What literary devices (conventions) are used in Shakespeare's Macbeth?Literary devices: Conventions Soliloquy Chorus Aside Dramatic

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth is heavy in imagery.  Here are the main categories of images used:

  • blood
  • gender (men v. women)
  • natural vs. unnatural vs. supernatural
  • appearance vs. reality
  • animals
  • light vs. dark
  • riddles (equivocations)
  • heaven/hell
  • sickness/disease
  • clothing

He uses many equivocations: intentionally vague language ("Foul is fair; fair is foul")

Wordplay: metaphors, similes, metonymy, personification, puns, allusions, synecdoche ("there the grown serpent lies, the worm that's fled...")

Character foils: Macbeth vs. Banquo, Macduff, Duncan; the Macbeths vs. the Macduffs; doppelganger (Banquo)

Irony: dramatic and verbal (sarcasm, overstatement, understatement)


Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Macbeth, Shakespeare also uses asides in an interesting way. In Act 1.3, asides are not only used to reveal Macbeth's thoughts and reasoning, but used also as part of the interplay between characters. 

While Macbeth contemplates what the predictions suggest, whether the witches are good or evil, etc. Banquo and the others are waiting for him.  While Macbeth speaks his asides, Banquo comments:

  • "Look how our partner's rapt."
  • "New honors come upon him,/Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mold/But with the aid of use."
  • "Worthy Macbeth, we stay upon your leisure."

The final statement interrupts Macbeth's thinking and speaking and demonstrates his preoccupation, as well as Banquo's minor impatience. 

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most useful literary devices that William Shakespeare uses in the play "Macbeth" is soliloquy. These give us, the audience, a keen insight into the private inner workings of a character's mind as they speak (presuming themselves unheard) about their secrets, anxieties and true thoughts. For example, Lady Macbeth divests herself of any sympathy when she shows us her own culpability in the murderous actions of the play. She admits to wanting to be "unsexed" so that the feminine caring side of her nature will not get in the way of the murder of King Duncan and the achieving of their ambitions. The soliloquy shows up the inner heart.