19th March 2018

Thick Night


In literature authors often use language in ways that  help them convey an image; sometime they use words that would not usually be associated with a certain thing but send a clear picture of what the authors is trying to show.

In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses this technique to make the dialogue colourful and to build an image in his viewers minds. One of the best examples of this is when Lady Macbeth says “Come, thick night” in Act one Scene 5. This was very clever of Shakespeare for as we all know the night cannot be ‘thick’ even so, this signal word instantly forms a picture in one’s mind. It makes you think of night as a time when a great heavy blanket has been draped over the world, hiding it from sight and making it hard to move, or that night coats everything in like a dense fluid. What makes this imagery truly remarkable thought, is the context. At the time Lady Macbeth is talking to herself about how she is planning to kill the king, a ghastly thing to speculate about, and one that would not be commended by god, (for in those days god was a defining factor of people’s lives). So she says later in her monologue “Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark to cry, ‘Hold, hold!’.” In this she is saying don’t let god witness the foul thing I must do, nor try to stop me. This directly corresponds with the referral to night as thick, because it paints a picture of impenetrable darkness that even god can’t see her kill the king through.

Verbal imagery can mean the difference between writing with depth, and writing that is flat and meaningless. In Macbeth Shakespeare demonstrate his mastery of word play with his use of uncanny adjectives, like thick when describing night. this is so not only because it helps you see what he wants you too but because of the context in which it is used.



In Act 1 scene 5 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth shows frustration the reason of this being her predicament as a woman. Let me explain, as a woman in Elizabethan times Lady Macbeth is not expected nor encouraged to have ambition. unfortunately for her she is a very strong and ambitious woman, a fact that can make her life very hard for often ambitious people find it hard not to jump at every opportunity that could help them achieve their goals but the fact that she is a woman is an obstacle that is very hard to overcome. This is shown when she says “Unsex me here,..” because she is saying she wish’s to have her womanliness taken away so she can carry out a plan that is meant for men. Whats more, Lady Macbeth feels that her husband, despite his gender which puts him at a clear advantage when it comes to ambition, is unwilling or unable to undertake the deed (killing the king). An example of this is when she says “yet do I fear thy nature: it is too full o’ the milk of human kindness” for in this she is saying her husband is to kind to kill the king. So with all this considered of corse Lady Macbeth is frustrated; she was born before her time, she has ambitions that far exceed that which is acceptable to woman, and she is annoyed at her husband who has masses more power than her but is, in her eyes, hesitant to use it.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Nice insight Ava!

  2. I’m impressed with your explanation of “Thick night” for these reasons:

    1) You clearly examine this as an effect of the playwright – Shakespeare. This is exactly what we’re trying to do.
    2) You give excellent detail in relation to how this effect is created, you explore it extensively and convincingly, and you then go on to look at its wider implications.

    The areas for improvement are:

    1) Use more precise terms, for example, ‘thick night’ is, as much as anything, an example of the use of ‘imagery’, which refers to language effects that create a sensory response (I know you mention this at the end, but this means something different than ‘create an image’, which is a reference to a visual effect).
    2) Calling the audience the ‘viewer’ is probably a little incorrect. I think simply referring to them as the ‘audience’ is good. Remember there’s also information encoded in the script for the actors and director too.


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