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Symbolic Imagery Provides the Connection between the Supernatural and the Natural World in
Shakespeares Macbeth
Macbeth is a supernatural tornado in the sense that unworldly objects or people wreak havoc
on the protagonist and anyone near him. Shakespeare uses these symbolic images to convey the
connection between the supernatural and natural world of man. Most of these supernatural happenings
provide evidence that it is indeed fate and not free will that affects Macbeth. This symbolic imagery is
present in all actions pertaining to the witches. In addition, the weather in the play Macbeth also shows
a kind of presence tying the supernatural and natural. Finally, the recurring symbol of blood is a key link
between what normally happens in our natural world and the eerie presence that affects it. These major
manifestations are what give evidence towards the supernatural and natural world maintaining an
equilibrium in the play.
Shakespeares work of Macbeth shows much involvement from the three evil hags, the witches.
These weird sisters have supernatural powers not possessed by any other being. This power, ultimately,
changes the ambience of the natural world. During one of their many chants in Macbeth, one of the
witches says Fair is foul, and foul is fair, / Hover through the fog and the filthy air (Shakespeare 1.1.
13-14). This proclamation shows that the witches have switched what they believe is fair with foulness.
Unfortunately for Brave Macbeth (1.2. 16), the chants refer to him. They also bizarrely predict, or even
manipulate him to say So foul and fair a day I have not seen, when the audience first sees him in the
following scenes (1.3. 36) unbeknownst of the witches earlier chant. According to David L. Kranz:
Macbeth cannot have overheard the fair is foul antithesis of the witches; instead, it seems to
come to his mind out of the very thick air. Whether readers and audiences infer that Macbeth
and the witches speak the same language by mere chance or that the latters words have
inltrated the heros mind simply by proximity, a close and mysterious connection between the
hero and the supernatural hags is established well before the actual staged temptation of the
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former. Thus it is by means of verbal echo, not dramatic confrontation, that Shakespeare rst
connects Macbeth to the Weird Sisters. (346)
In summary, it can be established that the witches use their supernatural powers to almost force
Macbeth to say the So foul and fair line, to provide a link to the unworldly power of the witches to the
natural man, Macbeth. This indeed shows that it is fate that decides our future.
The predictions in Macbeth show that the witches not only can see the future, but they can
adjust it to their liking. As an example, when Macbeth is told his future, the weird sisters tell him All
hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis. / All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor. / All hail
Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter (Shakespeare 1.3. 46-48). The three witches all accurately depict
what Macbeth is and will be. What is interesting is the fact that these predictions manipulate Macbeth
to the point where he exclaims This supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good; if ill, Why hath
it given me earnest of success, Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor: If good why do I yield to
that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs, against
the use of nature? (1.3. 130-137). Here, Macbeth recognizes the unreal power that the witches unleash
upon him. The witches prophecies give Macbeth the choice to accept them or, to perform ghastly deeds
to ensure that he will become king (Tufts 173). It is evident that Macbeth already accepts the witches
prophecies regardless of how he reacts; therefore the power of prediction is another celestial tool that
the witches use to manipulate our protagonist once again.
The summoned apparitions are yet another bridge between both worlds. One of these
apparitions speaks to Macbeth about how Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam
Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him (Shakespeare 4.1. 91-92). The importance of this
prophecy is that Macbeth ignores the supernatural suggestion and still moves to Dunsinane to defend
himself, despite the prophecies of the apparitions created by the witches in 4.1... which imply a kind of
natural movement towards Dunsinane which threatens Macbeth (Kranz 365-366). Ignoring the ghastly
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suggestions, he angers the supernatural; this changes the predicted path and natural world. This shows
off the connection that fate is what affects Macbeth and his choices.
Not only do human-beings provide a suitable connection, but the extreme weather shows that
the supernatural world affects Macbeths world. It is first shown when there is thunder and lightning
present when the three witches enter (Shakespeare 1.1.). In the presence of transcendental beings on
the natural world, there is a disturbance of sorts. It is as if there is too much supernatural power
present, so the weather must counteract the reactant in excess. In doing so, yet another link between
the two is shown- one of symmetry and balance.
