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Weather, Evil, and Chaos in Macbeth
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To early modern audiences, murdering a king represented perhaps the greatest evil that man might commit, for the monarch was the highest human link in the great chain of being linking man to God. When Macbeth murders Duncan, he severs the great chain, throwing everything into chaos. According to Tillyard, To us chaos means hardly more than confusion on a large scale; to an Elizabethan it meant the cosmic anarchy before creation and the wholesale dissolution that would result if the pressure of Providence relaxed and allowed the laws of nature to cease functioning. 16) That such chaos exists within the world of the play is emphasized when Lennox and Ross discuss the unnatural weather during the night of Duncan’s murder. Lennox’s remarks imply a connection between foul weather and chaos: “The night has been unruly…. Our chimneys were blown down…. Some say the earth was feverous and did shake” (2. 3. 50-57). Ross’s response suggests that nature has died, an idea anticipated by Macbeth’s earlier observation, “nature seems dead” (2. 1. 50). In a sense, nature has died with Duncan, and the destructive weather reveals that evil and chaos rule in his place.
The references to foul and unnatural weather underscore Macbeth’s relationship to chaos and evil. The murder of Duncan creates chaos that undoes many characters, until nature is revived by the death of Macbeth. Foul weather imagery is thus an important aspect of the play, serving not only to provide a sinister atmosphere but also to symbolize the chaos that follows the murder of a king
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