How does the atmosphere throughout the play Macbeth like change?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The atmosphere of William Shakespeare's tragic play Macbeth is one of a dark and ominous nature. This theme actually exists throughout the play and does not veer from it. Instead, the atmosphere simply becomes darker and more ominous over the course of the play.

Act one opens with thunder and lightening, an ominous atmosphere to be sure. The three witches are talking about the next time that they will meet and question if it will be during another storm. Scene one ends with the witches' infamous paradox:

Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

The dark and ominous nature of the atmosphere is compounded when the image of the fog and filthy air is mentioned. The atmosphere itself is soiled.

As the play goes on, the dark and ominous nature of the atmosphere develops even more. The murder scene, the porter's dialogue about hell, and the dinner visit by a ghost all speak to the dark nature of the play's atmosphere.

In the end, the play concludes with both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth dying and Macduff holding up Macbeth's decapitated head.

At no time throughout the play does the atmosphere truly lighten or change. While the porter's scene is meant to introduce the typical comic relief to the tragic play, his dialogue is still dark and ominous.


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