Hyperbole In Macbeth

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Shakespeare uses hyperbole to show the deep guilt Macbeth and Lady Macbeth both feel for their horrible acts. The first example is found in Act II immediately after Macbeth has killed King Duncan. Studying Duncan's blood on his hands, Macbeth says these lines with deep emotion:

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood

Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather

The multitudinous seas incarnadine,

Making the green one red.

Macbeth is saying that there is enough blood on his hand to turn the ocean itself red. This hyperbole (exaggeration) shows show much guilt and horror he feels after killing Duncan.

In Act V, Lady Macbeth walks in her sleep and goes through the motions of washing Duncan's blood from her hands. She cries out:

Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!

She means that the smell of the blood on her hands is so strong that it cannot be washed away and all the sweet perfume in Arabia would not be strong enough to cover it up. This exaggeration shows that, like her husband, Lady Macbeth is deeply guilty and horrified by her role in Duncan's murder. She also feels guilt for the murders of Banquo and Macduff's family and servants, all of which happened after Duncan's murder.

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