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What are some good examples of metaphors and similes in Macbeth?

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pearmeg | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 20, 2012 at 8:45 PM via web

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What are some good examples of metaphors and similes in Macbeth?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 10, 2012 at 1:26 AM (Answer #1)

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William Shakespeare's tragic play Macbeth is filled with metaphors and similes. To begin, one must be sure that he or she understand what a metaphor and a simile is (in order to identify them within the play).

Metaphor: A metaphor is a very strong comparison. This comparison is made by stating that one object can be defined as another through making a direct statement. Essentially, a metaphor is a comparison between two things where the words "like" and/or "as" is not used.


A general example of metaphor use in the play is found when clothing references are made. Many times, clothing is used to allude to something very different than actual clothes.

The Thane of Cawdor lives. Why do you dress me
In borrow'd robes? (1.3.108-109)

Here, Macbeth is comparing the title of Cawdor to a robe. Macbeth is not wearing the robe a thane would wear. Therefore, he cannot understand why one would address him by the title.

An example of a more direct metaphor is found in Act 3 (scene 4).

There the grown serpent lies; the worm that's fled. (32)

Here, Macbeth is comparing Banquo to a serpent (or snake, given his mistrust of him) and Banquo's son, Fleance, to a worm (something which hides underground until the right circumstances arise to emerge).

Simile: A simile is a weaker comparison. The use of the words "like" or "as" deem the comparison to be a little less direct than a metaphor.


One example of a simile can be found in Act 1 (scene 2).

As two spent swimmers that do cling together (10).

Here, a comparison is made between men fighting in battle to swimmers who have spent all of their energy swimming. Both are tired from their "work."

Another example of a simile is found in the same act and scene, this time in lines 16 and 17.

And fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling,
Show'd like a rebel's whore, but all's too weak.

This time, the simile exists in the comparison made between fortune and the whore of a rebel.


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