What are some important literary devices in Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth?

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

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Some important literary devices at work in Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth are as follows:

Symbolism:  Near the beginning of the scene, Lady Macbeth claims that she heard an owl shrieking, and she calls it the "fatal bellman."  The owl is a symbol for the death of Duncan. 

Allusion:   Later in the scene, Macbeth refers to "great Neptune's ocean" which is a reference to the Roman god of the sea.

Metaphor:    Lady Macbeth is disappointed in her husband's cowardice and says, "I shame to wear a heart so white."  The color white is a metaphor for fear and innocence.

Extended metaphor:  Macbeth talks of "murdering sleep" throughout the scene.  He uses sleep as a metaphor for peace, meaning that since he has committed such an evil crime, he will no longer have peace of mind.

Irony:  Later the audience learns that the knocking on the door is from Lenox and Macduff who are arriving at Inverness.  However, Macbeth is in a state of frenzy and believes that someone has heard him commit the murder--the audience, however, is fully aware that no one else knows of Macbeth's crime.


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