow the acts of treachery and murder. Nearly every evil intension, action, or thought is preceded by the element of darkness. Shakespeare allows Lady Macbeth to provide the first idea of darkness as a foreshadowing device for evilness. She calls for night before the murder of King Duncan, “Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark to cry ‘hold, hold’ (1.5.49-50).” This line really serves two purposes, but the first is for night to come, so that the murder can occur. Lady Macbeth’s words suggest to the audience that her desires of murder can and will take place only under a dark sky. The darkness of night is present in many scenes throughout Macbeth. “Duncan arrives at Inverness as night falls; he is murdered during the night; Banquo returns from his last ride as night is again falling (Muir 48).