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What writing/poetic techniques are used during Macbeth's dagger speech in Act 2, Scene...

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rowpat123 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 8, 2011 at 8:46 AM via web

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What writing/poetic techniques are used during Macbeth's dagger speech in Act 2, Scene 1 in Shakespeare's Macbeth?

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arkaless | College Teacher | Salutatorian

Posted August 8, 2011 at 4:32 PM (Answer #1)

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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. There's no such thing:
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes.

This is the text of Macbeth's solo speech in act 2 scene 1, the speech that verbalises Macbeth's vision of the air-drawn dagger. So far as poetic techniques are concerned, the entire speech is an example of vision. It is a rhetorical device to explore the imaginative vision of a personage when nothing really exists before the physical eyes. The dagger that Macbeth sees here is but a visionary product of his over-heated imagination. Another figurative technique used is called apostrophe in which the speaker addresses someone dead or absent, or a non-human object as if the person/object is present before the speaker. Here Macbeth addresses a shadowy dagger and seems to look for its responses. On further examination, you will find a number of questions asked by Macbeth:

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand?

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?

This is yet another poetic technique: use of rhetorical questions, called interrogation. These questions contain answers implied in the questions themselves.

Over and above, the entire speech is in the form of a dramatic solo speech, called soliloquy.

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