What are some examples of literary devices used in Act 5, scene 8, of Macbeth?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Literary devices are methods used by writers to convey a sentiment or mood and to create a specific effect. This helps the reader in analyzing and interpreting the text so that the author's purpose becomes clear. In the final scene of Macbeth, Shakespeare has employed a variety of such devices, of which a few are mentioned below:

Allusion:

The indirect reference to a significant person, act or event of cultural, historical or literary significance.

Why should I play the Roman fool...

In this line, Macbeth is alluding to a Roman soldier who would, as per their custom, rather commit suicide than suffer the ignominy of surrendering to his enemy. He is not prepared to take his own life since he sees this as a foolish act. He would rather courageously fight to the death.

Anaphora:

The repetition of a word or phrase, especially at the beginning of a sentence, to create a literary effect.

And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense;
That keep the word of promise to our ear...

In this example, Macbeth repeats "that" to emphasize his disgust with the witches' deception and his utter disillusion that he had been so gullible as to believe them.

Juxtaposition:

Creating a comparison between contrasting ideas by placing them next to each other.  

So great a day as this is cheaply bought. 

In the quote above, the words "cheaply" and "great" are contrasted to indicate Siward's sentiment that the day is significant but that its enormous importance is undermined by the ease with which they have been able to attack Macbeth's castle.

There is, however, also great irony (the opposite of what is expected) in his statement, for he soon discovers that his son has paid dearly for their victory because he has been killed by Macbeth.

Exaggeration:

Making something seem worse or better than it actually is.

...your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end.

Ross, in stating that Siward's sorrow would have no end if he should compare it to the value of his son, is a kindness in which he attempts to bring the grief-stricken lord some comfort when he learns that his son is dead.

Alliteration:

The repetition of the same consonant sound.

And so, his knell is knoll'd. 

The repetition of the n-sound helps emphasize the depth of Siward's grief at losing his son. It is also an allusion to the ringing of a church's bell when someone has passed on.

Rhyme:

The repetition of similar sounds, normally at the end of a line of poetry. 

He's worth no more
They say he parted well, and paid his score

The last words in these two lines rhyme perfectly and the effect is lyrical. The rhyme is used to indicate that Siward is eulogizing his son and he uses the lyrical form to give his words a musical tenor, as in a praise-song. 

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Shakespeare's play Macbeth is filled with examples of literary devices. The following literary devices are found in Act V, scene viii.

Metaphor: A comparison between two, typically, dissimilar things (not using the words "like" or "as" to make the comparison).

Examples:

- "Why should I play the Roman fool and die" (1). Here, Macbeth states that he would not be a Roman fool and commit suicide as Roman fool would.

- "Turn, hell hound, turn!" (4). Here, Macduff is comparing Macbeth to a hell hound. By calling Macbeth a "hell hound," Macduff is saying that Macbeth reminds him of this creature known to live in hell and behave evilly.

Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant found within a line of poetry.

Examples:

- "But get thee back; my soul is too much charged" (6). Here, the "b" sound in "but" and "back" are repeated. Also, the "m" sound in "my" and "much" are repeated.

- "Than terms can give thee  out!" (10). Here, the "th" sound in "than" and "thee" are repeated.

Kenning: A kenning is typically found in Anglo-Saxon texts. This literary device is a two word phrase which elevates the imagery and language of the text.

Example:

- "Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's debt" (44). Here, the kenning "soldier's debt" refers to death.