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Literary Devices in Macbeth

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Jimeca Atkinson

on 8 June 2015

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Transcript of Literary Devices in Macbeth

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By Jimeca Atkinson
Literary devices in
Examples of irony can be found all throughout Macbeth. It is frequently used and holds a huge impact on the story. In my opinion this play focuses on two types of irony specifically. Situational Irony, which is "generally understood as a situation that includes contradictions or sharp contrasts. Along with Dramatic Irony which is something that is understood to the audience but not the characters themselves. These two types of irony help the plot develop and add suspense to the play. It also keeps the audience on the edge of their seat, waiting for the big plot twist.
In Act 1 Scene 6 Duncan arrives at Macbeth's castle expecting a pleasant visit. The
dramatic irony
in this scene is that Duncan is has no clue that he is about to be murdered but the audience is well aware of what is about to take place.
In Act 4 Scene 1, Macbeth receives three apparitions from the witches. There's
situational irony
in some of these as the witches predicted these things but Macbeth seems to misinterprets them. He thought he was untouchable as they told him that no man born of a woman could ever harm him. Which applies to most people but Macduff in particular was born of a C-section. For the third one Macbeth is confused and is convinced it could never be true. But it ended up as Malcolm (future king of Scotland, hence the crown) had ordered the soldiers to pretend to be trees by holding branches in the woods.
1. Armed Head
2. Bloody Child
3. Child wearing a crown holding a tree
In Act 1 Scene 7, Lady Macbeth grows angry with her husband for having second thoughts about the plan to murder Duncan "To be the same in thine own act and valor As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would, ” Like the poor cat i' th' adage?" She believes her husband is a coward and doesn't see murder as a big deal. But the
situational irony
develops later in the novel in Act 5 Scene 1, where Lady Macbeth guilt starts to take over "Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, Oh, Oh!" She's basically done a swap with Macbeth. In a sense of Macbeth now feeling more confident and will stop at nothing to keep his title safe, where as Lady Macbeth is now the one who is overwhelmed with guilt.
In Act 2 Scene 1, Macbeth has a word with himself before carrying on with the murder of Duncan. Not only does Macbeth hallucinate in this scene "Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still" Which allows us to see where his mental state is at. But lines like "I go, and it is done. The bell invites me. Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell That summons thee to heaven or to hell" Allows us to see that Macbeth is not yet purely evil as he is still not pleased with what he is about to do.
There are various soliloquy's featured in this play. The use of this device is to allow the audience to hear what's going on inside a characters mind. It
gives the audience a better chance to identify with the character. By being able to hear the internal struggles of a character, we're able to not only get a better grasp of the scene but also to help sympathize with the character. This device is especially useful in Macbeth, as it shows what the characters are going through. Without soliloquy's, authors would have work a lot harder on emphasizing character development.
In Act 1 Scene 5, Lady Macbeth has a chance alone to think about her future. This was a very essential scene to the play. As this displayed some character development for Lady Macbeth. We learn that she has something evil within her, as she requests to "Make thick my blood. Stop up the access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between The effect and it! " This can only make the audience think negatively of her. And without this scene, we'd be left unsure of what kind of person Lady Macbeth was.
In Act 5 Scene 5, Macbeth is informed of his wife's passing. This scene is important as, once again like every soliloquy, it allows us to see what the character is feeling in that moment. After hearing the bad news, Macbeth seems rather unaffected. It isn't that he stopped caring for his wife, it is that he has just accepted that everything is going down hill "It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing" Is how Macbeth now sees life, we are now aware that he is slowly meeting his defeat.
Metaphors are a popular device for authors to use. This is because it helps the author get his/her message across clearly and descriptively. Shakespeare seemed to be a fan of metaphors, I've noticed a few in Macbeth. Metaphors help set the story, they let you visualize what's going on, which personally makes the story more interesting for me. They give you the chance to be involved in the novel, It allows me to relate and understand the object/situation better. This device aids authors in giving their audience a sense of where they're coming from.
