How did the English imagine Scotland to be like through Macbeth?

Through Macbeth, the English imagined Scotland to be a dark, foggy, gloomy, and frightening place.

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Scotland became a place of renewed interest in England when James I took the British throne in 1603. The new English monarch was also James VI of Scotland, who took the name James I when he ascended to the English throne and joined the two countries, Scotland and England, into Great Britain.

Macbeth pays tribute to James I. The real Banquo was one of James I's ancestors, and his fictional counterpart in Macbeth is depicted in a positive light.

However, any English person watching the play would take away an impression of Scotland as a cold, damp, dismal place. For example, the play opens with "thunder and lightning" while the witches speak of flying through "fog and filthy" air. This dark, unpleasant weather underlines the play's theme that Scotland is about to be shrouded in darkness because of Macbeth killing Duncan.

Likewise, in act 2, scene 1, as Macbeth is readying himself to murder Duncan, Banquo notes how dark it is outside, saying that in the heavens, the "candles are all out." By this, he means it is so cloudy and overcast that it is impossible to see the stars or moon. To Macbeth at this same time, nature's stillness seems not peaceful, but eerie and deathlike. He notes that:

Now o'er the one half-world Nature seems dead.

In act 2, scene 3, Lennox describes the night of Duncan's murder:

Our chimneys were blown down and, as they say, / Lamentings heard i' th' air, strange screams of death.

The dark, creepy, unsafe weather and screaming noises of Scotland highlight the disturbance brought on by the horrific act of killing a king. These descriptions would leave English audiences believing Scotland was a fearful, dark, and ominous place.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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