Macbeth, the story of a Scottish general who receives a prophecy that
he will one day become king, uses many different images to complete the
function that Shakespeare was trying to convey. The function of imagery in
this play expresses ideas, creates character, and adds atmospheric effects.
There is an immeasurable power of evil in one man, and Macbeth fits this line
perfectly. After his murder of Duncan, his tyrannical reign begins and
Macbeth is forced to continue on with more and more murders to protect
himself from suspicion. This killing spree that results propels Macbeth and
his wife to a fate of madness and death.
The first function of imagery is to express ideas throughout the play
and to help bring different points together. Macbeth, who creates an image of
himself as an almighty and all-powerful ruler, discards all moral boundaries in
his quest for power. The effects of Macbeth’s actions show the
overwhelming effects of evil and the power it can have on one man. These
images in Macbeth express the picture of himself. After all the murders are
over, they are worth very little to him in the end. As said by a quote from
Lady Macbeth, “look like the innocence flower, but be the serpent under’t”,
people are not always what they appear to be. This image is a perfect match
for how people see Macbeth. This honest and good king, which was what the
people believed in the beginning, was actually the cause of all the turmoil and
destruction going on in their country. However, Macbeth’s greatest fear in
the play is that he has the image that he has murdered sleep, and by doing this
intensifies the witches incomplete predictions that he is so fearful of bringing
into a reality.
Another main function of imagery in Macbeth is that it creates
character. All of the disturbing situations that Macbeth and his wife go
through throughout the entire work, play a huge role in deciding how their
futures would turn out and what kind of people that they would become. The
other characters in the play also help determine Macbeth’s fate. Lady
Macbeth pushed Macbeth so hard in the beginning to kill Duncan, that after
that, the killing became so trivial and easy to him, that he did not even have to
think about them. Lady Macbeth also manipulates Macbeth by questioning
his manhood. The images she creates, such as wishing she herself was a
man, and agreeing that she could bear only boys, makes Macbeth question his
real character and who is inside himself. These comparisons also help urge
him on and complete his character as a murderer. Even though his own
ambition creates his character as a murderer, the manipulation from other
characters, along with his own fear and guilt really creates the core of
Fear, horror, and pain are emphasized by the many images of blood
throughout the play. This idea creates an atmospheric effect, which is another
main theme in Macbeth. The feeling shown in this play gets darker and
darker as the play progresses. The climax of the play, when Fleance escapes
from the murderers, is the time when the real fear and anxiety sets in for
Macbeth. From this time forth, he continually sees apparitions and is
paranoid until the time of his destruction. Probably the most horrific scene is
when Macbeth sees his own hands covered in blood, which turns a whole
green ocean blood red. From this time forth, he realizes the consequences
and knows that he has to pay the price. Then when he finds that the witches
prophecies about his destruction come true, it is the end of his tyrannically
rule that he planned and killed so many to achieve.
The main theme in this play, the destruction brought on when ambition
outweighs morals, is shown through the many images in Macbeth. The
function of these images, which are to express ideas, create character, and
add an atmospheric effect, are shown through the trials and horror that
Macbeth goes through. His tribulation is never appeased, and his fear and
guilt continue to grow stronger and stronger as the play progresses. Macbeth
shows that evil can be immeasurable in one man, however his capacity to
hold all of his evil is far less than he can take. As said in Act V, scene 2,
“Macbeth cannot buckle his destemper’d cause within the belt of rule,”
meaning he cannot handle what he has gotten himself into.


Macbeth-The book