What are the literary devices from Act 4, Scene 2, in the conversation between Lady Macduff and her son?Approximately line 30.

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Referring to her son, Lady Macduff says,

Fathered he is, and yet he's fatherless. (4.2.32)

This is a paradox, a statement that seems to contradict itself but which can be explained and found to be true; after all, how can someone be "fathered" and "fatherless" at the same time? Lady Macduff is angry—very angry—at her husband for appearing to abandon his family in Scotland while a tyrant is on the throne. Macduff, evidently, did not tell his wife about his trip to England to fetch Malcolm home to claim the crown. Lady Macduff now believes him to be a traitor to his family because he has betrayed them by leaving them behind and in danger. Therefore, she tells Ross that her son is "fathered," meaning that he had a father, but that he is now "fatherless" as a result of his father's lack of loyalty.

Further, Lady Macduff calls her son "Poor bird," meaning that he is unfortunate, but her son makes a pun on the word and says that "Poor birds . . . are not set for" (4.2.42). A pun is a joke that exploits different meanings of the same word (or words that sound alike but mean different things).  He uses "poor" in the sense of having no money and suggests that he might be safe from traps and the like because there is nothing to gain by killing him. He's right, but Macbeth is no longer seeking gain, per se; he is seeking revenge and power.

Lady Macduff's son also employs irony when he says that 

the liars and swearers are fools, for there
are liars and swearers enough to beat the honest
men and hang up them. (4.2.62-64)

Irony is created when there is some discrepancy between what we expect to happen and what actually does happen.  We would like to believe that there are more good men in the world than there are bad, and yet this child says what, in this play, seems to be more true: that there are actually more bad men than good—and so, if they got together, they could actually do away with the good people rather than the reverse.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Literary devices are used to add meaning to words.  There are many different kinds.

In line 35, Lady Macduff son enters.  What she first says to him is use of verbal irony.

Father'd he is, and yet he's fatherless.

She is telling him that his father is dead, even though of course he has a father.  What she literally means is that he looks just like his father, and seeing him you see his father.

The first words exchanged with them include a simile, which is basically a joke.


Sirrah, your father's dead.(35)

And what will you do now? How will you live?


As birds do, Mother.


What, with worms and flies?


With what I get, I mean; and so do they.


Her son saying that he will live “as birds do” is a simile, he is comparing how he will live to what birds do.  He will get by where he can.

Lady Macduff  picks up the simile and turns it into an extended metaphor.  A metaphor is a comparison also, but it does not use the word “as” or “like” in the way a simile does.  They continue to talk about his fate comparing him to a bird, and that is what makes it extended.

The conversation continues with the son asking what Lady Macduff  will do for a husband.


Nay, how will you do for a husband?


Why, I can buy me twenty at any market.


Then you'll buy ’em to sell again.


Thou speak'st with all thy wit, and yet, i’ faith,

With wit enough for thee.(50)

Lady Macduff rebukes her son for making a pun about buying and selling husbands, but she starts it.  Her son does not believe that his father is dead, and disagrees that he is a traitor.