Clothing in Macbeth
Clothing is used as very symbolic expressions i Macbeth. It shows up a lot – as terms such as nightgowns and robes – and are used as metaphors. The first time Macbeth uses one of these metaphors is when he hears that he's been named “Thane of Cawdor”. He then asks Angus why he should be dressed in “borrowed” robes (1. 3. 7). This is a metaphor and the real meaning with this expression is that the title as “Thane of Cawdor” does not belong to him Macbeth, but the old Thane. This is also at the point of the act where Macbeth is corrupt. Clothing as metaphors in Macbeth could be symbols for power.
When we get near the end of the play – where Macbeth is now an evil and brutal king who is mad with power – Angus says that Macbeth's “title” as king is ill-fitting and hangs on him rather loose, “like a giant's robe upon a dwarfish thief” (5.2.2). This is meant as a metaphor because Macbeth – because his transformation from good to evil – cannot bear the title as king. Angus accuses Macbeth for stealing the power from Duncan by killing him just because of his own desire for power. He thinks that Macbeth is only playing around with the title and this title does not “suit” him at all. Here we can draw a parallel to our own commonly used metaphor: Macbeth is not “big enough” to fill the former king's shoes.
You can also read the plays clothing imagery in other ways. If we look at the previous quote again – Macbeth looks like a “dwarfish thief” wearing a “giant's robe” - this can also mean that this “rope” does not belong to Macbeth and but is stolen by him. Because of the fact that the “rope” is stolen he is uncomfortable in it because he can't stop thinking about what he did and that “the rope is stolen”. The most important meaning of this is; that the oldest symbol for a hypocrite is a man who takes distance to his true nature and “wears” a disguise (according to “The Well-Wrought Urn”). The point of this is not necessarily that Macbeth cant fill the kings shoes, but that he is “uncomfortable” as king because he stole the title and the crown from the former king and he is aware of the fact that it does not belong to him. This metaphor is about hypocrisy and deception, which is also a recurring theme in the play.