What are four literary devices in Act III, Scene 5, of Macbeth?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Paradox: Toward the end of Hecate's speech, she says to the Weird Sisters, "And you all know, security / Is mortals' chiefest enemy" (3.5.32-33). This is a paradox because we would consider security to be a wonderful thing; it's something most people we strive for and try so hard to gain. However, Hecate is representing security as our biggest enemy, and this seems like a major contradiction. However, when we consider that feeling secure will allow Macbeth to let down his guard, leaving him vulnerable to being manipulated and overcome, the paradox is resolved.

2. End rhyme: Hecate's speech sounds very chant-like as a result of her use of end rhyme. You'll notice that her lines are delivered in sets of two (called couplets), where each set of two ends with words that rhyme. For example, she says, "Spiteful and wrathful, who, as others do, / Loves for his own ends, not for you" (3.5.12-13, my emphasis). This rhyming makes Hecate's speech seem otherworldly, almost like a spell, which makes sense given who she is.

3. Metaphor: Hecate calls Macbeth a "wayward son," but he is obviously not the son of any of these witches (3.5.11). She means that he is spoiled and stubborn, and so she compares him to a bratty little kid that has developed such entitlement.

4. Alliteration: Near the very beginning of her speech, Hecate employs alliteration, repeating the harsh, plosive sounds "d" and "t" that seem to emphasize her anger: it sounds like she's spitting these sounds out when she asks, "Saucy and overbold, how did you dare / To trade and traffic with Macbeth[?]" (3.5.3-4). The sound device reinforces her feelings.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several literary devices appear in Hecate's speech in Act III, Scene 5.

In this scene, the supernatural element in Macbeth reappears when the three witches encounter Hecate. Hecate, an ancient goddess of witchcraft viewed as the ruler of the weird sisters and the "patron" goddess of witches, is angry the other witches did not consult her before speaking to Macbeth.

Four literary devices used in this scene are as follows:

  1. Metaphor: "mistress of your charms" (Hecate compares herself to this "mistress" in an unstated comparison)
  2. Figurative language: "the glory of our art" (Their witchcraft is described with words other than the literal.)
  3. Allusion: "Acheron," the river of Hades in Greek mythology [Hell] (This is a reference to a place of cultural significance in line 15)
  4. Figurative language: "corner of the moon" (The moon is described figuratively as it does not literally have corners) 

Of course, personification, which is probably already noted, is in lines 31-32 as Hecate states that Macbeth will "spurn fate, scorn death." In line 33, "security," meaning overconfidence, is personified, as it is spoken of as an "enemy."