Shakespeare's use of weather as a symbolic event in Macbeth

Essay by leit53Junior High, 9th gradeA, February 2004

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Weather Symbolism in Macbeth

In William Shakespeare's Macbeth, the Scottish general Macbeth is told prophesies by three witches. These prophecies and encouragement from his scheming wife leads him to go through with terrible acts of murder in his attempts to disrupt the chain of being. Throughout the play when Macbeth is doing these things, chaotic weather is used as an expression that reflects unnaturalness in the universe and disruption of the chain of being.

The witches and their power to predict the future is very unnatural, the weather reflects this by becoming chaotic whenever the witches are in a scene. In the very first lines of the play the witches are on stage with thunder and lightning. They set the tone for all of the unnatural events that will happen throughout the rest of the play, and let the audience know that by stating that "fair is foul and foul is fair" (1.1.12).

This means that nothing will happen the way that it is supposed to, rules will be broken, and everything will be hectic. They even mention their connection to crazy weather when they talk about how when they meet it will be "In thunder, lightning, or in rain" (1.1.2) Later on in the play the witches show even more unnaturalness by conjuring characters that speak to Macbeth. As the apparitions appear, the stage directions say that it is thundering and lightning. Making apparitions rise out of a cauldron is undoubtedly an unnatural event, and that is why the weather is again chaotic.

Bad weather is also used as a sign that that there has been disruption of the chain of being. The chain of being is the idea of a kind of social pyramid where gods are at the top, then kings, then nobles, then middle class, and...