Professor Katie Albany
Fine literature involves the use of many literary elements, which builds up
character in the writing pieces that an author pens. Throughout the play Macbeth, the audience can find devices such as imagery, symbolism and several other, but one main device: foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is when the author hints of what may happen in the expecting chapters or scenes. Foreshadowing usually occurs in the beginning of the story or plot, which the audience can use to understand the further events of the book/play. It may be used anytime in the writing piece but, it is usually used in the beginning to enhance the suspense that a plot carries in the exposition. The play Macbeth, tends to show the foreshadowing before the anticipation and had a few after, so that the readers/viewers understand that the murders/events happened for a certain reason.
First indication of foreshadowing was in the very first scene of Act I, with the
Weird Sisters. The Weird Sisters were described as three witches, that told promising prophecies about the future. They say they will meet him “when the battle’s lost and won,” meaning simply that any battle will have a winner and loser at the end. Nonetheless, through the lens of Shakespeare, such a quote is deeper than what it is thought to be and we can presume that the witches connote a double meaning, where Macbeth has won the battle and the opposing party has lost. Consequently, Macbeth will also lose the battle of his greed and state of mind, through the proceeding plot. In addition, they inform the audience from the beginning that, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” which can be assumed that appearances or actions aren’t always what they seem. The verge of the rising actions, may have deception and events that may not seem what they truly are. Moreover, in Act I, Scene 3, the witches’ interaction with Macbeth depicts that in the forthcoming plots, Macbeth will be made Thane of Glamis-“All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis!”, Thane of Cawdor-“All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!”, and then eventually King of Scotland-” All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!”. After hearing such alleged predictions, Macbeth and his wife are thrilled and make aspirations to reach such heights. With such predictions, Shakespeare shows the gesture of power that Macbeth will receive and puts in the mind of the audience that he will become king under suspenseful circumstances.
More so, the Weird Sisters tend to demonstrate the majority foreshadowing in this
play. In Act III-Scene 5, Hecate, who is the goddess of witchcraft, reprimands them and they are dismissed for their actions of predicting the future without Hecate’s’ permission. As a result, Hecate reveals that she will change the future, “This night I’ll spend/ Unto a dismal and fatal end,” which indicates that what the Weird Sisters have said to Macbeth will indeed occur, except it will not end in the favor of Macbeth. Hecate, furthermore foreshadows the reason why Macbeth starts to hallucinate in the impending scenes. As stated in the scene, “Shall raise such artificial sprites/As by the strength of their illusion/Shall draw him on to his confusion”, Macbeth starts to see such sprits of Duncan as well as Banquo and his mind state starts to deteriorate due to such confusion over if the people exist or not. He knows he eradicated them but he doesn’t understand why he is able to see them and no one else is. Due to the irresponsible behavior of the Weird Sisters, Macbeth encounters his fate with the twist of apprehension.
Additionally, in Act IV-Scene 1, the Weird Sisters meet with Macbeth once
again, conjuring up the three apparitions that will come to Macbeth. These three apparitions were what Hecate hinted towards. It may have been indirectly an enactment of the punishment Hecate has given to the witches but it modified the results of Macbeths’ expectations and developed in his suffering, along with what the witches imparted at first. The three apparitions are likewise foreshadowing what happens as the play goes on: first-Macbeth has to beware Macduff, secondly-Macbeth will never be harmed by other men who were born from a woman, and third-Macbeth will never be defeated until Birnam Wood marches to fight at Dunsinane Hill. These are all imminent occurrences that in due course, caused the downfall of Macbeth.
Nevertheless, in Act II-Scene 1, Macbeth finishes the cruel action of slaughtering
Duncan, the King of Scotland-which fulfils one of the prophecies that the Weird Sisters had exclaimed previously. In the next scene, Macbeth is shown telling his wife that as he had done his deed and how he had heard a voice that said, ‘Sleep no more!’. This foreshadows both Macbeth’s awaking nights and his wife’s subsequent slip into insanity, in the rising action of the play. Lady Macbeth is shown to be sleepwalking through the castle, repeating the infamous phrase, ‘Out, damned spot! Out, I say!’. This is indicative of her guilt flowing through her mind and reflecting on her hands as an illusion, for being part of a crime that ended their innocence. In addition, in Act II –Scene 2, Macbeth hears constant knocking and queries if he has forlorn his sanity or the courage after executing such a evil deed. “Where is that knocking coming from? What’s happening to me, that I’m frightened of every noise?”, this foreshadows the promising doom of Macbeth by the person on the other side of the door: Macduff. Macduff is the ultimate end of Macbeth’s reign as King.
Likewise, in Act II-Scene 3, before anyone realizes that their beloved King is
deceased, the atmosphere around the castle changes. The plot thickens as two visitors, Lennox and Macduff bring the news of such change and list the scene as a gloomy-impending doom. As detailed in the scene, “The night has been unruly. Where we lay,/Our chimneys were blown down and, as they say,/Lamentings heard i’ th’ air, strange screams of death,/And prophesying with accents terrible/Of dire combustion and confused events/New hatched to the woeful time.” The night is dark and chaotic, with the chimneys hit with wild winds and strange sounds filling the air. Indirectly, such imagery denotes the screams of King Duncan as he was murdered. This undeniably confirms the foreshadow of the characters in the play that do not acknowledge the death that already has happened-of King Duncan.
Hence, all throughout Shakespeare’s’ books/plays, his foreshadowing has kept the
audience on a constant edge. He uses the literary elements through the themes of madness, pride, power and cruel intent, to fabricate a truly old-appreciated tale of drama. Although his other works have this element, Macbeth truly is comprised of several foreshadowing, that gives this play a significant plot. The Weird Sisters hold the significant amount of foreshadowing, as they predict the whole fate of Macbeth throughout the play. They disclaim his future at first-positively and ultimately, they are the cause of Macbeth leading his path to destruction.