Macbeth Act I scene 7 : Explain how various literary devices are used in this scene.

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Macbeth, Act 1, scene 7, Macbeth contemplates murdering the king. He uses a hunting metaphor in the first lines of his soliloquy:

"It were done quickly. If the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch,
With his surcease, success;" (2-4)

In these opening lines, Macbeth ponders the risk of killing Duncan, and compares the act of murder to catching some wild animal.  The connotation of the word 'trammel' suggests trapping or catching the consequences along with his murder.  He portrays the murder as a trap, and wishes to catch success along with Duncan's death.

Macbeth also uses an ocean metaphor a few lines later to depict time:

"But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We'd jump the life to come." (6-7)

He compares this moment in time to a 'shoal' or a sandbar out in the ocean; the metaphor suggests the isolation and insecurity that Macbeth feels in having to make this decision.

Later, in pondering Duncans' virtues, Macbeth uses a simile to compare the strength of the king's character to angels:

"So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels trumpet-tongued against
The deep damnation of his taking-off" (18-20).

Macbeth worries that Duncan's attributes are so great that they will plead against his murder and ultimately reveal Macbeth as his murderer.  The phrase "Like angels trumpet-tongued" also begins a strong  allusion to Christian beliefs with references to Heaven, cherubin, and "couriers of the air" (23).

 

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favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Also in this same soliloquy, Macbeth employs a metaphor when he compares the murder of Duncan to a "poisoned chalice" that could be returned to his own lips (1.7.11). He fears that once he has committed the murder of a king, he could put the idea into other people's heads, and then they could come for him.

Macbeth also uses a simile when he says that Duncan's "virtues / Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against / The deep damnation of his taking off" (1.7.18-20).  He means that Duncan has been such a virtuous leader that his legacy as a humble and generous king will speak for him, even after his death, like angels playing trumpets to signal the foulness of his murder.  He compares the king's virtues to angels.

Macbeth says, "I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself / And falls on th' other—" (1.7.25-28).  In these lines, he uses a metaphor to compare his desire to kill Duncan to a spur and his intention to a horse—in other words, he lacks a spur to compel him to move forward with the plan but for his ambition.  He also personifies his ambition, attributing to it the ability to leap ahead and fall down from rushing too fast.

Lady Macbeth then uses a metaphor to compare Macbeth's original hope for the throne to being drunk so that Macbeth talked bravely and his current feeling of ambivalence (or cowardice, to her) to waking up hungover and weak: "Was the hope drunk / Wherein you dressed yourself?  Hath it slept since? / And wakes it now, to look so green and pale / At what it did so freely?" (1.7.39-42).

She also uses a simile to compare her husband and his cowardliness to "the poor cat i' th' adage" who lets "'I dare not' wait upon 'I would'" (1.7.49, 1.7.48).  She says that he is like the old cat in the story who always says "I can't" or "I'd better not" after he says "I want to."

When Lady Macbeth describes what she's going to do to Duncan's chamberlains, she says that she's going to get them so drunk that their sleep will be like death, she uses a simile: "When in swinish sleep / Their drenched natures lies as in a death [...]" (1.7.77-78).  She also compares memory to a guardian of the brain when she calls it "the warder of the brain" (1.7.75): another example of metaphor.

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