The weather during the night of King Duncans murder was another sign, as well. As Macbeth
says to Lennox, Twas a rough night (2.3. 53), for the fact of frequent storming during the evening of
the murder. Hibbs states that the weather has the potentiality which is the source of the energy which
makes it possible for [Macbeth] to drain the unity, truth and goodness being itself- both from
*Macbeth+ and from *his+ world (348). The potentiality of the storm is enough fuel for Macbeth to
commit the deed of murder that night- there is nothing positive happening outside, so may as well let it
be the same inside. Once again, the storm is a murderous fuel, which leads the supernatural to influence
murder that night.
The witches, the masters of the supernatural, control the weather to create natural chaos.
During one of their catty chants, they cackle When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or
in rain? (Shakespeare 1.1. 1-2). They speak this as if they have a say in the weather, which they do.
Kranz implies that Other paradoxes have often been seen as linguistic reflections of the witches
diabolical purpose to create not just stormy weather but cosmological disorders of great magnitude
(350). This is for the fact that many situations in the play of Macbeth often have appropriate weather
according to the scene. It can be summarized that the play of Macbeth often has appropriate weather
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attributes some of the worldly events to unworldly weather, which provides yet another connection
between both sides of the spectrum.
Events that associate themselves with blood in Macbeth have unworldly values along with
worldly ones. This statement is true when it comes to Macbeths hallucination of the dagger. As a last
chance to question himself on whether to commit murder or not, he imagines an illusionary bloody
dagger and asks Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come, let me
clutch thee... and on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, which was not so before (Shakespeare 2.1.
33-47). Not only does Macbeth see this ghostly image, but this ghostly image associates him with
witchcraft (Kranz 360). This vision solemnly convinces him that this dagger represents his plot to
murder, and because this apparition of unworldly blood comes with the dagger that this murder will
happen. Therefore, ghostly blood links thoughts in Macbeths mind to murdering Duncan, majorly
affecting the fate of Macbeth.
The answering of a prayer of sorts is a short connection between mystical and the normal.
In order to perform acts of evil thought to be in association with men, Lady Macbeth asks come, you
spirits/ that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here/ And fill me from the crown to the toe topfull/ Of
direst cruelty; make thick my blood (Shakespeare 1.5. 43-44). The supernatural spirits answer Lady
Macbeths request because of the murder is carried out. With adjustments to her blood being made, a
link to the supernatural with Lady Macbeths real world blood form a link of fate.
Lady Macbeths bloody hands play a major role as a supernatural binder of the play of Macbeth.
During her sleepwalking, Lady Macbeth proclaims to a doctor and a gentlewoman Out, *damn+ spot!
Out, I say! One, two. Why then tis time dot... What need we fear? Who knows it, when none can call
our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?
(5.1. 30-34). This scene is of upmost importance because this is a rare glimpse of what is going through
Lady Macbeths mind, symbolized by her unsuccessful attempt at hand washing (Kranz 360). The
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supernatural image of blood, which has seeped into her mind, uncovers itself during Lady Macbeths
discussion with the doctor and the gentlewoman. This blood tells her that too many murders are
happening and her soul is stained by it. It may be the cause of the queen... *being+ dead (Shakespeare
5.5. 16). This supernatural thought of blood, which at first is an appealing one to Lady Macbeth, is now
a brainwasher. This brainwasher makes her fully understand her actions, and alter her world and
Macbeths world definitively.















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Works Cited
Gibson, Rex, ed. Macbeth (Cambridge School Shakespeare). 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005.
Print.
Hibbs, StaceyHibbs, Thomas. Virtue, Natural Law, And Supernatural Solicitation: A Thomistic Reading Of
Shakespeares Macbeth. Religion & The Arts 5.3 (2001): 273. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 26
October 2013.
Kranz, David L. The Sounds of Supernatural Soliciting In Macbeth Studies In Philology 100.3 (2003):
346. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 26 October 2013.
Tufts, Carol Strongin. Shakespeares Conception Of Moral Order In Macbeth. Renascence 50.3/4
(1998): 168. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 24 October 2013.