The Shakespearean tragic drama Macbeth uses imagery to stisfy various needs in the play. This essay will develop the above premise, including exemplification and literary critical thought.
In The Riverside Shakespeare Frank Kermode enlightens regarding the imagery of darkness in the play:
Macbeth is the last of the four “great tragedies,” and perhaps the darkest. Bradley began his study by pointing out that “almost all the scenes which at once recur to the memory take place either at night or in some dark spot.” That peculiar compression, pregnancy, energy, even violence, which distinguishes the verse is a further contribution to the play’s preoccupation with the fears and tensions of darkness. (1307)
Lily B. Campbell in her volume of criticism, Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes: Slaves of Passion, describes how the imagery contributes to the atmosphere of the play:
Macbeth is, however, not only a study of fear; it is a study in fear. The sounds and images in the play combine to give the atmosphere of terror and fear. The incantation of the witches, the bell that tolls while Duncan dies, the cries of Duncan, the cries of the women as Lady Macbeth dies, the owl, the knocking at the gate, the wild horses that ate each other, the story, the quaking of the earth – all of these are the habitual accompaniments of the willfully fearful in literature. (238-39)
A.C. Bradley in Shakespearean Tragedy comments on the dark imagery of 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. (307)
L.C. Knights in the essay “Macbeth” explains the supporting role which imagery plays in Macbeth’s descent into darkness:
To listen to the witches, it is suggested, is like eating “the insane root, That takes the reason prisoner” (I.iii.84-5); for Macbeth, in the moment of temptation, “function,” or intellectual activity, is “smother’d in surmise”; and everywhere the imagery of darkness suggests not only the absence or withdrawal of light but – “light thickens” – the presence of something positively oppressive and impeding.
Revenge and Vengeance in Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Typical Revenge Tragedy
Hamlet as a Typical Revenge Tragedy
Shakespeare’s Hamlet very closely follows the dramatic conventions of revenge in Elizabethan theater. All revenge tragedies originally stemmed from the Greeks, who wrote and performed the first plays. After the Greeks came Seneca who was very influential to all Elizabethan tragedy writers. Seneca who was Roman, basically set all of the ideas and the norms for all revenge play writers in the Renaissance era including William Shakespeare. The two most famous English revenge tragedies written in the Elizabethan era were Hamlet, written by Shakespeare and The Spanish Tragedy, written by Thomas Kyd. These two plays used mostly all of the Elizabethan conventions for revenge tragedies in their plays. Hamlet especially incorporated all revenge conventions in one way or another, which truly made Hamlet a typical revenge play. “Shakespeare’s Hamlet is one of many heroes of the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage who finds himself grievously wronged by a powerful figure, with no recourse to the law, and with a crime against his family to avenge.”
Seneca was among the greatest authors of classical tragedies and there was not one educated Elizabethan who was unaware of him or his plays. There were certain stylistic and different strategically thought out devices that Elizabethan playwrights including Shakespeare learned and used from Seneca’s great tragedies. The five act structure, the appearance of some kind of ghost, the one line exchanges known as stichomythia, and Seneca’s use of long rhetorical speeches were all later used in tragedies by Elizabethan playwrights. Some of Seneca’s ideas were originally taken from the Greeks when the Romans conquered Greece, and with it they took home many Greek theatrical ideas. Some of Seneca’s stories that originated from the Greeks like Agamemnon and Thyestes which dealt with bloody family histories and revenge captivated the Elizabethans. Seneca’s stories weren’t really written for performance purposes, so if English playwrights liked his ideas, they had to figure out a way to make the story theatrically workable, relevant and exciting to the Elizabethan audience who were very demanding. Seneca’s influence formed part of a developing tradition of tragedies whose plots hinge on political power, forbidden sexuality, family honor and private revenge. “There was no author who exercised a wider or deeper influence upon the Elizabethan mind or upon the Elizabethan form of tragedy than did Seneca.” For the dramatists of Renaissance Italy, France and England, classical tragedy meant only the ten Latin plays of Seneca and not Euripides, Aeschylus and Sophocles.