What are the language techniques in Act 2, Scene 1 of Macbeth?

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jseligmann's profile pic

jseligmann | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

Well, here's your belated answer. I hope you're still interested. Maybe it wasn't for a school assignment, and you just wanted to know... :-)

So, it's late at night. The big dinner that the Macbeths have thrown for King Duncan is over, and everyone is finally going to bed. The murder will soon take place, and Macbeth is checking to see if anyone is still awake. Banquo and his son Fleance, as the scene opens, are just about to retire:


Hold, take my sword. There's husbandry in heaven,

Their candles are all out. Take thee that too.

A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,

And yet I would not sleep.

"Husbandry in heaven" is personification: it's as if heaven were tending to and controlling its flock by being thrifty. It is black dark, and all the stars are covered by clouds. Here is a metaphor: the stars (which are being saved by an act of husbandry) are compared to candles. Rather complex language games here between a father and his young son.

Macbeth leaves Banquo and Fleance and starts on to Duncan's chamber, where a dagger appears before him. The dagger leads him into the chamber. He talks to the dagger as if it were a person (again personification):

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.

Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible

To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but

A dagger of the mind, a false creation,

Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?

I see thee yet, in form as palpable

As this which now I draw.

Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going,

And such an instrument I was to use.

Mine eyes are made the fools o’ the other senses,

Or else worth all the rest. I see thee still,

And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,

Which was not so before.

He's really becoming obsessed and possessed, horrified by what he is about to do. Then there are these personifications of nature, witchcraft, and an ever-sentient earth that listens to his footsteps:

Now o'er the one half-world

Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse

The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates

Pale Hecate's offerings; and wither'd Murder,

Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,

Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,

With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design

Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,

Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear

Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,

And take the present horror from the time,

Which now suits with it.

Seems like he's scaring himself to death. A little bit of irony here: Macbeth,the brave and ruthless warrior who is now afraid to kill.

At last, one more personification (the inviting bell) and a rhyming couplet to end the scene:

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.

ariam01's profile pic

ariam01 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

please can you do the same with act 2 SCENE 2 as soon as possible thank you

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