Summary: a Reader’s Perspective of a Literary Piece: Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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A reader’s perspective of a literary piece is a major component of a writer’s success. A writer uses hidden messages or symbols beneath the morals of the story to allow for the imagination of the audience to be explored. In the play Macbeth, William Shakespeare utilizes different images to explore different themes. Furthermore, to recognize and analyze the acquired behaviours of the characters. Shakespeare uses the images of blood, disguise, and darkness as his way of allowing readers to use their imagination and create an image of a character and their persona.

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One of the biggest images in the play is blood. Guilt and conscience is a theme that ties into blood, referring to murder and the guilt associated with the act. When Lady Macbeth is about to accept Duncan into their home she says, “make thick my blood, Stop up th’access and passage to remorse” (1.5.42-43). She wants her blood to clog her veins so she does not have to feel the pain of guilt and possibly disregard their plan altogether. Lady Macbeth also experiences the weight of the guilt through hallucinations of bloody hands, representing the guilt of the occurrences on the night of Duncan’s murder. She says “Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand” (5.1.44-45). Lady Macbeth cannot cleanse herself of the guilt of Duncan’s murder as well as the blood he shed, which she envisions coating her hands. This infers that Lady Macbeth is not in a sane state of mind and is feeling guilty for her actions.

Disguise and Concealment are used quite frequently within the plot of the play. A disguise could refer to facial expressions or clothing disguise. Macbeth uses facial concealment to cover his dishonor towards his King, “False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” (1.7.82). Macbeth believes putting a smile on his face and acting happy will make him feel like nothing happened, therefore relating to the theme of appearance vs reality. In today’s world, clothing or facial expressions are used as a mask to conceal emotion. “We mask the debt we’ve incurred to pay for lifestyles we can’t afford; we pretend things are fine at work, when our jobs are on the line; we pretend things are okay in our marriages when there is distance.” (Sparks 2015). Macbeth uses the same concept that we still use today – that you can put on a smile and act like everything is okay, even when the worst has fallen upon you. He took lives for the throne, he acted as if he was pure and innocent, he convinced himself that his relationship with Lady Macbeth was spectacular when she was barely hanging onto life due to the weight of depression. Macbeth will do whatever it takes to avoid the pressure of his guilt from being exposed, no matter who it will hurt, including his own wife.

Finally, darkness is a broad image within the play. Darkness is used to resemble a mask for one’s actions to conceal their inner conscience from their murderous actions. Macbeth is a strong believer of darkness hiding his actions. Prior to killing Duncan, Macbeth says, “Stars, hide your fires, Let not light see my black and deep desires,” (1.4.50-51). Macbeth asks the stars to not shine so his sin is not visible to light therefore concealing his actions from his good conscience. He believes if it is dark, the event did not occur and he should not feel guilty for what he has done. This shows that Macbeth is a good being, pressured by the prophecies, his wife, and his hunger for the throne.

An image can speak a thousand words. Shakespeare utilizes images very wisely to portray an opportunity for imagination, perception, and creativeness. He uses blood, disguise, and darkness because of the powerful meanings behind them. The theme of guilt and conscience and appearance vs reality are most vibrant within the images and are seen through Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Both characters wish to conceal their guilt, cleanse themselves of their sins, and let the darkness hide their tracks. “The violence of war admits no distinction; the lance, that is lifted at guilt and power, will sometimes fall on innocence and gentleness.” (Johnson 2018)



Works Cited

  1. “The Masks That We Wear.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,
  2. “Samuel Johnson Quote: ‘The Violence of War Admits No Distinction; the Lance, That Is Lifted at Guilt and Power, Will Sometimes Fall on Innocenc…’.” Og Mandino Quote: ‘Failure Will Never Overtake Me If My Determination to Succeed Is Strong Enough.’ (24 Wallpapers) – Quotefancy, 

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