Macbeth is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare about a brave Scottish general named Macbeth who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself. He soon becomes racked with guilt and paranoia until the bloodbath he has created catches up with him and Macbeth meets his end.
The play is most often performed at night for a number of reasons, including that the themes of night are strongly intertwined with several major themes in the play, night can set an ominous mood for Macbeth’s murder spree, and Macbeth dies by dawn, thus implying his death closes the book on this story. Night is one of Macbeth’s central motifs; it appears throughout the play to connect different actions or ideas or to give them significance. Scholar Stephen Orgel writes “[Macbeth] thinks about power using imagery of light and darkness.
This implies that Macbeth never fully grasps what he has done, Macbeth believes he can cover up his sin of regicide with more blood – a metaphor showing the idea of darkness – and Macbeth wishes to escape from his guilty conscience. Macbeth is not a character who does dark deeds for the fun of it; Macbeth commits murder because he thinks this action will make him king and lead him to a better life. Macbeth thinks that committing these crimes will bring him inner peace, or at least distract him from confronting his own sins.
In Act 4, scene 1 Macduff tells Malcolm that “O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me! ” This line shows one of many examples where Macduff uses darkness as a metaphor for Macduff’s guilty conscience. Macbeth and Macduff both feel guilt because they killed innocent people, which is a significant difference between the two characters. Macbeth does not care for other living things whereas Macduff feels great sorrow after he kills Macbeth’s wife and children. Macbeth only thinks about his own well-being while Macduff cares about everyone around him such as Lady Macduff and her son.
This contrast implies why Macbeth dies at night, but Macduff lives to see another day; their decisions in life cause them to meet different fates. The most obvious connection of night with Macbeth is that the three witches prophesize Macbeth becoming King of Scotland by saying “When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain? ” (1. 1. 1-2). Macbeth is told that he will become King at night because Macbeth sees Macduff at Macbeth’s castle during the day after Macbeth has already murdered the king.
Macbeth knows Macduff suspects Macbeth of killing the king so Macbeth orders for Macduff to be slain during the day when it is visible. The night comes when Macbeth goes to murder Lady Macduff and her son, which marks the beginning of Macbeth’s paranoia about being exposed as a murderer through his deeds. This night setting also creates an ominous mood for Macbeth as he murders Macduff’s family. Macduff is sleeping with his wife and son when Macbeth enters their room to kill them; Macbeth does not know Macduff is away from home, so Macbeth commits this act in the hopes of catching Macduff off-guard and killing him too.
The night comes before Macduff finds out what has happened and returns home to find his family murdered by Macbeth. The dark setting creates a sense of dread because the scene begins with Lady Macduff, who wakes up to see Macbeth standing over her bed holding a dagger. This scene hints that something bad is about to happen because of how quickly Lady Macduff reacts – jumping out of bed and screaming Macbeth’s name. Macbeth does not say anything because the screams are enough to convince Macbeth that he killed Lady Macduff, allowing Macbeth to escape back to his castle after this bloody night.
Another example of how night is important in “Macbeth” shows that Macbeth dies by dawn, which implies that the story closes with Macduff finding out about Macbeth’s deeds and killing him. After Macduff finds out about the death of his family, he makes it his mission to kill Macbeth so he will never harm anyone again. While chasing Macbeth at Dunsinane Castle toward the end of act 5 scene 3, Malcolm says Macduff is the man Macbeth fears most. Macduff and Macbeth fight until Macbeth is killed, which implies that Macduff avenged his family by killing Macbeth.
This implies that night represents darkness because Macbeth’s last moments show how evil he was and the day shows that what happened during this night will not happen again to anyone else. Night also represents death in Act 5 scene 3 when Macbeth asks if the doctor has come and Lady Macbeth replies “He does look pale: / Ask him if he be sick” (5. 3. 22-23). Both characters know that something is wrong with Lady Macbeth so they continue their conversation by saying “The King hath run bad humours on the Macbeths” (5. . 27).
Macbeth continues to insult Macduff by calling him a “milk-livered man” (5. 3. 29) which Macduff responds with “I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none” (5. 3. 32-33). Macduff knows that Macbeth will lose this fight and he also knows how to defeat Macbeth, but Macduff wants the best outcome for Scotland so he does not kill Macbeth in front of everyone in Dunsinane Castle and cause chaos in Scotland because then no one would be when Malcolm becomes king later in the play.
Macduff leaves Macbeth to die by morning when Macbeth will receive his due justice; Macduff does not take Macbeth’s life in front of everyone in Dunsinane Castle, but he kills Macbeth once Macbeth is alone in the night. Night represents death through Macbeth because even though Macbeth enters this scene yelling at everyone and insulting them, Macbeth becomes unsure of himself as soon as Malcolm says “The Queen, my Lord, is dead” (5. 3. 65). This line becomes significant because it represents a shift from darkness to light for the characters – Lady Macbeth dies after she has a moment of clarity and realizes she has done terrible things.
Macbeth becomes even more uncertain of himself because Macduff is the one who kills Macbeth, which indicates that Macbeth committed terrible deeds in darkness but he does not receive justice until the morning when Macduff comes to kill Macbeth because Macduff knows it would be wrong to kill Macbeth at night because then no one would know what happened to Macbeth so someone else could take his place as king. Night also represents death through Lady Macbeth since she dies right after knowing what she has done is wrong so now her soul can rest in piece after experiencing this clear moment of self-realization.