Light and Dark Imagery in Shakespeare's Macbeth
In Shakespeare's Macbeth, motifs from clothing to blood, from disease to sleep, brought
out the major themes and ideas set in the play. However, the motif of light and dark certainly
brought out major symbolism of the tragic hero himself, Macbeth, as well as the plot as a whole.
Through his skillful use of this imagery, Shakespeare shows us a deeper look into the true
character of Macbeth, and proves this play to be one of the best tragedies written.
The first form used to add to the atmosphere of the tragedy is the imagery of darkness. In a
Shakespearean tragedy, we have known him to create a special tone, or atmosphere to show the
darkness in a tragedy. In 'Macbeth', Shakespeare draws upon the design of the witches, the guilt in
Macbeth's soul, and the darkness of the night to establish the atmosphere. All of the remarkable
scenes take place at night or in some dark spot; for instance, the vision of the dagger, the murder of
Duncan, the Murder of Banquo, and Lady Macbeth's sleep walking. Darkness is the time when the
traveler hastens to reach safety in his inn, when Banquo rides homeward to meet his assassins;
furthermore, it is the time when the wolf howls, the owl screams, and when murder steals forth to his
work. Even at times when the witches speak, darkness is a essential key. The first witch says during
a conversation with her fellow witches, "Sleep shall neither night nor day Hang upon his penthouse
Simones 2lid; He shall live a man forbid: Weary sev'nights nine times nine Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine:
Though his bark cannot be lost, Yet it shall be tempest-tossed.” (I, iii, 19-23).
In 'Macbeth' darkness symbolizes many things. First, it stands for the evil and death in the
play. At the time of Duncan's murder, Macbeth says, "'Stars, hide your fires; Let not light