What are ten literay devices used in Macbeth?

Expert Answers
literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Shakespeare uses many different literary devices in his tragic play Macbeth.

1. In the very first line of the play alliteration is found. Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound within a single line.

When shall we three meet again.

In this line, the "w" sound in "when" and "we" is repeated. This is alliteration.

2. In the very same line assonance is used. Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound within a single line.

When shall we three meet again.

In this example, the "e" sound is repeated in the words "we" and "three."

3. The play is known for its paradoxes. A paradox is

a statement that is apparently self-contradictory or absurd but really contains a possible truth.

There are multiple examples of paradoxes throughout the play. The most popular are "Fair is foul and foul is fair" and "Lesser than Macbeth, and greater." The first paradox refers to the fact that not all things are as they seem. The second paradox refers to the fact that Banquo may not have a title like Macbeth (which makes him "lesser"), he is a better man than Macbeth (which makes him "greater").

4. Imagery is another literary device used in Macbeth. Imagery is "the forming of mental images, figures, or likenesses of things." Therefore, the opening of the play provides a distinct image for readers, or watchers, of the play:

[Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches.]

5. Foreshadowing is where the author provides clues, or hints, as to what is to come in the future of the text (or play). Macbeth's hallucination of the dagger provides foreshadowing that a dagger will be used, by Macbeth, to kill Duncan.

6. Symbolism is the use of an object or image to represent something else (this typically alludes to a deeper meaning than on the surface). In Macbeth, the "damned spot" on Lady Macbeth's hand symbolizes her guilt.

7. Personification is the giving of human characteristics to non-human/non-living things. An example of personification in Macbeth is: "Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak." Here, stones can move on their own and trees can talk. Both of these characteristics are not typical of objects, only humans.

8. Rhyme is the repetition of sounds within or at the end of lines. The witches speak in rhyme, which adds to their "realness" in regards to spell casting. The following lines have end rhyme (the ends of the lines rhyme).

And the very ports they blow,
All the quarters that they know.

9. Comic relief is used in the play with the addition of the Porter. The Porter, drunk from the celebrations preceding his scene, offers a comic relief "midst of a serious or tragic[ness]" of the action of the play.

10. A hyperbole is seen when Macbeth asks, and answers, the following question: "Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No." A hyperbole is an exaggerated statement.