This is the fourth piece of the collection The Tragedy of Macbeth. The painting depicts the collapse of the tyrants and the restoring of order.
Even thought the downfall of Macbeth’s tyranny implies war and bloodshed, the overall atmosphere of this piece conveys a vindictive sense of justice; the dawn of a new day when light overcomes darkness, when good defeats evil.
A very important aspect of the ending is how the couple begins to fall apart from within, crumbling down through disturbing hallucinations. The most iconic of them shows Lady Macbeth trying to wash away the guilt, perceived by the character as blood in her hands.
The Witches’ prophecy foretold that none born of women shall harm Macbeth. And so he finds defeat by Macduff’s hand, a man delivered by caesarean section. Applying the figure-ground principle of Gestalt’s visual perception, a woman’s figure shows up as the cloudy background is focused; a poetic graphic rhyme where a caesarian delivers the man that ends all tyranny like the sunrise ends all darkness.
The entangled trees accompany the final strike as also foreseen by The Witches, for Macbeth shall never be vanquished until the Birnam Wood comes against him to Dunsinane Hill. Within the branches shapes, the figure of two ravens can be seen as a remind of those behind the prophecy.
The overall composition of The Downfall, in contrast with The Arise piece, shows entangled organic curves transmitting a sense of natural order, aiming for an ending to the deadly evil that prevails, protecting the kingdom from itself.
As for all the pieces that are part of this collection, symmetry is ever-present; purity and temptation, determination and remorse, cause and consequence, what in shadows rises in light falls; a sense of balance across the whole collection.
Inspiration: William Shakespeare’s The Tragedie of Macbeth