What literary devices are used in Macbeth's soliloquy in act 5, scene 5?

Expert Answers info

Queen Langosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write5,626 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Macbeth speaks this soliloquy when he discovers, with the armies of Malcolm approaching his castle, that his wife has died. This soliloquy is among the bleakest in all of Shakespeare's tragedies, with the net effect being to stress how the title character is overcome with an almost existential sense of resignation to the meaninglessness of life.

One literary device that helps create this sense is repetition, which Macbeth uses to essentially reduce life to a series of meaningless days: "tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow." All of his days have led him to this point, and with his wife dead, he...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 677 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write6,851 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Regan Cole eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write424 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Science, and Social Sciences









check Approved by eNotes Editorial


madhusudan32 | Student

Several literary devices have been resorted to by Shakespeare in this memorable soliloquy figuring in Act 5, Scene 5, of Macbeth. This soliloquy occurs immediately after Macbeth is apprised of the passing away of Lady Macbeth and immediately before the moving of Birnam wood towards his castle.He realizes that the prophecies of the witches are partially proving untrue.He is on the rebound, finds himself in a paroxysm of deep depression and starts philosophising spontaneously about the futility of human existence.

The repetition (a well-known literary device) of the word "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" denotes the acute boredom and insipidity of human life in general. In the next  line Shakespeare uses two figures of speech--personification and alliteration. In the fourth and fifth lines, the dramatist uses personification and alliteration figures of speech again. In "Out, out,brief candle", we once again notice the use of repetition of the word "out" indicating the slipping out of life, and in "brief candle" we notice the use of metaphor suggesting the short span of life. In the next three lines "Life's but.........heard no more", we notice a combined use of personification and metaphor suggesting the insubstantiality, brevity and futility of human life. In the last three lines: "It is a tale.............signifying nothing", Shakespeare has effectively used such figures of speech as metaphor and alliteration stressing insipidity, insubstantiality and futility of human existence.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial