In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the repercussions of Macbeth murdering his King are very numerous. Through themes that include, imagery, soliloquies, atmosphere, and supernatural beings, Shakespeare enforces the magnitude of Macbeth’s crime. Most of these factors are linked together.
One of the main ways in which the horror of the murder is underlined is through the Great Chain of Being. At the time this play was written, it was believed that there was a hierarchy in the universe, with God being at the top, then angels, then the King, then man, and finally animals. This meant that the King was God’s representative on earth, and so if a rebel were to attack the King, he would be seen to be attacking and rebelling against God. This is seen in Act One, Scene Two, when the Thane of Cawdor rebels against King Duncan, where the Sergeant says – “Ship wracking storms and direful thunders break” (L.26). This thunderous weather symbolizes God’s anger at his representative of Scotland being attacked. The darkness during the play (all but two of the scenes are set in darkness) shows how the night is strangling the earth, representing the anger of God at the events in Scotland. The “Dark night strangles” (Act Two, Scene Four, Line Seven) the earth, showing God’s, overall grip on the world. The King at this time had an absolute monarchy (power of life and death over everyone in his kingdom). The belief was that God had passed special powers to all Kings, such as that for healing, which Malcolm identifies in Edward the Confessor (the King of England) in Act Four, Scene Three – “He cures…the healing benediction…he hath a heavenly gift of prophecy” (L.152-157). Shakespeare later uses Edwa…
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…elm. Criticism on Shakespeare s Tragedies . A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature. London: AMS Press, Inc., 1965.
Shakespeare, William. Tragedy of Macbeth . Ed. Barbara Mowat and Paul Warstine. New York: Washington Press, 1992.
Steevens, George. Shakespeare, The Critical Heritage. Vol. 6. London: Routledge
Blood and Water Symbolism Plath’s Cut, Smith’s Boat, and DiFranco’s Blood in the Boardroom
“Self-preservation is a full-time occupation I’m determined to survive on these shores I don’t avert my eyes anymore in a man’s world I am a woman by birth.” This quote, from Ani DiFranco’s song, “Talk to Me Now,” expresses a feminist’s view on a woman’s determination to live her life in a world often dominated by males. The theme of the life cycle and its numerous manifestations is frequently found in feminist poetry. It seems that women writers are particularly intrigued by the subject of life and death perhaps because they are the sex which have the unique role of giving birth to the next generation. In the works of Sylvia Plath, Stevie Smith, and Ani DiFranco, the symbols of blood and water are used to represent the various aspects of the life cycle. Plath’s poem “Cut”, Smith’s poem “The Boat”, and DiFranco’s song “Blood in the Boardroom” all make references to blood. Although, the meaning of blood in these poems varies from suicide, in Plath’s poem, to menstruation, in DiFranco’s song, to death, in Smith’s poem, the subject of blood remains as the central symbol in all of these works. Water, as well, is a symbol illustrated by each of these artists. In Plath’s “Full Fathom Five”, Smith’s “Not Waving but Drowning”, and DiFranco’s “Circle of Light”, water symbolizes such divergent topics as death in Plath’s poem, life in DiFranco’s song, and fear in Smith’s poem. These three twentieth century feminist artists express their opinions through their works, as the topics of their poetry overflow with similar, yet symbolically different, references to blood and water.
Blood can symbolize death, but also life. One can die from the lose of too much blood, conversely, our life is created on the basis of blood as our main bodily component. The poem “Cut” by Sylvia Plath employs blood as the symbol of a woman’s power over her life to create death in suicide through the lose of too much blood. Just days before writing this poem, Plath had accidentally cut herself while cooking, all but slicing off the whole fatty tip of her thumb (Alexander 301). This kitchen accident acts as a Freudian slip of the knife that opens up a whole world of unconscious motives in a woman’s imagination, and leads to an outpouring of Plath’s feelings of castration as a women (Bundtzen 141). Plath employs images and metaphors in a speedy format, which tumble forward as her imagination struggles to name the shifts in feeling that she endures (248).