Macbeth Act I scene 4: Identify literary devices and explain how the literary device is used in these words?Give the number of the lines in brackets.

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this scene, we find an interesting use of extended metaphor, and a semantic field of money and financial interaction, which is yet to be mentioned. We can find this between lines 19 and 30, in the conversation between Duncan and Macbeth. Duncan says:

The sin of my ingratitude even now
Was heavy on me: thou art so far before
That swiftest wing of recompense is slow
To overtake thee.

Literally translated, Duncan is saying that the fact that he has been ungrateful to Macbeth -- or rather, not rewarded him -- is weighing heavily upon his conscience, and that Macbeth has so outdone him in doing him good deeds that "swiftest wing of recompense is slow to overtake thee." Here, Duncan uses a metaphor, comparing "recompense," or anything he might do to make things up to Macbeth, to a bird flying swiftly in an attempt to overtake Macbeth's own good deeds towards Duncan. This section from Duncan ends with a rhyming couplet, which usually indicates the conclusion of an argument or train of thought in Shakespeare:

only I have left to say,
More is thy due than more than all can pay.

The construction of the final line utilizes parallelism to draw specific attention to what Duncan is saying: Macbeth is owed more than could be paid by more than all.

Macbeth continues the use of this extended metaphor, that Macbeth is owed dues and should be paid (monetary terms, although Duncan means them metaphorically).

The service and the loyalty I owe,
In doing it, pays itself.

Macbeth responds that the services and loyalty he offers to Duncan are their own reward; the doing of this "pays itself." This is, of course, also dramatic irony, as Macbeth will soon repay Duncan by killing him.

One other literary device which has not yet been mentioned is this couplet, found at the end of the scene:

The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be,
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. (53-54)

This is an example of synecdoche, a device in which one part of something represents the whole. Macbeth asks that "the eye wink at the hand," expressing a hope that "the eye" (meaning, the whole person) will "wink," or look away from, what "the hand" (meaning, again, the whole person) is doing. Meanwhile, he prays "yet let that be" -- let the thing come to pass -- which the eye would fear to look upon.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face: He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust" (12-15).  In this quote, Duncan uses a building metaphor.  Using the comparison of "construction," Duncan relates knowing the mind of a man to being able to read his face.  He speaks of building trust, but the reality is that Duncan speaks of a man who betrayed him.   He could not rely on outward appearance alone.

"I have begun to plant thee, and will labour to make thee full of growing" (28-29).  Duncan uses a planting metaphor to describe the ways that he will encourage and help his kinsmen be successful.  The metaphor also extends to how Banquo will grow in Duncan's heart.  Banquo responds, still buying into Duncan's comparison, that "the harvest is your own" (34).  The idea of harvest, crops, and planting suggests growth and development, emotionally and socially for Banquo as well as Duncan.

Macbeth also joins in with metaphor of his own as he compares the Prince of Cumberland to a "step on which I must fall down, or else o'er leap" (48-49).  This comparison reveals that Macbeth sees the prince as an obstacle which must be overcome, foreshadowing Macbeth's ambitious desire to reach the throne. 

Personification also occurs in lines 50-52, as Macbeth commands the stars to "hide your fires," so they would not see his "black and deep desires."  Macbeth's address to the stars reveals his true intent, in an aside to the audience.  The stars also symbolize fate.



favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Malcolm relates a conversation he had with someone who saw the old Thane of Cawdor executed, he says that the old thane died

As one that had been studied in his death
To throw away the dearest thing he owed
As 'twere a careless trifle. (1.4.10-12)

The simile, a comparison of two unalike things using like or as, compares the nobleman, just as he was about to be executed, to someone who has practiced how to throw away his most valued possession as though it were nothing. In other words, then, the thane died with some dignity and honor, without histrionics or drama.  

Then, when Duncan thanks him for his wonderfully loyal service to the crown, Macbeth says,

Your Highness' part
Is to receive our duties, and our duties
Are to your throne and state children and servants,
Which do but what they should by doing everything
Safe toward your love and honor.  (1.4.26-30)

Here, Macbeth uses a metaphor, a comparison of two unalike things where one says that something is something else. He says that it is Duncan's duty to accept the loyalty and service of others and that his subjects have a duty to him, just as children owe to their parents and servants to their masters. In doing everything possible to secure Duncan's safety, they are only doing what duty requires. He compares Duncan's subjects to children and servants in terms of their duty.

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