Were women's clothes always dark at the time of "Macbeth" (the seventeenth century)?
What I am trying to do is write down examples of the coursework question "How far is evil connected with women in the play [of Macbeth] ?"
I figured that clothing was an important feature as in the numerous plays I saw of Macbeth I almost always saw the women wearing black clothes. One woman that I think could be an exception is the Gentlewoman, the witness of Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking habit. I cannot really remember what she wore.
That's why I just need some closure, so I can move on with my coursework. Thanks in advance!
Those are some astute observations you've made about the use of color in Shakespeare's plays, but I am not certain that you can make much use of the information. Generally, the exact specifications of the costumes used by the actors is not contained in the script itself...that is more the department of those putting on the play. As such, I don't think you can draw much significance from the fact that they seemed to be wearing dark clothes. While there might be some symbolism, and there may be instances in which the clothing is described by the author, I'm inclined to think it cannot be attributed to Shakespeare himself.
During the Renaissance many colors were popular but black was, in some cases, very fashionable:
1) Because it provided a great contrast to colorful embroidery or jewelry.
2) Because those dark, chromatic colors were easier to use on wool (and therefore less expensive.)
3) Because the church frowned upon more decadent colorings.
Renaissance fashion made use of many different colors that could be made with natural dyes and each color had a certain symbolism:
1) Green was the color of love,
2) Gray for sorrow,
3) Yellow for hostility,
4) Blue for fidelity,
5) Red for nobility,
6) Black for the lower class.
Of course, over time, the meanings of these colors changes. In general, black/dark clothing would have been used to represent the underclass or the unhappy. It may be that some of this has carried over into the way the plays are put on today.
Hope this helps!