Use of Night and Darkness in Macbeth Darkness was often associated with evil and crime in the play Macbeth. In William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, description of darkness had symbolic significance. The murders that were seen frequently occur at night time. This makes the reader conclude that the most horrible crimes are committed in darkness. The play Macbeth was abundant with examples that describe the use of night and darkness to show evil and happenings that are immoral. Darkness also played a vital role in the development of the plot and the characters.
Shakespeare’s use of night and darkness to show the evil forces of nature was first witnessed in the appearance of the three witches. The witch sisters are the main source of evil within the play of Macbeth. When the witches are performing their charms, storm or the darkness of the woods always accompanies them: “Thunder and lightning, Enter three witches. ” This is how the three witches are introduced. This shows their evil nature as they are followed by rough storms in dark conditions. “Fair is foul and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air. “
There was another description of the disgusting and dirty, dark atmosphere around the witches. Then towards the end of Hecate’s speech, she says, “Hark! I am called. My little spirit, see: Sits a foggy cloud and it stays for me. ” These quotations showed a clear mental picture of the fogy, ugly conditions prominent, when the witches were present. So this is a very good example of Shakespeare being able to link darkness and stormy conditions with evil. The second example of Shakespeare writing techniques to show evil as darkness was the number of murders and when they occurred.
Murders were often committed at night to further symbolize the darkness. Murder being the source of evil and the connection to darkness. King Duncan was murdered while sleeping in his chamber at Macbeth’s castle. Macbeth afterwards says: “Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Coawdor shall sleep no more”. The murder of Banquo is also an important development to show the execution of an evil act in the darkness of night. During his speech where he is proceeding to kill Banquo, Macbeth says: “Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse the curtained sleep.
Witchcraft celebrates pale Hecate’s offerings, and withered Murder, alarumed by his sentinel, the wolf, who’s howl’s his watch. ” The references to the dreams, sleep, witches and the wolf’s howl, all depict a night theme as this was when most of those images were witnessed. Another example, of the evilness of night with murder was when the son of Mac Duff was murdered and Lady Mac Duff goes out running into the night screaming “Murder!! ” continuously. This is another perfect example of the terrible occurrences at night through out the play Macbeth. The agents of chaos and disorder were symbolized by darkness in Act 4.
The witches were described as, “dark as midnight”; Macbeth was described as “devilish and dark”; and Scotland was described as “dying”. The imagery of darkness also plays an important role in character development. Macbeth, in Act 1, was presented as a man of great stature, as the champion of his country as being full of “the milk of human kindness”. He was described as “noble” and “loyal”. But once the crime was committed, his human feelings were destroyed. Macbeth becomes an agent of disorder and chaos. He was described by the witches as “dark”, “devilish”, “black Macbeth” and “tyrant”.
This same character development was true of Scotland. In Act 1, Scotland was described as the land of light; but under the rule of Macbeth, it turns out to be “shrouded in darkness”. It was filled with “sighs, and groans, and shrieks that rent the air”. It becomes the land of evil such as “dark” and “grave”. In short, Shakespeare made all that was evil occur during the night in order to show that evilness had strong connection with darkness, which was associated by night. From the display of the witches to the mass amount of murders and crimes, darkness prevails throughout the play.