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Christian symbolism & Biblical Imagery in Macbeth

Presented by Becky Phan, Kelsy Lehne, Conor Hogan & Rik Holthuizen at Awty International School
by

Becky Phan

on 6 March 2013

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Transcript of Christian symbolism & Biblical Imagery in Macbeth

Surprises! Christian symbolism & Biblical imagery in Macbeth One of the strongest themes in Macbeth is that of piety or more precisely Christianity. The world-view and speech of the characters is influenced or infused by God and the devil, and they clearly believe in and understand the opposing spiritual forces of the supernatural. Kelsy Lehne, Becky Phan, Conor Hogan, Rik Holthuizen The extensive Christian imagery in Macbeth, in fact, seems to represent the foundation that the entire story is built upon: the allegorical connection between the murder of King Duncan and the murder of Jesus Christ. The good king of Scotland whom Macbeth, in his ambition for the crown, murders. Duncan is the model of a virtuous, benevolent, and farsighted ruler. Sergeant: Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds,Or memorise another Golgotha (1.2.45) A reference to Christ's death upon Mount Calvary, as reported in Matthew 27.33: "And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull." According to John 29.34, a Roman soldier pierced Christ's side as he hanged from the cross. First Witch: All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis! (1.3.51) In Matthew 26.49, Judas prepares to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin and Roman soldiers. His plan is to identify Jesus by greeting him with a kiss so that the soldiers will know which man to arrest. Judas approaches Jesus, saying, "Hail Master." Banquo: And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,The instruments of darkness tell us truths, (1.3.123-4) In Matthew 4.6, Satan attempts to use Scripture to tempt the Lord: "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee; and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone." Jesus replies, "It is written again/Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Satan using Holy Scripture to lead us into sin is a common theme throughout the Bible. In Corinthians 11.13-14 we are told, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light". In the New Testament, the metaphor appears in Corinthians 3.6,7: "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase/So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase". Duncan: I have begun to plant thee, and will labour To make thee full of growing. Noble Banquo, That hast no less deserved, nor must be known (35) No less to have done so, let me enfold thee And hold thee to my heart. (1.4.34-7) Lady Macbeth: Come, thick night,And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,That my keen knife see not the wound it makes (1.5.50) The connection between hell and smoke is found in Revelation 14.11: "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever..."; and in Revelation 18.9: "And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning". Duncan: This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself Unto our gentle senses. Banquo: This guest of summer,The temple-haunting martlet, does approve (1.6.1) The reference to the "temple-haunting martlet" comes from Psalms 84.2,3: "Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house, and the swallow a nest for her, where she may lay her young: even by thine altars, O Lord of Hosts". A similar passage can be found in Baruch 6.20: "In the temple the owls, swallows, and birds fly." Macbeth: If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well It were done quickly (1.7.1)




Within this passage is a clear reference to the words spoken by Jesus to Judas in John 13.27: "That thou doest, do quickly." Macbeth: I pull in resolution, and begin To doubt the equivocation of the fiend
That lies like truth: (5.5.48-50) Satan is the great equivocator, lying "like truth" to confound the hearts of men. The temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden John 8.44: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar and the father of it." Macbeth: the bell invites me.Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knellThat summons thee to heaven or to hell. (2.1.72-4) Macbeth is about to send King Duncan to his judgment before God. In Matthew 25.31, we are told that "When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He shall sit upon the throne of His glory/And before Him shall be gathered all nations..." to be judged. Lady Macbeth: Go get some water, And wash this filthy witness from your hand. (2.2.58) The imagery of unclean hands comes from Matthew 27.24, when Pilate comes before the masses gathered to witness the trial of Jesus: "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it." Lady Macbeth: Here's the smell of the blood still: all theperfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand (5.1.46-7) Lady Macbeth feels the full impact of her crimes, we recall other biblical passages, including Isaiah 59.2,3: "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear/For your hands are defiled with blood and you fingers with iniquity; you lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness." Macduff: Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope The Lord's anointed temple, and stole thenceThe life o' the building! (2.3.86-8) Macbeth has "broke ope/The Lord's anointed temple" -- he has destroyed the anointed body of the King. 1 Corinthians tells us that human beings are "the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth" in each of us. "If any man destroy the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which ye are". Old Man: God's benison go with you; and with those That would make good of bad, and friends of foes! (2.4.52-3) An echo of one of the fundamental teachings of Christ, told in Matthew 5.9: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God; and also in Matthew 5.44: "But I say unto you, love your enemies; bless them that curse you: do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Macbeth: For Banquo's issue have I fil'd my mind;For them the gracious Duncan have I murder'd;Put rancours in the vessel of my peace Only for them; and mine eternal jewelGiven to the common enemy of man,To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!(3.1.69-74) Macbeth's selfish lamentation reflects the words found in Mark 8.36: "For what shall it profit a man, though he win the world if he lose his soul. Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul". Note that "mine eternal jewel" means Macbeth's "immortal soul", and echoes Christ's analogy of the soul to a pearl, found in Matthew 13.45: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls." Lady Macbeth: Nought's had, all's spent,Where our desire is got without content (3.2.7-8) Lady Macbeth's desires have been fulfilled, but she is nonetheless miserable. This reflects a common motif in the Bible, particularly in Ecclesiastes 4.6: "Better is an handful with quietness, then both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit". Security is a caveat discussed in Ecclus. 5.7: "Make no tarrying to turn unto the Lord, and put not off from day to day: for suddenly shall the wrath of the Lord break forth and in thy security thou shalt be destroyed"; and also in 1 Corinthians 10.12: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." Hecate: And you all know, securityIs mortals' chiefest enemy. (3.5.33-4) Macbeth: Let this pernicious hour Stand aye accursed in the calendar! (4.1.148-9) Macbeth borrows Job's curse, found in 3.5: "Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it: let the cloud remain upon it, and let them make it fearful as a bitter day. Let darkness possess that night, let it not be joined unto the days of the year, nor let it come into the count of months." Lady Macduff: All is the fear and nothing is the love; (4.2.15) Lady Macduff's extended complaint over her husband's absence contains this direct reference to 1 John 4.18: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment." Macduff: Did heaven look on,
And would not take their part?
Sinful Macduff,
They were all struck for thee!(4.3.264-7) The first is the theme of heaven watching over earth, as seen in Proverbs 15.3: "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good"; and 2 Chronicles 16.9: "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth"


The second is the theme of the sins of the father visited upon the children. Macduff believes that his family has died because of his sinful behaviour. Compare this to Exodus 20.5: "Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children"; and Ezekiel 18.2: "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." Macbeth Rap - Video Macbeth: But get thee back; my soul is too much charged With blood of thine already.(5.7.7-8) An echo of Genesis 9.5,6: "And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man/Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." 60 seconds Macbeth

Now you are going to work in your lit groups.
Create a 60 seconds re-enactment of the play
Everyone in your group must have a speaking part
Be sure to include the main aspects of the play
Include at least three word for word quotations from the play
You may modernize it, use colloquial language, and props if needed Works cited

"Metaphors in Shakespeare's Macbeth - A Detailed Look at Biblical Imagery in the Tragedy Macbeth." A Detailed Look at Biblical Imagery in the Tragedy Macbeth. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

"Macbeth Rap." YouTube. YouTube, 24 Oct. 2007. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.

"~Luminous~ Gregorian Chants." YouTube. YouTube, 12 Mar. 2011. Web. 05 Mar. 2013.
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