Summary: Motif of Time in the Tragedy of Macbeth

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  The Tragedy of Macbeth is one of the most prominent tragic plays written by William Shakespeare. The play revolves around an ambitious and gluttonous man named Macbeth whose lust for power coaxes to him committing a series of murders, which eventually leads to his downfall. Throughout the play there are a number of motifs used by Shakespeare to intensify certain events, one of the most important ones being the motif of time. There are three kinds of time in Macbeth: chronological time, pace of the play as it reaches the climax and lastly the time that revolves solely around Macbeth. 

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Shakespeare’s usage of time is a vital element in Macbeth as it contributes in establishing certain moods and atmosphere. Starting off with the chronological time in Macbeth, which is the sunrises and sunsets, its importance is evident from the very start. Even the play begins with one of the witches asking the other two, a time relating question “ when shall we three meet again?” which the other two reply with “when the hurly-burly’s done… when the battle’s lost and won…that will be ere the set of the sun”. From the surface it might just seem like a natural inquiry however their reference to sunset is actually an indication to the future disturbance of the natural order of time, as well a foreshadow to Duncan’s death. (Rackin 108) Furthermore, in the play must of the important events are set at night such as the murders and the appearances of the witches which creates an evil, dark, and supernatural atmosphere. This supports the fact that Shakespeare’s usage of chronological time is useful in establishing certain moods as well as giving an indication of the events that will be taking place in the play. Moving onto the pace of the events in the play, as the play is reaching its climax the scenes become shorter and time seems to go by faster. This creates an intense feeling and gives the audience a feeling of rush. This goes to show the more Macbeth becomes Obsessed with becoming king the more chaotic and quicker the events unravel. Furthermore, Macbeth more than any other character in the play is haunted by time and he even tries to defy it in order to avoid his destiny. This persona tells us a lot about Macbeth as a person. Additionally, by the end of the play when Macbeth is killed and Malcolm is made king, he delivers a speech where he states the following “we shall not spend a large expense of time… before we reckon with your several loves…and make us even with you”.

 Through that speech, Shakespeare has made Malcolm a friend of time instead of an enemy, which therefore makes him the appropriate king. In conclusion this all comes to show how time is an important factor in the development of the character as well as the story line. To conclude, time plays a very important role in Macbeth as it intensifies events of the murders as well as it gives the audience a persona of the characters and their motives. It also plays an immense role in establishing certain moods and atmosphere, which are very significant in the making of a good play.                 

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