Despite the fact that Macbeth was written a few hundred years ago, many of the themes and motifs used in the play are still considered effective literary devices in today’s world. Shakespeare uses his themes and motifs very effectively. First, Macbeth uses the theme of sleep very effectively in many scenes of the play. Second, Shakespeare uses the clothing and garden motifs, which are two very powerful motifs to reinforce our visualization and understanding of parts of the play. Lastly, the main theme of the play, “fair is foul and foul is fair” is seen constantly throughout the play. These themes and motifs all contribute to the effectiveness of Shakespeare’s writing.
During the play, sleep is a reoccurring theme of the play. In the play, sleep is referred to as death’s counterfeit because of the similarity in appearance of when a person is sleeping and when they are dead. Shakespeare uses this theme to reinforce many speeches of characters in the play. Such as when just after Macduff discovers King Duncan is dead, he tells the surrounding people to “shake off their downy sleep, death’s counterfeit”. As well, when Macbeth murders King Duncan, he “murders” his own sleep because from then on he would not be able to sleep because of hallucinations in his mind of his murders. And, along with “murdering” his own sleep, he does so to the sleep of others, in particular, his wife Lady Macbeth. At the end of the play, Lady Macbeth starts to go crazy and is sleepwalking while unconscious of her actions. It may look like Lady Macbeth is receiving both the benefit of sleep and completing tasks that would require one to be awake, but in reality she isn’t sleeping at all and slowly deteriorates to the point of when she commits suicide. Macbeth has indeed murdered sleep.
Besides the themes Shakespeare uses effectively in Macbeth, he also uses many motifs. The motifs in the play help us to better visualize or understand the situation a character is in or the intentions of characters. Two such motifs are the garden and clothing motifs used in the play. The clothing motif will be discussed in the next paragraph.
The clothing motif in the play is used mainly by Macbeth. For instance, when the witches prophesize that Macbeth will become the Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, he tells them not to give him borrowed robes form other people while they are still alive and well when in the end he will have to return them. Macbeth means that how can he obtain those titles while the current holders of those titles are still alive and well, and even if he gets their titles, they might be taken back from him at any time.
The second motif that will be discussed is the garden motif Shakespeare uses throughout the play. First when the wounded sergeant tells Duncan the news of the battle, he compares Macbeth, Banquo and the Scottish forces to the flowers of a garden and the evil rebel Macdonwald and the...