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The use of allegory in shakespeares play macbeth

Light and Darkness Macbeth is full of imagery of light and darkness. From the first, the cover of night is invoked whenever anything terrible is going to happen. Lady Macbeth, for example, asks "thick night" to come with the "smoke of hell," so her knife might not see the wound it makes in the peacefully sleeping King 1.

The literal darkness Lady Macbeth calls for seems to correspond to the evil or "dark" act she plans to commit. When Lady Macbeth calls for the murderous spirits to prevent "heaven" from "peep[ing] through the blanket of the dark to cry 'Hold, Hold!

  • Dead Children You may have noticed the play is full of dead babies and slain children;
  • After he murders Duncan, Macbeth supposes that even "Great Neptune's ocean" could not wash away his stain of guilt 2;
  • Like the contrast of light and dark, blood is also universally accepted as different types of symbols, some of which are positive, and some of which are negative;
  • Owls are supposed to prey on mice — not go around eating larger birds of prey like falcons.

So, it's no surprise to us that, when Lady Macbeth descends into madness, she insists on always having a candle or, "light" about her 5. It turns out, though, that such candlelight doesn't do her much good — she's too far gone and ultimately kills herself.

Interestingly enough, Macbeth responds to the news of Lady Macbeth's suicide by proclaiming "out, out brief candle" 5. By now, the candle's flame has become a metaphor for her short life and sudden death. Similarly, Banquo's torchlight the one that illuminates him just enough so his murderers can see what they're doing is also snuffed out the moment he's killed 3.

Both incidents recall an event from the evening King Duncan is murdered — Lennox reports that the fire in his chimney was mysteriously "blown" out 2. Nature in Turmoil and Rebellion After King Duncan is murdered by Macbeth, we learn from the Old Man and Ross that some strange and "unnatural" things have been going on. Even though it's the middle of the day, the "dark night strangles the traveling lamp," which literally means that darkness fills the sky and chokes out the sun 2.

Could this be another allusion to the way the king's life has been extinguished kings are often associated with the sun's power and his power usurped by "darkness" Macbeth? This interpretation seems likely. We also learn that an owl was seen killing a falcon and Duncan's horses went wild and began eating each other 2. Let's think about this. Clearly, nature is out of whack. Owls are supposed to prey on mice — not go around eating larger birds of prey like falcons.

Once tame, they "broke their stalls […] contending 'gainst obedience" just before they ate each other 2. We're detecting a theme of rebellion here. It seems as though Macbeth has upset the natural order of things by killing the king.

We also want to note that the play begins with a terrible storm likely conjured by the witches that's associated with dark forces and also the rebellion against King Duncan. Eight Kings When Macbeth visits the weird sisters and demands to know whether or not Banquo's heirs will become kings, the witches conjure a vision of eight kings, the last of which holds a mirror that reflects on many more such kings 4.

  • The flower is meant to be a symbol of innocence, whereas the snake is a common metaphor for evil;
  • We can use our own clothing metaphor to say that Macbeth's not quite "big enough" to fill the former king's shoes;
  • People also regard different types of animals and items of nature as symbols for various character attributes.

The fact that these are Banquo's heirs makes Macbeth really unhappy. It's important to note that one of the kings in the mirror happens to be holding two orbs and is a symbolic representation of King James I of England a. At James's coronation ceremony in England 1603James held two orbs one representing England and one representing Scotland. We can't forget that King James was a major patron of Shakespeare, and that the Bard here shows his debt of gratitude to the King by exploring James's Scottish roots and confirming the lineage of an English king.

The "Equivocator" at the gate The drunken Porter responds to the knocking at the castle's gates just after Macbeth has murdered King Duncan. As he does so, he imagines there's a Catholic "equivocator" at the door "who committed treason enough for God's sake" 2. This is almost certainly a reference to Jesuit Henry Garnet, a man who was tried and executed for his role in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 an unsuccessful attempt by a group of Catholic extremists to blow up Parliament and King James I with a keg of gunpowder.

Macbeth Symbolism, Imagery & Allegory

Henry Garnet wrote the "Treatise on Equivocation," which encouraged Catholics to speak ambiguously or, "equivocate" when they were being questioned by Protestant inquisitors so they wouldn't be persecuted for their religious beliefs. This is exactly what Garnet did when he stood trial for treason. Equivocation speaking ambiguously or not telling the whole truth resurfaces throughout the play. The witches tell partial truths when they make predictions, Macbeth frequently bends the truth as he deliberates about whether or not it's OK to murder the king, and Macbeth also equivocates when he justifies to his henchmen that murdering Banquo is acceptable.

Bloody Daggers and Hands Blood shows up a lot in this play. Blood as a result of actual wounds is almost omnipresent, from the bleeding Captain in the beginning to Macbeth's bleeding head at the end. But it's the imagined blood that arguably has the biggest impact as a symbol.