This is another very popular device for authors to use. The purpose is to add suspense to the story. It hooks the audience in by forcing them to anticipate what's going to happen next. Even if it's mainly used in mystery novels, I think it served well for Macbeth. It helps the audience prepare for future events. I personally like the sort of hints/clues the author gives, that some people manage to pick up on. It makes me excited to see what's next.
This device doesn't seem as common as the others. But I still deem foils as valuable. The purpose of them is to compare/contrast two characters, and highlight one of the characters attributes. Typically the comparison is good vs. evil, it seems to be the easiest one to do. This device helps the audience see each character clearly. Most time it can show you what characters are the heroes, and which are the villains.
Banquo VS. Macbeth.
Banquo is obviously more of the hero in this comparison opposed to Macbeth. In Act 3 Scene 1 Banquo realizes that good things might be coming his way as well "If the witches tell the truth—which they did about you—maybe what they said about me will come true too. But shhh! I’ll shut up now" But Banquo is smarter then that and doesn't let the predictions control his decisions, unlike Macbeth. Macbeth was certain that he needed to act on the prophecies he was given, where as Banquo was willing to let nature take its course.
Lady Macbeth VS. Lady Macduff. In this comparison it's more or less who comes off more as nurturing. It's obvious to me that Lady Maduff takes the win on this one. After Lady Macbeth gave that speech about wanting her blood to be made thicker and "Come to my woman’s breasts, And take my milk for gall" In Act 1 Scene 5, there's no chance of Lady Macbeth ever coming off as a hero. Lady Macduff on the other hand has a heartwarming heart to heart with her son in Act 4 Scene 2 "Now, God help thee, poor monkey! But how wilt thou do for a father?" She asks, as she is genuinely concerned for her sons well being.
Macbeth VS. Macduff. This comparison is probably the biggest foil in the whole play. Macduff is a noble man, when he receives news of his family in Act 4 Scene 3. Malcolm tells him to "Dispute it like a man" to which Macduff replies with "I shall do so, But I must also feel it as a man" Macduff and Macduff have vastly different views on death. Macduff believes that it isn't a sign of weakness to grieve over the ones you love. Where as Macbeth hid his emotions and grew to seem emotionless, for example when he found out about his wife passing in Act 5 Scene 5 "She should have died hereafter" Another obvious comparison is how noble and honest Macduff was, compared to Macbeth who murdered and lied his way to the throne.
"There the grown serpent lies. The worm that’s fled" In Act 3 Scene 4 Macbeth says this and is referring to Banquo and his son, Fleance. In this quote Macbeth is comparing Banquo "the grown serpent" to a snake, due to Banquo's growing mistrust of Macbeth. And the "worm" is reffering to Banquo, as worms hide in the ground and Banquo fled when Macbeth ordered the murderers to kill him and his father.
"Fair is foul and foul is fair" In Act 1 Scene 1, the witches say this. This quote simply means that, all good things are bad. This ties into Macbeth as everything good that happened to him (e.g. becoming king, getting rid of enemies) ended up meaning nothing, as they were the reasons he was killed.
"The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees Is left this vault to brag of" In Act 2 Scene 3 Macbeth say's this. In this quote he compares his soul to an almost empty "wine bag" Which serves to be true as he shuts down his emotions shortly after this period of time in the play.
The majority of foreshadowing in Macbeth comes from the witches. In fact in the very first scene (Act 1 Scene 1) one of the witches ask when they'll meet again. To which another witch replies "When the battle's lost and won" This gives the audience a hint that a battle will occur but we're all unaware what battle it specifically is.
Another example of foreshadowing from the witches takes place in Act 1 Scene 3 "All hail, Macbeth! Hail to you, thane of Glamis!" "All hail, Macbeth! Hail to you, thane of Cawdor!" and "All hail, Macbeth, the future king! They say these things to Macbeth, but the foreshadowing comes from the last two statements as he is not the thane of Cawdor, nor is he the king. So the audience now has an idea of what to expect.
In Act 4 Scene 1 the witches, once again provide an example of foreshadowing. This time they give Macbeth three apparitions, one is an armed head, two is a bloodied child, and third is a child wearing a crown holding a tree. These all have specific meanings, such as, beware macduff, no one born of a woman can harm Macbeth etc but at this point we don't completely understand what each one means. But we know it'll be revealed in the future.
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