The Portrayal of Life and Death Through the Use of Light and Darkness in Macbeth, a Play by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s use of light and darkness as representations of life and death can be witnessed throughout the entire play of Macbeth. Through the soliloquys of the character‘s we get an inside look at what they are feeling. Remember that a soliloquy reveals thoughts, intentions, and motives of a character. and they are spoken aloud by the character only when he/she is alone, In Act V. Scene V, Macbeth seems to be immune to the fact that his past actions were slowly creeping back to haunt him. He has worried about it so much throughout the play that all misfortune and frightening events no longer phase him: “Direness…Cannot once start me.”(Act V, Scene 5) Upon hearing of the death of his Wife, it seems as if he is almost Indifferent to it. But then In his soliloquy to follow, we discover Macbeth‘s true feelings of bitterness and despair. He Views not only death as darkness, but life as well Neither of them have any significance or meaning.
Macbeth uses powerful words to convey his deep thoughts about life to the reader. He starts out by saying, “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace” signifying that he believes that the days of life are slow and repetitious. Statements like “day to day” and “petty pace” emphasize the slow progression of life. He puts out the feeling that haVing a “tomorrow” is a negative thing, It creeps on us slowly but surely, He is using a lot of dark imagery to convey his feelings of the hopeless “trial” of living day to day. He then states, “And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.” which means that we are propelled on from our “yesterdays” (the days we have lived) until death finally meets us. The light represents living. so it is the light that leads the way to our death. It is inevuable. It is interesting that the light that Macbeth speaks of is not even desired. Most of us want to live long lives.
It seems as if he wants his to end as soon as possible. “Out out, brief candle!” Life to Macbeth is no longer important, it is nothing but “a walking shadow.“ He compares life to something dark and undesirable. He is at a point in the play where his past actions have finally caught up With him and fate is knocking on his door. He feels like he is backed up against the wall, with nowhere to turn. Perhaps this is why he has such a dark outlook on life Knowing that life pushes one forward to the future. and sensing the events of the future, it is easy to see why he feels this way. Macbeth then compares life to a bad actor on the stage, “a poor player” who “struts and frets his hour upon the stage…” He is saying that people live their lives and do a pathetic job at it. They fuss and fret about silly things and are overdramatic. After all of this, the life of a person “is heard no more.”
It seems as if he is saying that death is almost an escape from the darkness that he blames on the light of life. However, death is iust as insignificant as life. He doesn’t care anymore. Life is a waste of time. We may not always think of life as a wonderful, beautiful thing all of the time, but when most of us go to bed, we want to wake up in the morning. Most of us View death as dark and tragic! In his mind the themes of light and darkness have reversed, with his “light” being death. Life to Macbeth has JUSI become a horrible (yet blown up) and loud performance, a “tale told by an idiot.” When we think of something with “sound and fury,” we think of something with a lot of substance and presence.
Yet when Macbeth adds all of this up, to him it is “signifying nothing,” When times get rough, humans tend to think that life itself is bad (depending on the person). until things turn around, With all that life has to offer, it is unfortunate that Macbeth has these views on life. However, when we consider the traumatizing events of the past that have brought him to this position, as well as the destructive events to come, then one can understand why he felt this way. Because we have been brought along With the story, we understand his agony and despair. With the thoughts on life that he was haVIng, he may as well have already been dead.