h essaysAtmosphere and Setting in Macbeth
Atmosphere and setting plays a very important part in Macbeth.
The play starts with the Witches, which is at a desolate place with
thunder and lightning. This is first of all a pathetic fallacy because
of the weather being so bad and the hideous appearance of the witches.
This scene also gives us the first sign of the supernatural. The
witches are the man source of the evil and supernatural in the play and
they also give an impression of fear, horror and mystery. It is
important of them to start the play, as they are the catalysts for all
Macbeth’s decisions, so obviously they effect the play quite a lot.
They can foretell the future, defy the laws of nature and change the
But their powers are ambiguous; they have to answer to Hecate. They can
turn into animals but when one of them turns into a rat it has no tail,
showing their flawed power. They also can’t make Macbeth kill Duncan;
they just create an atmosphere, manipulating him, which makes him want
to kill him.
They use animals to enhance the atmosphere and amplify their evil,
Shakespeare doesn’t just use animals to show the evil of the Witches he
also uses animals to convey the state of the country, ie, when the
horses eat each other after Duncan has been killed. This shows that
Scotland is in a state of disorder.
The witches also speak in riddles, “fair is foul and foul is fair” which
gives the play an uneasy atmosphere, as does their language “Birth
strangled babes”. The Witches mainly give the play an uneasy feel
because they are violating God’s natural order.
Noise also gives quite a tense atmosphere in the play. When Macbeth
goes to kill Duncan, Lady Macbeth hears a knell (a traditional funeral
bell), an owl shriek and crickets cry. These are all signs of death and
it makes Macbeth think that more people know about what Macbeth has
done. Also when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are talking after the murder,
there is a knocking which gives a very uneasy and tense feel.
Also as the play goes on, Macbeth becomes very paranoid about any noise
and it makes the play very tense.
Colour does play a role in setting the atmosphere but only in one or two
of the scenes. Red, of course is very important because of the amount
of blood in the play. It also plays a big part because both Macbeth and
Lady Macbeth talk about the ‘red misty hell’.
Linked with colour is the important use of light and dark ni the play to
give an uneasy atmosphere. The already nauseating Witches always
appears at night giving a very suspicious atmosphere to Macbeth when he
meets them as I think sometimes he thinks the witches are just a dream
or a figment of his imagination.
Also all the murders take place at night which gives a creepy and scary
feeling as the majority of the people who die don’t know who killed
them. It is ironic that the only person who does die during the day in
the play is Macbeth himself who wanted ‘stars hide your fires’ so he
could kill duncan without heaven seeing what he was doing. This also
links with the references to hell and heaven. Lady Macbeth wants to go
to hell for killing Duncan and she doesn’t want heaven to see it.
At he end when Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking she needs light to bring the
truth. It is like light is a metaphor for truth because all the lying
and treachery happen in the dark.
The weather really reflects the mood of the play (pathetic fallacy.)
Whenever the witches are around there is rain. Not only does the
weatheer show the mood of the play, it also warns of things going wrong
in the play.
The fluid in the play is pivotal. All of the bad qualities of Lady
Macbeth ‘drip’ into Macbeth and then into Scotland, by the end Macbeth
is a forthright killing machine, Lady Macbeth is a nervous wreck who
eventually kills herself and Scotland is in a complete mess.
Before Duncan’s murder Lady Macbeth asks for her ‘blood to thicken to
her heart’ to stop her feeling the pain of the murder.
Above all Macbeth is a play which relies heavily on the atmosphere it
sets for the audience, which is a scary and eerie one.