Identify the speaker, the context, and the overall dramatic significance of the following quotations from Macbeth: QUOTES 1) There's no artTo find the mind's construction in the face: He was a...

Identify the speaker, the context, and the overall dramatic significance of the following quotations from Macbeth:


1) There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face:
He was a gentlemen on whom I built an absolute trust.

2) ...Out, out brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing

3) I have supp'd full with horrors (V,v, 13)

4) All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. (V,i,44-45)

5) I hear a knocking
At the south entry: retire we to out chamber.
A little water clears us of this deed.
How easy is it then! Your constancy hath left you unattended. (ll,ii,68-72)

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Quote from Act I, scene 4, In this scene, King Duncan and his sons have returned from the battlefield to the palace at Forres, and the king speaks with his son Malcolm, who reports that the most becoming behavior (appropriate act) of the thane of Cawdor, condemned as a traitor who acted with the Irish, is his having faced death as though it were a "trifle." The king, then, remarks that there is no trick or magic to knowing what a man's character is since no man can read another man's mind. Duncan admits that he knew only that this traitor had noble blood, so he trusted Cawdor.

Duncan's use of the words art and mind's construction are figurative language for describing the method or the trick to figuring ("art") and understanding the workings of a man's mind ("the construction"). 

2. Quote from Act V, Scene 5. In this scene, the castle of Macbeth in Dunsinane is under siege, and while women within shriek in fear, Macbeth is informed of his wife's death.

This quote is from Macbeth's famous soliloquy made after he learns of the suicide of Lady Macbeth; it is a speech in which he expresses his growing nihilism. After he learns of the death of his wife whom he has loved deeply in the past, and when the others depart, Macbeth shrugs off this news with a fatalistic, "She should (footnoted as meaning "inevitably would") have died hereafter." As the soliloquy progresses, Macbeth's growing sense of nihilism waxes. What is life anyway? Nothing of consequence: "a walking shadow...." who has a brief moment of the stage of life and is soon gone and never heard from again. Life, Macbeth says is merely an idiot's tale, filled with emotions, confusion, and chaos. But, then it ends and really means nothing at all.

The use of metaphoric language is present in this soliloquy: "Life is (=) a walking shadow"; "It [meaning life] is (=) a tale told by an idiot...." These are the most apparent of metaphors as each part of the unstated comparison is mentioned, rather than implied as in other metaphors. Nevertheless, they are certainly original and thought-provoking, as is typical of Shakespeare. 

3. Quote from Act V, scene 5. These lines are spoken by Macbeth shortly before his soliloquy mentioned above. He is informed by Seyton, an officer who attends Macbeth, that the women inside are crying as the soldiers of Malcolm's army march upon the castle. In this line, Macbeth reflects that he has become so accustomed to horrific acts and sights that he is immune to the horrors of war, nor do they startle him. 

Here again there is figurative language. "I have supped full with horrors" would probably be expressed in Modern English as "I have had my fill of horrors." There is an implied comparison between horrors and the act of eating, or at least consumption of something. The word "horrors" also is figurative for all Macbeth's murderous acts committed in his rise to power. 

4. Quote from Act V, Scene 1. This line is spoken by Lady Macbeth in her short soliloquies (which, in her case are before others, but she is unaware of them). She hallucinates and thinks she sees spots of blood on the stairway; for, ridden by guilt, she senses this guilt as delusions of blood spots as well as a smell that cannot be removed, even by the heady perfumes of Arabia. As an obvious exaggeration, this line is an example of hyperbole. There is also olfactory imagery with the words "perfumes of Arabia."

5. Quote from Act II, Scene 2. These lines are spoken by Lady Macbeth after Macbeth has killed Duncan. Macbeth tells his wife that he has heard a voice cry out that he has murdered sleep and then calls, "Macbeth shall sleep no more...the innocent sleep." But, Lady Macbeth scolds him, "Infirm of purpose," and tells him to hand her the daggers. Ironically, with hyperbole not unlike Lady Macbeth's in which she declares that no perfume will remove the blood smell from her hands, Macbeth declares that "Neptune's ocean" cannot wash away his bloody hands. 

Strangely in this scene, Lady Macbeth is calm and composed. She tells Macbeth that a little water will clean everything and scolds him for being so fearful, telling him he has lost his resolve.

Lady Macbeth's words are particularly ironic in light of her boldness that also changed to fear before the murder of Duncan. She was willing to kill Duncan herself until he began to resemble her father, she remarks earlier in Act II, Scene 2. Now, when Macbeth is disturbed by his regicide, his wife criticizes him.