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Essay/Term paper: Macbeth: contrasts of nature

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Macbeth

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Macbeth: Contrasts of Nature

Georganne Hampton

In the play, Macbeth, Shakespeare uses contrasts of nature in various
ways. He consistently shows us that Macbeth and his wife's actions go against
The first lines of the play are a condensed version of the unnaturalness
of things to come. "In thunder, lightning or in rain?" ( I, i, 2). In nature,
thunder, lightening and rain occur together, but Shakespeare's use of the word
"or" infers the unnatural occurrence of one without the others. "When battles
lost and won" ( I, i, 4), is also not a natural occurrence. Battles are either
lost or won. Shakespeare is implying the future opposites of nature in the
forthcoming play. "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" (I, i, 11), further shows
the use of inversions and paradoxs in nature that Shakespeare will use
throughout the play.
One of the main controversies of nature for the reader is that in spite
of Macbeth's evil deeds, we still find him likeable. We see him in the same way
that the King does when he welcomes him by saying, "O valiant cousin! Worthy
gentleman" (I, ii, 24). We perceive him as valiant, because he is afraid of
sacrificing his humanity. "My thought, whose murder yet is but fantasticle. /
Shakes so my single state of man that function / Is smothered in surmise and
nothing is / But what is not" (I, iii, 139-41). Macbeth has doubts about the
predictions of the witches. He knows that it could be a trick and his
misgivings make him seem to be a better person.
Another thing that makes Macbeth likeable to the reader is the contrast
with his wife. It is clear from her beginning that she is evil. She has
reservations about Macbeth not being evil enough. "Yet do I fear thy nature" (I,
V, 14). She fears he is too good to do the kind of evil deeds that she is
After Macbeth murders the King, he realizes the extent of evil that he
has committed, but also realizes that the deed is done and there is nothing that
he can do to rectify it. "As they had seen me with these hangman's hands /
List'ning their fear. I could not say "Amen!' / When they did say "God bless
us!'" (II, ii, 27-29). The fact that Macbeth is very troubled, and continues
his tirade, "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean from my
hand? No, this my hand will rather / the multitudinous seas incarnadine, /
Making the green one red" (II, ii, 59-62), evokes compassion for him from the
reader. He seems more human, especially when compared to his wife. "Retire we
to our chamber. / A little water clears us of this deed. / How easy it is then!"
( II, ii, 65- 67). Her nonchalance over the matter shows her unnaturalness
and magnifies the contrast between Macbeth and herself.
Lady Macbeth is unnatural throughout. She fails as a woman when she
shows her cold-blooded, unnaturalness. "I have given suck, and know / How
tender "tis to love the babe that milks me: / I would, while it was smiling in
my face, / Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums / And dashed the brains
out, had I sworn as you / Have done to this" (I, vii, 54-9). As a wife she is
also a failure. "Wouldst thou have that / Which thou esteem'st the ornament of
life, / And live a coward in thine own esteem, / Letting "I dare not' wait
upon "I would' / Like the poor cat i' th' adage?" (I, vii, 41-5). She shows
Macbeth contempt instead of support, which is supposed to be the natural role
of a wife. And as a human being , she also falls short. "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. Make thick my blood; / Stop up the access
and passage to remorse, / That no compunctious visiting of nature / Shake my
fell purpose nor keep peace between / Th' effect and it. "Come to my woman's
breast / And take my milk for gall, your murdering ministers....." (I, V, 38-46).
This pledge to evil commits her as entirely unnatural.
Shakespear's use of garments or clothing can be seen to point out things
that are contrary to nature. When Macbeth receives the title of Thane of Cawdor,
he does not feel comfortable with it. "Why do you dress me in borrowed robes"
(I, iii, 8-9)? He wants the position, but is afraid that he did not come by it
naturally since it was predicted by the witches. "This supernatural soliciting
/ cannot be ill, can not be good.... and make my seated heart knock at my ribs /
Against the use of nature" ( I, ii, 131,136-7). Shakespear uses garments to
show the aspects of appearance versus reality. Even when Macbeth becomes king,
he does not feel like a king because he came by it unnaturally. A murderer
calls him by name and he allows it. If he had become king naturally, he would
not have allowed being addressed without his title by so common a person.
To begin the end of Macbeth and the play. Shakespear uses nature. "For
none of woman born shall harm Macbeth" (IV, i, 80). No natural person is not
born by a woman. "Macbeth shall never vanquished be until / Great Birnam Wood to
high Dunsinane Hill / Shall come against him" (IV,i,93-5). This is nature
itself. Macbeth feels secure in knowing that nature could not go against him.
"That will never be" (IV, i, 94). But the fact that he went so far against
nature in his evil deeds, allows nature, in this case, to make its reprisal with
the downfall of Macbeth.
The play starts with unnatural acts and ends with unnatural acts.
Shakespear uses this beginning and end to surround the unnatural contents in
between; the unnatural acts of Macbeth and his wife.


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