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Macbeth and Bird Imagery

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1438
  • Category: Macbeth

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False appearance turns out to be very deceiving because of the illusion that is created from how something appears to be, and then is contradicted by reality. People are always quick to judge someone from how they appear to be on the outside, but are not quick enough to see how they really are in the inside. People always put an image in their head of how a particular person is supposed to act only because of the way that person looks. At times, a person turns out to be the total opposite of what someone else predicted they would be. Shakespeare uses false appearance as his framework for his writing. He defines it by showing how circumstances throughout the story may appear differently than how they turn out to be in reality. Examples of false appearance in the play would be paradox, whereas in the story, there are events that end up contradicting each other. In reference to paradox, bird imagery would be another example because of how some situations are compared to birds.

Lastly, male and female can also be define as an example because of the image that us human beings and Shakespeare himself have created to define a male and a female. Paradox was used in the play as a way to add suspense in a twisted and manipulating way. The first time paradox was shown was when the three witches had met during a storm while they were talking about when they would meet again but with Macbeth. As the witches were leaving, they were chanting, “Fair is foul and foul is fair” (1.1.12). The witches know that they are foul beings because of the way they switch up things and by how they deliver their information but at the same time, they give fair advice. Macbeth had echoed the same line when he first appeared in the play but his interpretations were different from the witches. He meant it as, it was a foul day because it was raining and stormy but at the same time it was fair because he had won the battle against the King of Norway and Thane of Cawdor.

The fact that the witches and Macbeth referred to the same line shows the evil connection between the characters. As Macbeth and Banquo were walking on the way back home from the battle they had ran into the witches. They were both in horror and startled because they did not know what to think of them. The witches started to say prophecies about the both of them and one of the prophecies was, “Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none” (1.3.68.). Before the witches said that prophecy, they first said that Macbeth, would become king. All of this did not make sense to Banquo so he paid no mind towards them but Macbeth on the other hand wanted to know more about his future. He was starting to become obsessed with the fact that he was told by the witches that he was going to become king. He decided to do whatever it took for his prophecy to become true which meant killing people that got in his way to being king. Macbeth did not realize that he was being fed contradictions that lead into deeper understanding and made him see things the wrong way from what it really was.

Furthermore, bird imagery is used frequently throughout the story to make the situations more suspenseful with richer details. Shakespeare compared many things to birds because it is considered to be the symbol of death or death to come. Therefore, every time someone is going to get murdered, Shakespeare would connect it back to a bird. In the play when Lady Macbeth finds out that Macbeth is eligible to take the thrown and be king, she immediately comes up with a plan of murdering Duncan. While she has her soliloquy she says, “The raven himself is hoarse/ That croaks the fatal of Duncan/ Under my battlements” (1.5.38-40). The raven is the symbol of death and dark; this foreshadows about the violence that will occur in the future of the play. She also says that the raven is hoarse which means it has impaired powers and is trying to be silenced so it does not attract any attention for the events that will occur.

After the soliloquy she thinks she hears a noise, “Hark! Peace! / It was the owl that shriek’d, the fatal bellman, / Which gives the stern’st good-night. He is about it” (2.2.2-4). Lady Macbeth concludes that she has heard an owl screeching which she treats as a good sign because in nature it symbolizes a fatal bellman. A fatal bellman is a man who rings the prisoner’s bell for their scheduled execution. Similar to that statement, when the owl screeches, according to folklores, it foretells the death of a person. As soon as Lady Macbeth heard the owl screeching, she assumed Macbeth was killing Duncan at that time. Lennox had also made a connection with bird imagery as he was telling Macbeth of his bad experience on his way to Macbeth’s. He had said, “The obscure bird / Clamour’d the livelong night” (2.3.60-61). He referenced to an owl because an owl cannot be seen at night while it flies.

It is very likely that it was the same owl that Lady Macbeth heard while Macbeth was killing Duncan. Right after Lennox had said that, Macduff came running down the room telling people about the death of Duncan. Bird imagery gives the reader an appearance that is not so obvious when Shakespeare describes different situations by using the context of birds. In conclusion, Shakespeare uses masculinity and feminism as a way to differentiate between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. At the beginning of the play Lady Macbeth is displayed mentally as being more powerful than Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is willing to do anything that will help her and her husband get the crown, but she knows it is a very hard task to do because she knows her emotions and guilt would get in the way. For this reason 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” (1.5.30-33.). She wants the spirit to turn her less of a woman and more of a man while her body is filled with deadly cruelty. Lady Macbeth goes further into talking with the spirits and says, “Come to my woman’s breasts,/ And take my milk for gall” (1.5.37-38.).

She wants the milk inside her breast to be turned into poison so her whole body is completely made out of evilness therefore she would not feel any guilt or any type of emotions when she helps Macbeth do their murderous plan. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth seems scared to follow through with the plan, Lady Macbeth has to remind him continuously to act more like a man. She is the one that tells him what to do and when to do it. She takes the role of the male but all this start to change and Macbeth starts acting more as a leader when he said, “Thou marvel’st at my words: but hold thee still./Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill./So, prithee, go with me” (3.2.56-58). He starts to make a plan of his own without Lady Macbeth having the knowledge of what it is about. Macbeth having masculinity traits make him stronger as a person and makes it easier for him to fight until the end without letting any of his old emotions or doubt get in the way.

The contradiction of appearance was used by Shakespeare as the ground work for his writing which he used to connect many situations back into it. One example he had used for false appearance was paradox which was when a situation turned out to be the opposite of what someone had expected. In relation to that, bird imagery was used throughout the story to confuse appearance and reality in the reader’s mind. Also, the qualities of masculinity and feminism showed in the play how different Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were and how their qualities affected them from doing their plan to kill Duncan. Macbeth was based on the fact of the way something may seem or look is not always the way that it’s going to turn out at the end. We should not let the sight of what the eyes see manipulate us because it will not always be the reality of it.

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