Images and Imagery in Macbeth Essay

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Imagery in Macbeth

The Bard of Avon considers imagery one of many elements in his tragedy Macbeth which give underpinning to the theme of the drama. The imagery might be said to be not a goal in itself but a means to an end.

In Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy, Northrop Frye shows how the playwright uses imagery to reinforce the theme:

This theme is at its clearest where we are most in sympathy with the nemesis. Thus at the end of Macbeth, after the proclamation "the time is free," and of promises to make reparations of Macbeth's tyranny "Which would be planted newly with the time," there will be a renewal not only of time but of the whole rhythm of nature symbolized by the word "measure," which includes both the
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Purity was embodied by Duncan, very infirm (in 1974 he was blind), dressed in white and accompanied by church organ music, set against the black magic of the witches, who even chanted 'Double, double to the Dies Irae. (283)

L.C. Knights in the essay "Macbeth" explains the supporting role which imagery plays in Macbeth's descent into darkness:

To listen to the witches, it is suggested, is like eating "the insane root, That takes the reason prisoner" (I.iii.84-5); for Macbeth, in the moment of temptation, "function," or intellectual activity, is "smother'd in surmise"; and everywhere the imagery of darkness suggests not only the absence or withdrawal of light but - "light thickens" - the presence of something positively oppressive and impeding. (101)

The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in a desert place with thunder and lightning - lots of imagery -- and three Witches who are anticipating their meeting with Macbeth, "There to meet with Macbeth." They all say together the mysterious and contradictory "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." King Duncan learns that "brave Macbeth" and Banquo are bravely resisting the "Norweyan banners" and the rebellious Thane of Cawdor. When these forces are vanquished, Duncan bids Ross to greet Macbeth with
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