In 1606 the prolific writer Shakespeare wrote the tragedy Macbeth. This play is based on the actual King Macbeth who reigned between the years of 1040 and 1057. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Shakespearean tragedies is the use of imagery to emphasize the theme of the story. Imagery is the figurative language or mental pictures that enable the author to show the significance of specific actions and by using the vivid language of imagery William Shakespeare allows his theme the be visualized by his readers. The central theme of the play is “Things Are Not Always What They Seem” or “Fair is Foul, Foul is Fair” and by repetitiously using imageries of blood, nature and prophecies throughout the play Shakespeare allows the reader to acquire a viewpoint on the entire play which is the central theme of the play.
Blood is an image that rises continuously throughout the tragedy of Macbeth. Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene serves as an image of blood in it’s relation to a person’s conscience. In Act 5, Scene 1 Lady Macbeth states “Here’s the smell of blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! oh! oh!” In this line Lady Macbeth is revealing how she subconsciously feels about King Duncan’s murder. Shakespeare shows her true character in comparison to her original character. Originally, Lady Macbeth was thought to be emotionless and cruel, especially when she said “ Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers: the sleeping and the dead are but a pictures: ’tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil. If he do bleed, I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal, For it must seem their guilt.” (2.2.53). In these lines William Shakespeare shows the readers that Lady Macbeth is not what it seems. Fearlessness and heartlessness in Act 2 turns into guilt and remorse in the fifth Act of the play.
In addition to using the image of blood to give his theme, William Shakespeare uses images of nature to pass his theme. At the first banquet scene Lady Macbeth warns Macbeth to “To beguile the time, Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye. Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t.” By using images of flowers and serpents Shakespeare allows readers to visualize and compare the soft trusting flower to the sly, dangerous snake. Again, repeating the theme of “Things Are Not Always What They Seem” by having Macbeth be the snake but seeming like a flower to King Duncan. A deeper, unnoticeable reference to imagery of nature in Macbeth is the use of air as a symbol to the witches. When one thinks of air, one thinks of a necessity that basically makes existence possible. Shakespeare turns this primary use for air into something it doesn’t seem. In Act 1, Scene 1, Line 12 the three witches say in unison that “Foul is fair and foul in fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air.” Immediately, the theme opens the play when the witches state that “fair is foul, and foul is fair.” Air seems clean, clear and pleasant but when seen as parallel to the witches air seems dirty and filthy.
The largest and most influential image of the theme in Macbeth is Act 4, Scene 1 in its entirety. In this scene Macbeth meets the witches for the final time and three apparitions give him his final prophesies. When Macbeth speaks to the apparitions, specifically numbers two and three, they tell him “Be bloody, bold and resolute. Laugh to scorn the power of man. Nobody born or woman shall be harm Macbeth,” and “Be brave as a lion, and take no heed of those vex or worry, or of where the plotter are. Macbeth shall never be vanquished till Great Brinam Wood advances against him to the high hill at Dunstinane,” they use their power of foretelling to tell Macbeth his destiny. It seems as if Macbeth shall live forever and never be defeated because all men are born of woman and forests do not have the ability to move. By giving Macbeth