  • By now, the candle's flame has become a metaphor for her short life and sudden death;
  • Of course, when Macbeth kills Duncan and takes the crown, Malcolm King Duncan's heir is denied "the due of birth;
  • By the play's end, order is restored with the promise of Malcolm being crowned as rightful king;
  • The sun rising represents how it may be possible for evil to temporarily gain an advantage, but in the end good will always win.

When Macbeth considers murdering Duncan, he sees a floating "dagger of the mind" that points him in the direction of the sleeping king's room 2.

As Macbeth wonders if his mind is playing tricks on him, the dagger becomes covered in imaginary blood, which anticipates the way that very real daggers will be soiled when Macbeth murders King Duncan.

Still, it's not clear where the image comes from. Did the witches conjure it up? Is it a product of Macbeth's imagination? Is Macbeth being tempted to follow or warned not to pursue the hallucination? Eventually, imagined blood comes to symbolize guilt for both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. After he murders Duncan, Macbeth supposes that even "Great Neptune's ocean" could not wash away his stain of guilt 2.

The idea that water alone could cleanse the pair after such a foul deed seems laughable, especially when Lady Macbeth famously curses the imaginary "spot" of blood she can't seem to wash from her guilty hands 5. After Macbeth kills his friend Banquo, who returns as a ghost, Macbeth announces that blood will beget blood, and his image of wading in a river of blood sums up the lesson: Dead Children You may have noticed the play is full of dead babies and slain children. The witches throw into their cauldron a "finger of birth-strangled babe" and then conjure an apparition of a bloody child that says Macbeth will not be harmed by any man "of woman born" 4.

Also, Fleance witnesses his father's murder before nearly being killed himself ; Macbeth kills Young Siward; and Macduff's young son, his "pretty chicken," is called an "egg" before he's murdered. So, what's the deal? If we think about it, the play seems fixated on what happens when family lines are extinguished, which is exactly what Macbeth has in mind when he orders the murders of his enemies' children.

His willingness to kill kids, by the way, is a clear sign that he's passed the point of no return. We can trace all of this back to Macbeth's anger that Banquo's "children shall be kings" 1. Recall the way he laments that, when the witches predicted he would be king, they placed a "fruitless crown" upon his head and a "barren scepter" in his hands 3.

Of course, when Macbeth kills Duncan and takes the crown, Malcolm King Duncan's heir is denied "the due of birth. By the play's end, order is restored with the promise of Malcolm being crowned as rightful king. And, we also know that Banquo's line will rule for generations to come.

So, it's rather fitting that, in the end, Macbeth is killed by a man who was "untimely ripped" from his mother's womb, don't you think? That would be Macduff, who turns out to be the guy who is not "of woman born. Clothing Clothing shows up an awful lot in the play the use of allegory in shakespeares play macbeth it seems like there's always talk about robes and nightgowns and what not. Was there a sale at Old Navy or is something else going on here? Let's think about this for a minute.

When Macbeth first hears that he's been named the Thane of Cawdor, he asks Angus why he is being dressed in "borrowed" robes 1. Macbeth doesn't literally mean that he's going to wear the old thane's hand-me-down clothing.

Here, "robes" is a metaphor for the title Thane of Cawdor that Macbeth doesn't think belongs to him.

Imagery in Macbeth

At this point in the play, Macbeth is corrupt. Seems like clothing metaphors are going to be about power in Macbeth, right? Angus isn't accusing Macbeth of stealing and wearing the old king's favorite jacket, he's accusing Macbeth of stealing the king's power by killing him and then parading around with the king's title, which doesn't seem to suit him at all.

We can use our own clothing metaphor to say that Macbeth's not quite "big enough" to fill the former king's shoes. There are other some ways to read the clothing metaphor. In a famous book called The WellWrought Urn, literary critic Cleanth Brooks offers a lengthy discussion about the play's clothing imagery. Here's what he has to say about Angus's comment that Macbeth looks like a "dwarfish thief" wearing a "giant's robe": The crucial point of the comparison, it seems to me, lies not in the smallness of the man and the largeness of the robes, but rather in the fact that—whether the man be large or small— these are not his garments; in Macbeth's case they are actually stolen garments.

Macbeth is uncomfortable in them because he is continually conscious of the fact that they do not belong to him. There is a further point, and it is one of the utmost importance; the oldest symbol for the hypocrite is that of a man who cloaks his true nature under a disguise.

He believes that the point of all this is not necessarily that Macbeth can't fill the king's big shoes, so to speak, but that Macbeth looks "uncomfortable" as king because he's stolen the crown from Duncan and he knows it doesn't belong to him. Brooks also argues that the clothing metaphor is about deception and hypocrisy, which, as we know, runs throughout the play.