The Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth underscores the important and usually unforeseen effect of sin, that of guilt. The guilt is so deep that Lady Macbeth is pushed to suicide, and Macbeth fares only slightly better.
Blanche Coles states in Shakespeare’s Four Giants that, regarding guilt in the play:
Briefly stated, and with elaborations to follow, Macbeth is the story of a kindly, upright man who was incited and goaded, by the woman he deeply loved, into committing a murder and then, because of his sensitive nature, was unable to bear the heavy burden of guilt that descended upon him as a result of that murder. (37)
In “Memoranda: Remarks on the Character of Lady Macbeth,” Sarah Siddons mentions the guilt and ambition of Lady Macbeth and their effect:
[Re “I have given suck” (1.7.54ff.)] Even here, horrific as she is, she shews herself made by ambition, but not by nature, a perfectly savage creature. The very use of such a tender allusion in the midst of her dreadful language, persuades one unequivocally that she has really felt the maternal yearnings of a mother towards her babe, and that she considered this action the most enormous that ever required the strength of human nerves for its perpetration. Her language to Macbeth is the most potently eloquent that guilt could use. (56)
In his book, On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy, H. S. Wilson comments regarding the guilt of the protagonist:
It is a subtler thing which constitutes the chief fascination that the play exercises upon us – this fear Macbeth feels, a fear not fully defined, for him or for us, a terrible anxiety that is a sense of guilt without becoming (recognizably, at least) a sense of sin. It is not a sense of sin because he refuses to recognize such a category; and, in his stubbornness, his savage defiance, it drives him on to more and more terrible acts. (74)
Clark and Wright in their Introduction to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare explain how guilt impacts Lady Macbeth:
Lady Macbeth is of a finer and more delicate nature. Having fixed her eye upon the end – the attainment for her husband of Duncan’s crown – she accepts the inevitable means; she nerves herself for the terrible night’s work by artificial stimulants; yet she cannot strike the sleeping king who resembles her father.
Nature Imagery and Themes in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte makes use of nature imagery throughout Jane Eyre, and comments on both the human relationship with the outdoors and human nature. The Oxford Reference Dictionary defines “nature” as “1. the phenomena of the physical world as a whole . . . 2. a thing’s essential qualities; a person’s or animal’s innate character . . . 4. vital force, functions, or needs.” We will see how “Jane Eyre” comments on all of these.
Several natural themes run through the novel, one of which is the image of a stormy sea. After Jane saves Rochester’s life, she gives us the following metaphor of their relationship: “Till morning dawned I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea . . . I thought sometimes I saw beyond its wild waters a shore . . . now and then a freshening gale, wakened by hope, bore my spirit triumphantly towards the bourne: but . . . a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove me back.” The gale is all the forces that prevent Jane’s union with Rochester. Later, Brontë, whether it be intentional or not, conjures up the image of a buoyant sea when Rochester says of Jane: “Your habitual expression in those days, Jane, was . . . not buoyant.” In fact, it is this buoyancy of Jane’s relationship with Rochester that keeps Jane afloat at her time of crisis in the heath: “Why do I struggle to retain a valueless life? Because I know, or believe, Mr. Rochester is living.”
Another recurrent image is Brontë’s treatment of Birds. We first witness Jane’s fascination when she reads Bewick’s History of British Birds as a child. She reads of “death-white realms” and “‘the solitary rocks and promontories'” of sea-fowl. We quickly see how Jane identifies with the bird. For her it is a form of escape, the idea of flying above the toils of every day life. Several times the narrator talks of feeding birds crumbs. Perhaps Brontë is telling us that this idea of escape is no more than a fantasy — one cannot escape when one must return for basic sustenance. The link between Jane and birds is strengthened by the way Brontë adumbrates poor nutrition at Lowood through a bird who is described as “a little hungry robin.”
Brontë brings the buoyant sea theme and the bird theme together in the passage describing the first painting of Jane’s that Rochester examines.