Macbeth thinks that people spend their lives 'strutting' and 'fretting.'  Discuss the significance of word choice.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The use of terms "struts" and "frets" helps to describe the actions of a bad actor.  Macbeth is at a point in the narrative when his descriptions of being in the world are littered with images of emptiness and futility.  In a way, these images help to describe his own "strutting" and "fretting" in terms of all that he did to gain an illusion of power and control.  When hearing of Lady Macbeth's death and confronted with the realization that all he has done has been in vain, Macbeth understands the true nature of existence, his true nature of existence, as one of emptiness.  To that end, he employs the image of the "poor player," or actor who overdramatizes everything he does on stage with his "struts" and "frets."  Macbeth makes the argument that the exaggerated actions of the actor is nothing more than confirmation of his uselessness and his ineffectiveness.  The ultimate statement of this condition is that the hyperbolic actions are "heard no more" once the acting has passed.  This reflects the transitory and passing nature of life, one that has demonstrated itself to Macbeth and his own experiences in his narrative.

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