Imagery in Macbeth
Imagery, the art of making images, the product of imagination (Merriam-
Webster). Shakespeare uses many forms of imagery in his writing of Macbeth. Three main
forms of imagery in this play are blood, light and darkness, and clothing. Within each form
of this imagery Shakespeare incorporates symbols that the reader must understand if they
are to interpret either the passage or the play as a whole.
In Macbeth blood symbolizes many things. We have all known blood to represent
life, death, and often injury. In the play, Shakespeare uses blood to represent treason,
guilt, murder, and death. Shakespeare uses the word blood many times throughout
Macbeth. The best way to describe how the image of blood changes throughout the play is
by following the character changes in Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth. The first
reference to blood is on pg.113 Act I scene ii, when Duncan states "What bloody man is
that?" The symbolism of blood in this quote is that of honor. This quote is symbolic of the
fighter who has just been injured in battle. The symbol of blood begins to change to a form
of treachery and treason as the play moves on. Such as seen on pg.124 Act I scene v when
lady Macbeth asks the spirits "Make thick my blood." In this quote she wants to make
herself insensitive towards the deeds that she is about to commit. Towards the end of the
play blood symbolizes guilt. This is best seen on pg. 176 Act V scene ii, when Lady
Macbeth states "Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One: two: why, then \'tis time to do \'t." In
this quote Lady Macbeth is remembering the night of the murder. It is the guilt in her soul
that is making hr have these recurring nightmares. The last symbolism of blood is on pg.
185 Act II scene viii when Macduff states "I have no words: my voice is in my sword,
thou bloodier villian than terms can give thee out!" In this quote the imagery of blood
again begins to deal with honor.
The second form of imagery Shakespeare uses is light and darkness. In the play
Macbeth Shakespeare uses the witches, the guilt in Macbeth\'s soul, and the darkness of the
night to establish the atmosphere. The immoral scenes of the play seem to take place at
night. For instance, the vision of the dagger, the murder of Duncan, the murder of
Banquo, and Lady Macbeth\'s sleep walking. In the opening scene the witches set the
mood of the play. A great storm of thunder and lightning is taking place one of the witches
ask "When shall we meet again?" One replies " That will be ere set of sun." This is
foreshadowing the evil that takes place in the night. Another example of evil and the dark
is on pg. 123 Act I scene iv when Macbeth states "Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see
my black and deep desires." In this quote you can capture Macbeth\'s first step towards
The final form of imagery in Macbeth is clothing. Clothing is used to represent the
ambition of Macbeth. The first perception of this ambition is evident on pg. 121 Act I
scene iv when Banquo states " New honors came upon him, Like our strange garments,
cleave not to their mold but with the aid of use." Banguo is simply saying that new clothes
don\'t just fit your body, they have to become accustoms to you. Another reference of
clothing is on pg. 127 Act I scene vii Macbeth states "We will proceed no further in this
business: He hath honored me of late, and I have brought. Golden opinions from all sorts
of people, which would be worn now in their newest gloss, Not cast aside so soon." Here
he is comparing being recently named Thane of Cawdor to a new set of clothes. He
believes that he is not ready to be king, and thus not ready for a new set of clothes.
As you have seen imagery plays an important role in Macbeth. One can see this
through the images of blood, light and darkness, and clothing. It was Macbeth\'s ambition
that lead to his downfall, he was just not fit to be king, this was shown through clothing.
Darkness represented evil and deceit. Blood, the most dominant symbol in the play, shows
the changes in Macbeth\'s character, from the start of the play to end. Shakespeare gives
meaning and power to the play through