It is a difficult task to describe or criticize the craftsmanship in Macbeth. Because the author of the said play is none other than William Shakespeare.
Macbeth is one of the best Shakespearean tragedies that became popular for uncovering a distinctive, fearsome atmosphere. It is unquestionably true that Shakespeare proved his artistic unity while portraying the plot of Macbeth with an atmosphere of bloodshed, horror, and gloom within a shape of uniformity.
Before Shakespeare, many Greek and Roman authors wrote down several time-winning epics. The relevance of these literary pieces is undisputable. But, when the discussion is centered around Shakespearean inventions, then any comparison is meaningless.
Shakespeare is, most probably, the first and only playwright who, for the first time, proved that tragedies could be a source to portray the most popular character in a play. And this truth appeared as the sole lifeblood in the plot of Macbeth or The tragedy of Macbeth.
Macbeth’s introduction hugs darkness and disorder
Macbeth begins with a dark shadow that portrays the opening scene with thunder and rain, and the presence of three strange apparitions. It seems that the stormy weather is gathering darkness in a black night. The ambiance is so scary, creepy that the darkness doesn’t even hesitate to threaten the night sky.
Interestingly, the entire occurrence takes place on the desolate heath where the three witches interact in enigmatic language. Moreover, they melt into the air with the concluding remark “fair is foul, and foul is fair”.
It is undeniable that the uncanny, desolate spot appears as the fittest place with an atmospheric disorder where the three witches make a prediction.
The best part of the Shakespearean artistry is a striking beginning that unfolds mystic surroundings in the tragic dramas. And, Macbeth is the evidence of this rare trait. There is no denying that the fearsome atmosphere in the first scene is the lifeblood of the entire atmosphere in “The Tragedy of Macbeth”.
Rare literary artistry to make gloomy darkness as the pivotal part of the play
The readers of Macbeth or the viewers of the “The Tragedy of Macbeth” can discover that darkness plays a pivotal role in creating the coveted atmosphere in the said play. Frankly speaking, William Shakespeare has turned the world of Macbeth into a dark, desolate one where everything is black. And this fact is visible in the Act –III of the play.
“Light thickens; and the …….
Good things of day begin to droop and drowse
While Night’s black agents their preys do rouse.”
One important fact is “The Tragedy of Macbeth” contains nearly twenty scenes that portray only darkness. On the other hand, only two times the sun shines in the entire play.
The first time the sun shines when King Duncan, along with his sons, and Banquo are about to enter the castle of Macbeth.
And, it is the concluding scene of the play that witnesses the sunshine for the second time. The reason behind it is to establish the fact that justice is done. Everything is going to be in order now.
Now, apart from these two times, the rest of the time darkness spreads its wings, even general Macbeth doesn’t hesitate to say –
“ Stars, hide your fires!
Let not light see my black and deep desires;
The eye wink at the hand; yet let………………
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.”
Interestingly general Macbeth is not the only person who prays for darkness in Macbeth, his wife Lady Macbeth even prays for the blackness of night. She says –
“Come, thick Night,
…………………………………..smoke of Hell,
That my keen knife…………………………..
Nor Heaven peep through the blanket of the dark”
The presence of darkness and light in Macbeth uncovers the existence of the nature of contrast. It is unquestionably true that the black atmosphere becomes more vivid at the beginning of the play with the lightning of thunder and storm. In addition to this, the presence of the candle in the hands of Lady Macbeth in the famous sleep-walking scene and the glittering dagger before Macbeth together triggers a sharp contrast that ultimately intensifies the presence of black darkness.
A tragic play that unfolds a tale of bloodshed
Many critics often say that Macbeth is a tale of bloodsheds. They opine that bloody atmosphere and persistent references to blood appear throughout the play.
Readers can find that at the beginning of Macbeth in Act -1, Scene –II, a bleeding Captain enters and reports King Duncan about a bloody battle. He describes how general Macbeth executes his duty with his blood-soaked sword. The captain utters,
“with his brandish’d steel,
Which smok’d with bloody execution”
He even reports how fearful the battle was and how it became extremely bloody. He utters that the soldiers,
“meant to bathe in reeking wounds
Or memorize another Golgotha”
There are a lot more instances to show how Shakespeare depicts the bloody ambiance in the play. A vision of a dagger before Macbeth portrays how blood is dripping from its handle. No one can deny that the said scene raises an uneasy gloom.
Fear is the key ingredient to explore the coveted atmosphere in Macbeth
It is unquestionably true that Shakespeare successfully establishes fear as an integral part of the play, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”. The presence of various supernatural elements, persistent references to blood, and deep chaos in nature together creates an atmosphere of fear in the play.
For every human, fear is a symbol of emotion. It is, no doubt, predominant. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to find a person on earth who is not afraid. Likewise, it is a difficult task to find out a character in Macbeth who doesn’t feel even a little bit of uneasiness throughout the play.
The advent of the sleep-walking scene and the confession words of Macbeth in the latter part of the play too trigger fear. The entire setups are portrayed as part of the nightmares because Shakespeare wants to make Macbeth and his wife the worst victim of these nightmares. Besides, some sudden incidents like screams, strange sounds, and the blown down of chimneys aggravate the depth of the fear.
The feeling of “unearthly abnormality” in the unruly nights makes the nature awry. A reader can easily understand that Shakespeare invents the said abnormality through various supernatural elements, such as the witches, the apparitions, the ghost, and many others.
Shakespeare, by all means, presented Macbeth as a persona of fear. A courageous character who gradually becomes an embodiment of evil emotions, contrast, fear, conscience. A coexistence of opposite emotions in a single character is rare, but Shakespeare does this with an excellency. He knows how to create the right surroundings that suit best to draw the plot of the play.
In a word, he leaves no stone unturned to create an ambiance of evil, terror, courage, and conscience. It is, no doubt, rare craftsmanship, which one in a million only possesses.
Macbeth portrays a theme of fear against the honest conscience of courage
Triggered by ambition, both Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, follow the course of evil deeds, and they finally suffer serious impacts, i.e., disillusion and fear.
Before murdering King Duncan, general Macbeth doesn’t hesitate to express his feelings. He utters “if it were done, when ‘tis done..”. It shows as a human being with conscience Macbeth is afraid of the aftermath. His fear of consequences is so deep in his conscience that he can’t ignore it easily.
Macbeth’s admission of inescapable loss of peace of mind after killing King Duncan is another true example of a fearful mind with an adequate amount of conscience. His conscious mind is now aware of the fact that he will no longer be able to sleep in peace.
Likewise, Lady Macbeth confesses her fear with more practicality. After becoming the queen, she has the illusion of having hands with a stain of blood on them. She even thinks that “all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand”.
Lady Macbeth fears the discovery of truth. She is afraid of the discovery of her mental agony. She is afraid of retribution.
All these words and utterances have clearly shown that the impression of blood and fear is deep as well as pervasive in the said tragic play. Furthermore, they create an atmosphere, which is ideally suited to make the characters alive forever.
In conclusion, it is true that fearsome atmosphere ultimately shifts the mood from a gloom darker side to a brighter and happier side, obviously at the end of the play. The evil is axed. The mystical feeling melts.
And, everything is restored to the coveted pristine health. The fresh sunlight of dawn and Birnam together standup against Macbeth, as if a new world wakes up from the long darkness. The nightmare now melts and ends into disillusion.
For centuries, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” has been remaining as one of the topmost inventions of the unmatchable Shakespearean craftsmanship. Most importantly, the play is probably the first example of true artistry that portrays a gloom, fearsome atmosphere as the lifeline to draw every portion of it.