Omens In Macbeth and Throughout History

This sample of an academic paper on Omens In Macbeth reveals arguments and important aspects of this topic. Read this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion below.

“An omen is an observed phenomenon that is interpreted as signifying either good fortune or bad fortune. ” (1) Omens are numerous and varied. The concept of order was an extremely important one to William Shakespeare, and to Elizabethans in general. He saw the world as something planned and patterned. In the play, “Macbeth”, Shakespeare cleverly uses omens as tools to help the audience predict the fate or outcome of key characters.

Several of these omens used include the use of birds, weather patterns, blood and even sleep. In today’s society, we still use omens, however, they occur mainly in works of literature.

They signify a departure from our understanding of how the world really works. We may, perhaps, consider an omen as a sign of what will happen in the future. We mainly, however, see an omen as a source of entertainment.

Birds have been considered an important omen in ancient times, as well as the present. There are several kinds of birds that have very different meanings. Each type of bird may be a forecaster of either a good fortune or a bad fortune. In Asia, the crane represents a long life. The dove symbolizes love and peace and to dream of dove’s means that happiness will be in the future.

What Is An Omen

However, a raven is said to predict death and pestilence.

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Folklore says that a raven’s sense of smell is so acute that it can smell death even before it comes. Also, an owl is considered to be an omen of doom. In ancient Rome, a hooting owl warned a person that death was near. Birds as an omen was and still is a very generalized omen. Within the concept of this general omen of birds, there are minor subdivisions. They include not only the type of bird, but also, the type of flight, their directions of flight, and even the direction of flight in relationship to the observer.

Each subdivision, on its own, has a very special meaning. An omen that significantly moves an audience is the recurring image of sleep. A character that is unable to sleep represents someone that perhaps may be guilty of a crime. The inability to sleep is usually a sign of a bad omen. Sleep, as an omen, can be further analyzed in the form of dreams. Through the ages the reasons for the importance of dreams has been mysterious and tied to spiritual significance. Clearly, however, the most significant omens are revealed through dreams. Dreams can be an omen of good or bad fortune.

To dream of a black candle may be an omen of death or illness. However, the dream of two white candles can foresee a happy and prosperous future. Today, man is more educated and scientific in their way of thinking. Although we believe in omens, we really don’t take them too seriously. Omens are generally seen as a form of entertainment in literature, and in the media. We find the use of omens exciting and sometimes frightening. In Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “The Birds”, a black crow sitting on a wire, is a clear omen that something bad will happen.

Also, in the famous work of literature, “The Raven”, a bird symbolizes a bad fate. We are told, “a bird flying in the house will bring death”. (2) Generally, few people take this too seriously. We believe that a white dove brings peace and love. However, we do not base our future on these omens. More important, in today’s society, is the omen of dreams. “Dreams are said to be the mind’s way of making sense of various inputs and help, in some way, to forecast the future. ” (3) Analyzing our own dreams is very fascinating.

It is a form of enjoyment to try and figure out what the future will hold for us by breaking apart out dreams. According to Pamela Ball, “the hedgehog in a dream is an omen of evil”. (4) Seriously, there are few people in today’s society that will get upset or disturbed by a dream of a hedgehog. It is merely a fun form of entertainment. William Shakespeare’s audience, however, takes the use of omens very seriously. Omens are used very cleverly in his play, “Macbeth”. The purpose of birds is one aspect of nature that symbolizes the theme of omens in this play.

When Duncan and Banquo note that Macbeth’s castle enjoys the good omen of nestling martlets, the audience already realizes the danger Duncan will be facing if he spends the night at the Inverness. “This guest of summer, The temple-haunting martlet, does approve. ” (5) Therefore, the “fair” omen is to become “foul”. This can be related back to the plan of the witches at the beginning of the play “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”. (6) Later in the play, the use of birds is used to reveal the murderer. “By maggot-pies, and choughs, and rooks, brought forth, The secret’st man of blood. (7) These speaking birds are clearly understood omens to Shakespeare’s audience. In “Macbeth”, Shakespeare uses the image of sleep to prepare the audience. In Act I, Scene III, the witches use the omen of sleeplessness as a sign of bad things to come. “Sleep shall neither night nor day, Hang upon his pent-house lid”. (8) Shakespeare cleverly shows the audience the pain and guilt Macbeth will suffer in the future. Several times in the play we see Macbeth’s insomnia as a sign of bad or evil.

After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth complains of the way he and his wife sleep. In the affiction of these terrible dreams, That shake us nightly”. (9) Sleep, or the lack of it, gives the audience a sense of the guilt and evil of the murders that take place in the play. In our day, when we use omens, it signifies a departure from the way we know how the world really works. Omens are used as a source of entertainment. But in Macbeth, omens are tools that are used to reinforce Shakespeare’s perception of the world as an ordered place, in which there is a plan. This is what Shakespeare’s audience truly believed.

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Omens In Macbeth and Throughout History
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