What are the literary devices used in Macbeth's soliloquy in act 3, scene 1 of Macbeth?

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Another literary device employed in this soliloquy is metonymy. Consider these lines:

Upon my head they placed a fruitless crownAnd put a barren scepter in my grip (III.i.65-66)

Metonymy is the use of one idea for something closely associated with it. For example, the saying "The pen is...

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Another literary device employed in this soliloquy is metonymy. Consider these lines:

Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown
And put a barren scepter in my grip (III.i.65-66)

Metonymy is the use of one idea for something closely associated with it. For example, the saying "The pen is mightier than the sword" has two uses of metonymy. "Pen" is used to represent the written word, which pens are often used to construct, and "sword" represents wars, which are often fought with swords.

So in our example from Macbeth, the crown is an example of metonymy, used to represent his kingship. Scepter, a representation of sovereignty, is also used as an example of metonymy in these lines. He further personifies the scepter, describing it as barren. This indicates Macbeth's agony over acquiring a kingship that he cannot pass on to any heirs. It also is a pun; the outcome of his much-desired goal of kingship has been rather pointless—it has produced no positive outcomes for him thus far.

Also consider the anastrophe in the following line:

For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered;

Anastrophe is the reversal of a typically expected sentence structure. For this sentence, we would typically expect something along the lines of "I have murdered the gracious Duncan for them." In this section of Macbeth's soliloquy, there are several places where the expected order of words is rearranged, and this structure serves to reflect the deteriorating nature of Macbeth's ability to reason effectively.

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In this soliloquy, Macbeth muses to himself on how his "fears in Banquo / stick deep" because "in his royalty of nature / reigns much to be feared." These two metaphors imply the depth of character in Banquo, which makes Macbeth anxious: the second metaphor plays on "royalty" (here meaning "supremacy" –– essentially, Banquo has a good and righteous nature in which reigns much for Macbeth to be afraid).

Macbeth also uses allusion to compare himself and Banquo to Marc Antony and Caesar, suggesting that Banquo "rebukes" Macbeth's "Genius." This creates an understanding in the audience of the relationship between Banquo and the king, with Banquo his righthand man and advisor.

Macbeth then reminds the audience that the witches had "hailed [Banquo] father to a line of kings." Using a semantic field of children and fatherhood, he says that his own crown will be "fruitless" and a "barren sceptre" has been placed in his "gripe." The imagery here, particularly "gripe," suggests that the sceptre has not been given to Macbeth, so much as shoved into his bowels as a punishment. This could perhaps even allude to Christ on the cross with his side pierced, suggesting Macbeth's sense of himself as a martyr. Macbeth is certainly concerned that "for Banquo's issue have a filed my mind" –– that is, he has worn down his mind in worrying over someone else's children, although there is, of course, a pun on "issue" here, with the word referring both to Banquo's potential children and to the matter of Banquo.

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To be thus is nothing;
    But to be safely thus.--Our fears in Banquo
    Stick deep; and in his royalty of nature
    Reigns that which would be fear'd: 'tis much he dares;
    And, to that dauntless temper of his mind,
    He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour
    To act in safety. There is none but he
    Whose being I do fear: and, under him,
    My Genius is rebuked; as, it is said,
    Mark Antony's was by Caesar. He chid the sisters
    When first they put the name of king upon me,
    And bade them speak to him: then prophet-like
    They hail'd him father to a line of kings:
    Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown,
    And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,
    Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand,
    No son of mine succeeding. If 't be so,
    For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind;
    For them the gracious Duncan have I murder'd;
    Put rancours in the vessel of my peace
    Only for them; and mine eternal jewel
    Given to the common enemy of man,
    To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!
    Rather than so, come fate into the list.
    And champion me to the utterance! Who's there!

  1. Metaphor - "our fears in Banquo stick deep"
  2. Metaphor - "dauntless temper of his mind"
  3. Personification - "wisdom that doth guide his valor"
  4. Simile - "then prophet like"
  5. Imagery - "fruitless crown", "barren sceptre"
  6. Metaphor - "rancours in the vessel of my peace"
  7. Metaphor - "and mine eternal jewel
        Given to the common enemy of man,"

Now, YOU try some - first try to figure out what he is saying, then look at the language again and see how these thoughts are expressed poetically. For example, the "fruitless crown" and "barren sceptre" refer to the fact that Macbeth will have no sons to reign after he is gone, unlike Banquo.

See the analysis on eNotes for further help.

 

 

 

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Numerous literary devices exist in Macbeth's speech in Act III, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Macbeth.  I'll start you off with one, metaphor.  When Macbeth says:

Our fears in Banquo stick deep,...

he is comparing the fear he has for Banquo (since Banquo is noble, self-controlled, and wise) to something piercing his body, a dagger or sword, maybe.  His fear is the tenor of the metaphor and "stick deep" is the vehicle.  In other words, Macbeth explains or elaborates on his fear by comparing it to a deep wound.

A second metaphor is used when Macbeth says:

Upon my head they [the witches] placed a fruitless crown,...

Here, his crown is compared to a fruitless tree, of course.

The depiction of Macbeth's ambition is furthered in this speech.  Before he attained the crown, Macbeth didn't give a second thought to the fact that he alone would rule but not his heirs (according to the witches).  But once he has it, as we see, that is no longer enough.

 

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Some literary elements in Macbeth's aside in (1.3.147-63) include:

1. Firstly, it is an "aside" which is similar to a soliloquy in that it is an alone speech given to reveal the internal thoughts of a meditating character.

2. There is a distinctive use of symbolism, with the use of "imperial theme" and the "seated heart knocking at my ribs."

3.  There is hyperbole in how the "horrid image doth unfix my hair / And make my seated heart knock at my ribs."

This can get you started...

 

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