Macbeth is famously known as a violent play. At the beginning of the play Macbeth is honoured as a hero, a man of honour and courage, yet as the play progresses, Macbeth is corrupted by the lure of power, superstition and moral cowardice. His corruption came from three main sources, his involvement with the witches, Lady Macbeth, and his ambition to be king.
Macbeth and his wife Lady Macbeth are under the delusion that they will not be affected by their evil act, yet throughout the play, the evil that they have unleashed eats away at their confidence and their sense of identity until their secret is unravelled. Shakespeare uses many powerful images to portray the violence that is on the verge of occurring through his use of descriptive language. Shakespeare implements images of darkness and evil to fully detail the impending doom. The audience relied on the words that were used in the play to make the ideas realistic and vivid.
The imagery is important for a 15th century audience as witches were known to be demonic (sources from the devils). They would be punished by being burnt on a steak, hanged or both hands and feet tied together and thrown in a river. Due to this their presence would be very uncomfortable which created an Atmosphere full of Fear and anxiety.
The play opens dramatically with the witches which suggest that the theme is going to be vile. This will dominate the play and will prepare use for the heinous acts to come in the play.
The witches mention several images of darkness including the weather which is described as being foggy with "filthy air". The play opens on a background of thunder lighting and rain. The war is referred to as "hurly burly" meaning confusion. Overall Shakespeare makes the setting depressing and dull which helps reflect an atmosphere of evil. This is further enhanced by the witches seeming deceptive by the way they speak in riddles “Fair is foul and foul is fair" .This means good is bad and bad is good. The quote is prototyping The Sacrilege murder of King Duncan. This is an indication of Macbeth's actions later in the play as killing Duncan is a sinful crime but is also positive for Macbeth as it enables him to become King.
The witches' mention of Macbeths name is important hinting at that he is involved in their evilness. The audience are encouraged to form a correlation between them as he imitates them by Saying “So foul and fair a day I have not seen". This is hinting at the possibility of Macbeth being an evil character as it showed that he is capable of doing Wicked And sinister Things (Killing Duncan).
Another grounding for evil are the witches appearances, their appearance are unattractive and unsightly as Banquo describes them as “Inhabitant o' the earth". Banquo also notes on how unnatural the three witches appearance is" You should be women and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so". This shows that their appearances are false. The contradiction in their appearance and also link to our impressions of Macbeth: at first he appears like a loyal and honest man but is literally twofaced and hypocritical. “Who wear our health but sickly in his life, which in his death were perfect”.
The Witches create further images of evil when they talk what they will do to the sailor " I will drain him dry as hay: sleep shall neither night nor day". They want the sailor to have restless nights. We also see that the witches have the power to affect his sleep. Sleep is a recurring theme linking to darkness. After Macbeth kills Duncan He says “Murdered Sleep" The When Macbeths Guilty conscious plays high .He says “Won't be able to sleep again”. This creates an image of sleep being of a living body which is murdered.
After the witches have told Macbeth his prophecies, Banquo begins to ask them about his own future. I believe that during this time Macbeth is thinking deeply about what he is told because as soon as the witches have finished telling Banquo, Macbeth becomes even more inquisitive. He says to them " Stay you imperfect speakers, tell me more" this tells us that he has also picked up on the fact that they were speaking ambiguously because he says that their speech is imperfect, false. Nevertheless, he asks them to tell him more which suggests that he is interested in them and further reinforces the idea that he is drawn to evil. He speaks to the witches saying to them "speak, I charge you!" however at this point they disappear, which accentuates the mysteriousness of them. This shows that Macbeth is curious and greedy for power which also prepares us for Macbeth's actions later.
Macbeth's thoughts prepare us for his events later in the play. One of the most important speeches in act 1 was "My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, shakes so my single state of man". This speech advocates that he is thinking about murder, although it is only yet a fantasy. However it is affecting him mentally. Later in act 2, Macbeth has a hallucination of a “blood stained dagger”. He is also baffled when he see's it as he doesn't know if it is a misleading notion or if it is real “Is this a dagger which I see before me”. Throughout Macbeth, Shakespeare mentions the word “blood” or different forms of it more than 100 times. Because of its frequent use, the image of blood throughout the play becomes a dominate theme. From Macbeth's events in the play, we see that his characteristics have been moulded into an evil character
Lady Macbeth's wicked character has a huge impact on Macbeth. Lady Macbeth plays a major role in influencing her husband to take the path that he does. She is the catalyst that effectively unleashes Macbeth's true side of evil. Lady Macbeth words to her husband as well as her many powerful soliloquies show darkness and iniquity in her character.
Lady Macbeth is ambitious, controlling and domineering. She is the one who encourages Macbeth to kill the king, she not only encourages him, she makes all the plans herself as she feels that Macbeth is “ Too full o'th milk of human kindness” which shows her determination and persistence. Lady Macbeth see's her husband's kindness as a weakness and she tries to manipulate him into feeling unmanly for not wanting to murder the king. She manages to convince Macbeth to murder Duncan by saying she would pluck her babies nipples from her breast while it is sucking and “Dash the brains out”. This gives the idea that Lady Macbeth would sacrifice her own baby to achieve her ambition.
This pushes her to the extreme and causes her to react outrageously. “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts. Unsex me here, and fill me from crown to the toe, Full of direst cruelty!” This shows that Lady Macbeths wants to worst ever cruelty and wants to be as wicked and evil like the witches. She calls on evil spirits to come and possess her and to take her feminine quality and replace it with brutality and viciousness. Lady Macbeth wants to feel little remorse and wants the innermost desire out of her system. “Make thick my blood; stop up the access and passage to remorse”. This will have a huge affect on Macbeth as she influences him and we know already she would go to such an extent to achieve her ambition. This will prepare us for Macbeth's events later on in the play.
Macbeth is not certain of his devious plan. Lady Macbeth is worried that her husband will give away the plan by facial expression. “Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it” she is implying to look innocent in his appearance and to everyone around him but make sure his real identity is hidden and that no-one will realise that he has the heart of the devil. The allusion of “snake” is important as in the bible it symbolises betrayal and deception. (The story of Adam and Eve). Later in the play Macbeth pretends to be an “innocent flower” when he claims that Banquo is his friend then plots to murder him “And I will put that business in your bosoms, whose execution takes your enemy off,” Meaning that he is keen to kill his friend to achieve his ambition and to become Thane of Cawdor.
In conclusion, in the play we see countless images of darkness and evil which prepare us for later events in Macbeth. Macbeth is described a dynamic character which transformed radically from an “honourable” man to a “greedy” Man. Macbeth possesses myriad characteristics which help to define him. Shakespeare also wanted to show the audience how far people would go to become prosperous and that we should be aware of what we say and think.