Macbeth Text Analysis
In what manner does Shakespeare use motifs and symbols to make meaning in Macbeth?
The literary technique of using symbols and motifs in order to help represent certain important ideas or qualities is widely used by many writers in a variety of different forms of literature. In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, motifs and symbols are used abundantly, exemplifying the overall themes of murder and guilt.
The motif of hallucination recurs throughout Macbeth in order to serve as a reminder of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s joint accountability for the growing body count. There are three prominent hallucinations that Macbeth experiences during the play. One is the dagger that he sees floating before him, moments before he is about to murder Duncan. A short time after he kills the king, he claims that he hears voices calling out that ‘Macbeth does murder sleep!’ (Act 2, Scene 2). After he has become king and has arranged for the murder of Banquo, he has a vision of Banquo’s ghost. All of these visions and hallucinations are taken by Macbeth as supernatural signs of his guilt and hint toward the fact that he is slowly becoming unhinged. To begin with, he did not really have it in him to murder; he has to force himself to kill Duncan, and his hallucinations just before and after committing this first major deed demonstrate how disturbed he is over it. ‘Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feel as to sight? Or art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat oppressed brain?’ (Act 2, Scene 2). Once Macbeth begins his path of crime, however, he becomes ever more reckless, killing more and more. He does this essentially out of a sense of increasing despair; he feels that he is beyond all salvation and this slowly drives him insane. This idea is exhibited in the line ‘All causes shall give way: I am in blood, Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more.’ (Act 3, Scene 4). This also happens to Lady Macbeth where her overriding sense of guilt and remorse manifests itself in her sleepwalking where she obsessively tries to scrub bloodstains off her hands.
Another motif used to make meaning in Macbeth is violence. To call Macbeth a violent play is an understatement. It begins in battle, exhibits the murder of men, women, and children, and ends not just with a climactic siege but the suicide of Lady Macbeth and the beheading of its main character, the once noble Macbeth. Violence in Macbeth...