The Theme of Nature in Macbeth by William Shakespeare


Statistics show when given the option between sunny days, rainy days, both or snow only 11% of people prefer a rainy day (thejournal.ie) Generally, people associate weather and natural patterns with emotions. Authors use negative aspects of nature, along with a plot, to convey certain feelings and moods in fiction, because of the emotions people commonly associate them with.

In the beginning of Macbeth, Macbeth is standing on a barren heap in a thunderstorm and three witches address him with three titles, Thane of Glamis (current), Thane of Cawdor and the King hereafter. At first, Macbeth doesn’t think much of it until another nobleman tells him the king named him Thane of Cawdor. This is when he thinks, “If good, why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs against the use of nature? Present fears are less than horrible imaginings. My thought, whose murder is yet but fantastical shakes so my single state of man.” (Shakespeare 1. 3. 147- 153). In this scene, Macbeth is in a rough storm, thinking about how he could become king and his first thought is to kill the current king. A raging storm is something people know to avoid and usually dislike, and for that reason authors use them to signify something bad. The storm in this scene coupled with Macbeth’s sudden murder plan gives the viewers a foreboding feeling and sets an ominous mood. 

Later in Macbeth, Macbeth does commit the murder, killing the King and his two guards. The day after, a nobleman and an old man are talking about how nature acted the night of the murder, “Hours dreadful and things strange, but this sore night hath trifled former knowings … Tis unnatural, even like the deed that's done. On Tuesday last a falcon, tow’ring in her pride of place, was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed.” (Shakespeare 2. 4. 3- 5 & 13- 16) The old man is saying in all his years of life he had never seen nature act so violently, saying he saw an owl who usually hunts mice take down a falcon. In this scene, Shakespeare uses the animals acting unnaturally vicious to show that killing the King was incredibly brutal and horrible. He is using the violence of animals to show the violence of the crime and to instill a dreadful feeling into the viewer and set a macabre mood. 

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we see Harry and Dumbledore standing on a large rock, splashed by large waves, wind blowing across their faces, and surrounded by gray storm clouds. This is when these two characters are venturing out to find a necklace cursed with dark magic (Yates). The waves in this part of the movie are wild and angry, splashing the characters somewhat violently, most people know to stay away from these types of waves, intuitively sensing they are dangerous. In the scene, the gray rainy sky is the type of rain that people know will get worse, the waves and weather are things that people naturally stay away from. The setting, in addition to the character's dangerous task, gives the viewer a suspenseful feeling and sets a sinister mood. 

In the book Kingsbane, Rielle has the ability to tap into the magical fabric of the universe and is attempting to use this to heal a dying man. As she looks into this man, she sees the human body under a new lens, she gets lost in exploring this part of the magical world and she accidentally tears the man apart. She doesn’t realize what she has done, but when she looks at the world under a regular lens she sees she had torn him apart. While this is happening, she is sitting in the snow, surrounded by rough winds (Legrand). In this chapter, the violent snowstorm, as described, is something that most people avoid, sensing it as dangerous and the author uses that to enforce that what Rielle did was dangerous. She uses the wild nature, in addition to what was happening, to create a dreadful feeling and set a horrific mood. 

Since people usually associate certain aspects of nature with it, authors use plot and nature to convey certain feelings and set certain moods in their work. While in real life nature acting out doesn’t represent bad things happening, it often has negative connotations. On rainy days, people may feel lazy or sad, or when thunder is rumbling outside, they may feel scared.

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