Reversal of Nature in Macbeth Term Paper

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"(Bloom, 41) Any act of evil is seen thus to change the basic structure of the universe and to transform nature into a desolated chaos.

It is not only the natural, physical environment that becomes extremely chaotic through evil, but the human nature as well. All through the play, Lady Macbeth calls upon the forces of evil to keep at bay the "compunctious visitings of nature." It is thus plainly shown that there can be no enactment of malignancy without a reversal of human nature: "The raven himself is hoarse / That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan / Under my battlements. Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / of direst cruelty! make thick my blood; / Stop up the access and passage to remorse, / That no compunctious visitings of nature / Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between / the effect and it!"(1.5.40-51) the invocation that Lady Macbeth addresses to the spirits, urging them to "unsex her" is also significant: what she asks for is to be made infertile, and therefore to be herself transformed into an unnatural being, that can have enough force to murder. The chain of murders that follow the initial murder of Duncan also points to the fact that once unleashed, the malefic forces will take over man and nature and will be very hard to stop. Also, Lady Macbeth's frequent complaints against Macbeth's nature which is, according to her too human for murder, evince the same idea that wickedness can only reign when humanity and naturalness are somehow suffocated. The tyranny of evil is thus the equivalent of a reversal of nature. When Macbeth is hunted by Duncan's ghost, he realizes the stabs looked like " a breech in nature"(2.3.139), thus suggestively linking the murderous marks on the human body with the marks that such an act inevitably leaves upon nature, emptying it of its meaning. The holes in nature are symbolic and point to the hollowness of evil, its basic unnaturalness that recalls the image of chaos and of void. Everything is ultimately reversed. As Lady Macbeth urges her husband, he has to pretend and look like a "innocent flower" with a serpent underneath it (1.5. 73-74). Again, this imagery taken from nature suggests that humanness must be curbed and used only as a mask, in order to perform evil.

Thus, Shakespeare's play underlines the unnaturalness of evil, that once performed even against a single human being, threatens to bring general confusion to the entire world. In this context, life becomes meaningless like a "tale told by an idiot: "Out, out, brief candle! / Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / and then is heard no more: it is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing." (5. 5.23-8) Murder as an act of evil, can cause loss of meaning in the world, which becomes only "sound and fury" instead of order and coherence. The reversal of the moral values, represented in the beginning of the play by the turning of the fair into the foul dislocates the general order of creation. A single act of murder brings about a whole series of malignant deeds, and these in their turn affect the natural processes and the course of normal life. Thus, Shakespeare's play advocates that any kind of evil is a crime against nature itself, against human nature, and against the divine order of the universe.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold ed. William Shakespeare's Macbeth. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Paul a. "Macbeth and the Gospelling of Scotland." In Shakespeare as Political Thinker, edited by John E. Alvis and Thomas G. West, pp. 315-51. Wilmington: ISI Books, 2000.

Coursen, H.R. Macbeth: A Guide to the Play. Westport:…[continue]


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