Evil Reaps Darkness in Macbeth
"By their deeds you shall know them" is a Biblical passage which seems to state a lesson reiterated in Shakespeare's Macbeth. We intend to examine closely the dark future which the Macbeths deserved because of their sinful conduct.
A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy comments on the darkness within the play:
The vision of the dagger, the murder of Duncan, the murder of Banquo, the sleep-walking of Lady Macbeth, all come in night scenes. The Witches dance in the thick air of a storm or, 'black and midnight hags', receive Macbeth in a cavern. The blackness of night is to the hero a thing of fear, even of horror; and that which he feels becomes the spirit of the play. The faint glimmerings of the western sky at twilight are here menacing: it is the hour when the traveller hastens to reach safety in his inn, and when Banquo rides homeward t meet his assassins; the hour when 'light thickens', when 'night's black agents to their prey do rouse', when the wolf begins to howl, and the owl to scream, and withered murder steals forth to his work. (307)
In his book, On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy, H. S. Wilson identifies the darkness in the play with evil, hell, devils:
Mr. Kenneth Muir, in his introduction to the play - which does not, by the way, interpret it simply from this point of view - aptly describes the cumulative effect of the imagery: "The contrast between light and darkness [suggested by the imagery] is part of a general antithesis between good and evil, devils and angels, evil and grace, hell and heaven . . . (67-68)
In "Macbeth as the Imitation of an Action" Francis Fergusson states the place of darkness in the action of the play:
It is the phrase "to outrun the pauser, reason [2.3]," which seems to me to describe the action, or motive, of the play as a whole. Macbeth, of course, literally means that his love for Duncan was so strong and so swift that it got ahead of his reason, which would have counseled a pause. But in the same way we have seen his greed and ambition outrun his reason when he committed the murder; and in the same way all of the characters, in the irrational darkness of Scotland's evil hour, are compelled in their action to strive beyond what they can see by reason alone. Even Malcolm and Macduff, as we shall see, are compelled to go beyond reason in the action which destroys Macbeth and ends the play. (106-7)
L.C. Knights in the essay "Macbeth" describes the moral darkness into which Macbeth lowers himself:
The main theme of the reversal of values is given out simply and clearly in the first scene - "Fair is foul, and foul is fair"; and with it are associated premonitions of the conflict, disorder and moral darkness into which Macbeth will plunge himself. (95)
The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in a desert place with thunder and lightning (typical accompaniment to darkness) and three...