Choose four award-winning quotations that are excellent examples of imagery from Macbeth. Write a brief analysis of each quotation, explaining why you think it’s an example of Shakespeare at his best. Explain why your image is effective and significant.

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Will all great oceans wash this blood/ Clean from my hand? No, this hand will rather/ the multitudinous sea incarnidine,/ making the green one red. 2.1.72

This is visual imagery. I like it because it shows how incredibly guilty Macbeth feels. He feels such guilt that if he were to try to wash his hands in the ocean, not only would they not come clean, but they would taint the very ocean. It works so well because his crime is against nature.

Oh, full of scorpians is my mind, dear wife. 3.2.42 Macbeth says this after he has realized that he has destroyed his soul for a fruitless crown. After killing Duncan, he is unable to rest ever again. He fears everyone, Banquo and MacDuff especially. He is tormented by his thoughts. This is touch or sense imagery. We can imagine the scorpians, with their poisionous sting crawling around inside his skull, and it gives us shudders.

I have given suck and know how tender tis to love the babe that milks me./ I would, while it was smiling in my face,/ Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums/ And dashed his brains out had I so sworn/ As you have done to this. 1.7.59

Lady Macbeth is guilting Macbeth over breaking his promise to her. She is saying she would rather bash her smiling baby's brains out while she was nursing it than break a promise to Macbeth. This is visual imagery. We can see her ripping the babe from her breast. It is also powerful because she says she is willing to go against nature for her man.

Out out brief candle! Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player/ that frets and struts his hours about the stage. 5.5.25

Macbeth has just heard that Lady Macbeth is dead. He compares her death to the snuffing out of a candle, and says that life is not real--it is like a shadow or a play that walks on the earth. All of these images make us realize that he is on the earth but not truly alive. We can picture the flame of her spirit going out like the flame of a candle that burns out quickly.

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