How does Macbeth's short soliloquy in Act 5 Scene 5 connect back to early events in the play?

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fezziwig eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before we make a connection with Macbeth's famous Act V soliloquy with earlier events, let us take a look at it first:

There would have been a time for such a word.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. 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 (V. v. 19-28).

In this soliloquy, Macbeth defines his life as a result of everything that he has done. For "all [his] yesterdays have lighted" him to a "dusty death." His life has passed by in such a meaningless fashion as connoted in the repetition of "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow: which he states "Creeps in. . .petty pace" The operative word here is "petty," or in other words insignificant. This is what Macbeth is realizing at this late stage of his life. For having murdered King Duncan, and having Banquo and Macduff's family assassinated, Macbeth realizes that his life is "full of sound and fury" and "Signifying nothing."

If you recall earlier, Macbeth states that old age should be accompanied by

honor, love, obedience, troops of friends.

He, because of what he has done, sees life as

...a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more."

Then you must recall how Macbeth is honored by King Duncan with the Thane of Cawdor for having won the war, and is promised by King Duncan to prosper even further in the future, not to mention that the witches prophesy that he would be King one day.

Macbeth's life would have been a happy and prosperous one, had he not thrown it all away for the lust of power, and in trying to control fate.

However, in Act V, Macbeth knows that soon he will die. This soliloquy is a summation of Macbeth's rise and fall, from hero to villain, but more importantly, it is Macbeth's life passing before his very eyes, and what he witnesses is displayed in the tone of his soliloquy; Macbeth's tone reveals that his life has been meaningless; he never accomplished anything.