Analysis Of Two Settings In Shakespeare’s Macbeth

1528 words - 6 pages

An analysis of two settings in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

By using the heath and castles as contrasting settings in Macbeth, William Shakespeare reinforces and reflects various themes present throughout the play. Through the combined use of these settings, he contrasts notions of security and danger, fairness and foulness, and the natural and supernatural. Although the heath is a meeting place for evil and is represented as a grim location through a number of methods, the heath itself is safe. Contrarily, the castles that Macbeth inhabits, both Inverness and Dunsinane, are repeatedly described as safe, secure, and welcoming. These castles, however, are far more dangerous than the heath, acting more as traps than shelter. The notions of fairness and foulness are also reversed at the heath and the castles in the play. The witches at the heath are relatively benign and only deliver prophecies of truth to Macbeth, while conceptions of fairness are repeatedly distorted to the point of foulness at the castles he inhabits. Finally, while it is certainly true that the witches represent the supernatural world, the supernatural deeds which occur at the heath are far more subtle when compared to the unnatural events which take place in the castles. By examining the plot developments which transpire in their respective settings, one can conclude that Shakespeare intentionally contrasts the settings of the play with the deeds that happen there, creating a strong separation from appearance and reality throughout the play.

First, the concepts of security and danger are constantly in question when referring to the settings of the heath and the castle. As Hecate proclaims to the witches, “security / Is mortals’ chiefest enemy” (Mac. 3.5.32-33). This idea is repeated throughout the play, particularly in the context of the castles. Macbeth’s first castle at Inverness is described as being quite pleasant. Upon his arrival there, Duncan proclaims that, “the air / Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself / Unto our gentle senses” (Mac. 1.6.1-3). The castle is well lit and has servants, representing itself as a symbol of nobility, higher class, and safety. The appearance of the castle, however, acts as a trap for Duncan and his stay there results in his demise. The security of the castle is further called into question when, upon discovering their father’s death, Donalbain and Malcolm flee the castle, suspicious of the circumstances and fearing for their own safety. Additionally, Banquo notes that martlets are common at the castle at Inverness. Martlets, mythical birds said to have no feet, would never be able to land at the castle, and would therefore be unable to nest there. The fact that these birds are the only wildlife described outside the castle indicates that the castle lacks safety and security, even for animals. Later in the play, Caithness refers to Macbeth and his second castle when he states, “Great Dunsinane he strongly fortifies”...

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