How should I design a visual aid presenting the theme and symbols of Macbeth? What images should I include?  Why?

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Symbols make excellent visual aides because they are visual depictions of deeper meaning. Some symbols in Macbeth are:


  • Three
  • The number three and its multiples (6, 9, 12, etc.) is a number often used to represent the supernatural. It can be found throughout Macbeth – for example: Three witches, three prophecies, occurrences at midnight, etc. The number three can also be found in many fairy-tales.
    • Darkness/Light
    • Darkness is used throughout Macbeth to symbolize evil. Evil happenings occur at night, in the dark, and the characters often call out to the dark to cover up their evil doings. On the contrary, the light represents good, and heaven. Lady Macbeth calls out to the light to stay away from her dark deeds.
      • Gender
      • This is the same as the theme of masculinity and cruelty.
        • Red
        • Red is the color of sin. It represents a stain on purity. Blood is connected to red, and blood is also a physical representation of the guilt that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth feel regarding the murders.
          • White
          • White is the color of purity. White is frequently used to represent innocence. It is often contrasted with red to show that the red is a stain on the innocence.
            • Water
            • Water is used to cleanse. Deriving from the Christian idea of Baptism (the tradition of washing away sins), water is used in Macbeth as a means to try and wash away the blood (symbolic or real) of the murders that are committed.
              • Sleep
              • Sleep, according to Shakespeare, is the “little death.” Each night, a person sleeps to erase the day. Shakespeare makes the connection between a day and a person’s life. The sun rises – a person is born, the sun is in high set in the afternoon – a person’s mid-life, the sun begins to set – a person has reached the end of their life, the sun sets and the day has become night – a person has died. When the day ends, we begin sleep – when life ends, we begin death.
              • Sleep also serves a secondary purpose – as rejuvenation for the next day. During sleep, our body fixes itself and rests so it has the capability to begin the next day. Sleep is a representation of peace. When a person can “sleep easy,” they have a clear conscious.
              • The idea that sleep is interrupted – whether through insomnia, sleepwalking, or nightmares – indicates that there is a stain on the conscious – a feeling of extreme guilt.
                • Dreams
                • Dreams play a role as a replay of the day. In dreams, truth reveals itself – one cannot hide from his/her dreams.
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I would try to find images or icons that would represent characters or specific relationships in the book.  For example what symbols or objects could be used to represent Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, the Witches? Trying to find these images and then being able to explain how they connect the characters can help display your understanding of them and allow you to post on a visual what you believe.  What object or symbol could be used to describe the relationship between Lady Macbeth and her husband?  Could there be objects used to describe their relationship at the start of the play and then at the end of it?  What object could be used to represent Macbeth's beliefs in his soliloquy, "Tomorrow creeps in this petty pace"?  These might help you get a start on this task.

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There are all kinds of images you can include in a presentation about Shakespeare's Macbeth.  I'll give you a list to consider:

  • What did Macbeth want?  What did he kill Duncan for?  The crown.
  • What is one of the central images in the play?  What shows up or is mentioned time and time and time again?  Blood.
  • What does Macbeth do to Macdonwald after he slashes him from the belly to the chin?  What does Macduff do to Macbeth in the final scene?  They behead their enemies.  And Macbeth puts his souvenir on a spear tip and displays it. 
  • What does Macbeth see in a vision or hallucination before he kills Duncan?  What does he use to kill Duncan?  Bloody daggers.
  • What are the Apparitions that provide the second round of predictions to Macbeth?  An armed (helmeted) head, a bloody child, and a child wearing a crown and holding a tree.
  • Theme?  How about "Fair is foul, and foul is fair"?  

Images abound in the play.  You should have no trouble.  Oh, and don't forget the horses turned into cannibals!

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