The Importance of Night in “Macbeth”When I thought about the role that the word “night” would play in the tragic play “Macbeth,” I found that there were a variety of possibilities. Immediately, I thought of the nighttime as a period of rest and revitalization. I expected that this would allow characters to recover from the day’s many demands. Secondly, I connected the night to the unknown. In the night’s cloak of darkness, many more things could go undiscovered than in the revealing light of day. Next, I thought that the night would mean vulnerability. As the evening closes in, everyone begins to wind down, not expecting any real action until the breaking of the dawn. In addition, while one is sleeping, they are susceptible to almost anything. The most logical time to make an attack would definitely be after nightfall. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, is night’s correlation with evilness. As children, we were all afraid of nasty monsters that lurked in the darkness of night. The night has long been believed to host supernatural beings and occurrences. As I read the play and came upon the word “night,” I was surprised to discover that all four aspects of my hypothesis were correct. First, in act I, we see the first usage, night as a period for rest and revitalization. In scene iii, lines 19-23, the First Witch says,
Sleep shall neither night nor day / Hang upon his penthouse lid; / He shall live a man forbid: / Weary sev’nights nine times nine / Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine: / Though his bark cannot be lost, / Yet it shall be tempest-tossed.Here, she is punishing the sailor by depriving him of his sleep, which she realizes is important for anyone to function normally. Without the ability to recuperate after each hard day’s work, one would grow very weak and eventually start to lose one’s mind. Next, we can observe night’s connection to the unknown. As seen in my word journal, Lady Macbeth beckons, Come, thick night, / And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, / That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, / Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, / To cry “Hold, hold!” Without the obscurity of night, she would not have urged Macbeth to kill the king as she did. The night, however, gives her the impression that Macbeth can indeed kill King Duncan with no one uncovering his contemptible crime, the same idea that Macbeth had when he said, “Stars, hide your fires; / Let not light see my black and deep desires… (I,iv,50).” The night’s darkness even allows them to believe that they can hide Macbeth’s sin from God, the all-knowing One. Next, we find an excellent example of night causing vulnerability in act II, scene iii. As King Duncan slumbers in his chambers, Macbeth, bidding the “firm-set earth” not to hear his steps, enters and slays the innocent and unaware monarch (56). Another key example of night’s connection to vulnerability occurs in act III, scene iii, when the unsuspecting Banquo is murdered as he returns to Inverness. If Banquo had returned in the light of day, the three murderers surely would not have attempted to kill the nobleman. Finally, one can recognize the major role that night plays regarding evilness in “Macbeth.” All of the evil things that Macbeth does in the story occurs in the nighttime. Lennox states, “… the obscure bird / Clamored the livelong night. Some say, the earth / Was feverous and did shake,” in reaction to Macbeth’s first evil act, killing the king of Scotland, as seen in my word journal. Animals and even the earth itself could sense the horrible sin that Macbeth had committed. Macbeth, the evil-doer himself, even notes the presence of evil, declaring, “Good things of day begin to droop and drowse, / while night’s black agents to their prey do rouse,” as noted in my word journal.
In the tragic play “Macbeth,” night has a role of paramount importance. Without it to conceal his evil deeds, Macbeth would not have murdered King Duncan. Also, I learned that night loses its importance as the play proceeds, for Macbeth’s evil deeds become known and, in result, he does not try as hard to conceal his actions. The night also serves to punish, as in the case of Lady Macbeth, who was tormented during the night by frightening dreams, and eventually, told of Macbeth’s guiltiness while sleepwalking. It seems as if the whole plot revolves around the night and the many roles it holds throughout the play.