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What are the literary devices (such as simile, hypebole, etc.), used in Macbeth's...

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shakelover | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 7, 2009 at 10:35 AM via web

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What are the literary devices (such as simile, hypebole, etc.), used in Macbeth's soliloquy in Act 2 scene 1 of Macbeth?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 30, 2014 at 1:42 PM (Answer #2)

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In Macbeth, Macbeth suffers tragic consequences due to his "vaulting ambition" which by his own admittance "o'er-leaps itself," (I.vii.27). He is unduly influenced by the witches and his downfall is set in motion on "so foul and fair a day," (I.iii.39). Ambition is one of Macbeth's tragic flaws. 

Making use of literary devices enhances the drama in Macbeth's soliloquy in Act II, scene i, lines 31-63 as Macbeth must face his fears. He believes that the only way to further his own ambition to be king is to kill Duncan. Visual elements intensify the symbolism as the audience prepares for what will follow. 

Alliteration is evident in this soliloquy; for example, "The handle towards my hand," (34); as Macbeth tries to steel himself for his deed, adding emphasis to what is about to happen and also a rhythmic quality to the soliloquy. "Bloody business," "which way they walk"  and "heaven or hell,"are also examples of alliteration. There is emphasis on blood and Macbeth's confusion is highlighted. 

Repetition is used to great effect and is particularly significant in referring to being able to "see",  a quality that Macbeth sorely lacks in terms of his long term future. He says, "I see thee" (35,40,45) on three occasions and makes references to sight and his eyes. He wonders whether the dagger is real or imagined. He seems to have an awareness but is powerless to fight against it as he is being instructed by some force which "marshall'st me the way I was going," (42). The paradox between appearance and reality is stressed from what Macbeth imagines here and what he sees; I have thee not, and yet, I see thee still,"(35). 

"Pale Hectate's offerings," (52) somehow justify what he believes he must do. Just as she may perform a ritual and offer a sacrifice, so it seems Duncan will be the sacrifice for Macbeth in order for Macbeth to become king. Here Macbeth is alluding to the ancient practices of sacrifice in order to serve an apparent greater good. 

Shakespeare's use of literary devices allows him to describe and explain in vivid detail so that the audience, or the reader can almost participate in the drama. 

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