In Macbeth, what are five metaphors in Macbeth’s speech in act 5, scene 5, lines 21–30? What do they mean?

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According to The Folger Shakespeare Library’s edition of Macbeth, lines 21 to 31 of Act 5, Scene 5 are:

There would have been a time for such a word.To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded...

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According to The Folger Shakespeare Library’s edition of Macbeth, lines 21 to 31 of Act 5, Scene 5 are:

There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
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.

Macbeth delivers this speech upon receiving “word” about the death of his wife, Lady Macbeth. Macbeth uses multiple metaphors to expound on his view that life and mortal existence are ultimately meaningless.

In lines 22-23, Macbeth compares the future (“To-morrow and to-morrow…”) to a creature that “creeps” or moves forward ceaselessly and inexorably at a “petty” or insignificant pace. Despite Lady Macbeth’s death, life goes on; it will continue to be trivial but inevitable.

In lines 25-26, he realizes that the past merely provides a beacon of light guiding people (“fools”) to the end (“dusty death”). No matter how glorious a person’s history (“yesterdays”) is, it just forges a path to death. Therefore, the sum of one’s lifetime accomplishments is insignificant in the end.

In line 26, Macbeth emphasizes the fragility and ephemeral nature of life with “Out, out, brief candle!” Any living person–male, female, nobility, soldier–is a flame easily extinguished. And life is short!

In lines 27-28, he compares a living person to a nebulous, insubstantial, and essentially meaningless “walking shadow”; a person is merely a histrionic actor whose existence consists of showy and emotional actions (“struts and frets”) that are ultimately hollow and futile. A mortal being appears and lives for only a brief time (“hour”) in this world (“stage”), only to die and be “heard no more.” Snuffed out like the earlier-mentioned a candle, a person is an image ("player") that actually leaves no trace, legacy, or anything of real value.

In lines 29-31, Macbeth sums up his thesis that life and existence are meaningless in the end. He compares them to a story (“tale”) that is played or lived out (“told”) by person (“idiot”). The narrative of a person’s life–although filled with action, drama, and emotion (“sound and fury”)–lacks and does not leave behind any purpose or meaning, “signifying nothing.”

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Lines 21-30 in Act 5 Scene 5 of Shakespeare's Macbeth are spoken by the title character after the death of his wife, known to the audience as Lady Macbeth. 

In this soliloquy, Macbeth uses metaphor to lament the uselessness of life. When Macbeth says "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time" (lines 19-21) he personifies the future and compares it to a creature that moves very slowly. A creature that moves very slowly can be seen to lack purpose.

He then compares life to a candle "Out, out, brief candle." The image of a candle being snuffed out conveys the nothingness, the futility of life. Next, he compares life to a "walking shadow." When a person walks on a sunny day, their shadow moves with them, seeming to be a living thing, yet it lacks all substance. Macbeth compares life to that shadow, devoid of substance.  

Life is then compared to a "poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more." This comparison to an actor who is perhaps flamboyant, certainly animated, but then never heard from again signifies again the brevity of life. 

The final metaphor compares life to a tale, but not just any tale. It is a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." If life was simply compared to a tale, it would still have structure and meaning. But the fact that it is told by an idiot shows that it is again loud and showy, but with no depth, no substance, and no meaning. I've added the lines below for reference: 

"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."
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This speech is surely one of the most quoted in Shakespeare. Life, in Macbeth's tortured view, is described through a series of metaphors, one quickly following another. 

Life is a candle which, in the past, has "lighted fools the way to dusty death." Macbeth sees himself among this company, as he faces his own death, the result of his own foolish decisions. For him to say "Out, out, brief candle" suggests that he is ready to die.

Life is a "walking shadow" and a "poor player." It "struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more." Macbeth refers to his own life; it is he who has strutted and fretted during the short time he wielded power in Scotland, a bad actor on the stage of his country's history and one who will not live in its collective memory.

Finally, life is "a tale told by an idiot." Again, Macbeth assesses life in terms of his own. His life has been full of "sound and fury," but it signifies nothing at all. He leaves behind him nothing of value.

Life is a candle, a shadow, an actor, one brief hour upon the stage, and an idiotic tale. Macbeth's bitterness and despair are communicated strongly through these metaphors.

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