In William Shakespeare's Macbeth, imagery plays a key role in the audience's understanding of the theme of the play. One type of imagery that is prevalent in the story is supernatural or unnatural imagery. With the sense of the supernatural and interference of the spirits, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are led to dangerous, tempting things. Macbeth's character changes dramatically from the brave soldier to the evil king. Lady Macbeth's character also changes from the loving wife and strong woman to the crazy, paranoid woman. Shakespeare uses witches, apparitions, ghosts, and other unnatural events to show the evil effects and consequences that interference by these forces is anything but good.
Macbeth experiences his first strange encounter of the supernatural when he meets the three witches in Act 1, Scene 1. The witches greet Macbeth by saying "All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glam is! / All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Candor/ All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!" (1. 1). The witches insinuate the idea of power, and by doing that, push Macbeth to the next level of greed and evil that did not exist prior to the supernatural encounter.
The supernatural element also takes place when Lady Macbeth calls upon spirits to give her power to plot the murder of Duncan without any remorse or conscience. She says, "Come, you spirits/ that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / and fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full/ of direst cruelty!" (1. 5). Her soliloquy shows that she relied on the supernatural by asking for something unnatural to get rid of her natural feelings of compassion and make her cruel. The murder of King Duncan initiates another of Macbeth's encounters with the supernatural when he sees an apparition. On the night Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plan to kill Duncan, nature is acting very strangely.
It is noticed that "tis unnatural" (2. 4 and that "the moon is down," and "There's husbandry in heaven, / their candles are all out" (2. 1). As Macbeth awaits the signal to make his way to Duncan's chamber, he sees a floating dagger and proclaims, "Come, let me clutch thee. / I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. / Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible/ To feeling as to sight or art thou but/ A dagger of the mind, a false creation, / Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain" (2.
1). This confuses and frightens Macbeth that a bloody dagger is leading him to Duncan's chamber. He says, "Thou marshall " st me the way I was going; / And such an instrument I was to use" (2. 2) "And on thy blade and dudgeon go uts of blood, / Which was not so before. / There's no such thing: / It is the bloody business which informs/ Thus to mine eyes" (2. 2).
This apparition is actually leading Macbeth to evil. After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth begins to fear his friend Banquo because of the witches' prophecy that Banquo will "get kings" (2. 1). Because of previous unnatural events, Macbeth feels fear and guilt that drive him to darker and more evil actions to cover his past misdeeds. He says, "There is none but he/ whose being I do fear" (3. 1) and orders Banquo to be murdered.
At a banquet later, Macbeth encounters yet another unnatural image when he sees Banquo's ghost. He is so scared that he proclaims "Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves/ shall never tremble: or be alive again," (3. 4). This image causes him to act in a wild manner, now fearful and paranoid of everyone. Macbeth's wife, as well, has become paranoid. She thinks she sees things that are not actually present.
She thinks Duncan's blood is all over her hands and cries, "Out, damned spot! Out I say!" (5. 1). She goes around the castle raving about blood and murder. In this case, like the others, unnatural forces have no positive effects. The existence of Banquo's ghost tempts Macbeth to return to the three witches, desiring more information regarding his fortune.
Macbeth says, "I will, to the weird sisters: / More shall they speak, for now I am bent to know, / By the worst means, the worst" (3. 5). They make three more prophecies and Macbeth is no longer fearful, but self-assured. The witches encouraged him to believe he is invulnerable and indestructible. The false security given to him by unnatural forces like the witches lead to his death.
From the very beginning of the play, supernatural and unnatural forces have inspired and encouraged Macbeth. They interfere with natural events and completely change the character of Macbeth and his wife. Witches, apparitions, ghosts, and other unnatural images are used to demonstrate the evil effects and consequences those forces can have. Shakespeare is successful in telling his audience that only evil will come when Macbeth or any other person tampers with natural forces for personal gain.