Choose a single figurative device Shakespeare uses in the first act of Macbeth, and show how it reveals the kind of person the character is who uses it?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Doubtless, many readers probably would respond to this prompt by pointing to the thematic paradoxes in Act I: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair,"and "nothing is/But what is not" as reality and the phantasmagoric become equal for Macbeth. But, in a departure from the expected, perhaps, the reader may find intriguing Banquo's words in Scene 3, spoken after Macbeth remarks that reality and "imaginings," or fantasy, are equal:

New honors come upon him,
Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mold
But with the aid of use. (1.3.158-160)

In this simile, comparing "honors" to "strange garments," Banquo understands that Macbeth's new position as Thane of Cawdor sits ill with him. Certainly, Banquo is a foil to Macbeth, cautious and skeptical of the prophesies of the three witches, he warns Macbeth against trusting the words of the "instruments of darkness" who may tell Macbeth only partial truths while Macbeth is willing to accept the direction fate may lead him. At the same time, however, Banquo is as naive as Macbeth in not heeding the underlying truths of the witches' words.