What literary devices are used in the following speech in Macbeth?  Please give more than three and a brief explanation of each.   The raven...

What literary devices are used in the following speech in Macbeth?  Please give more than three and a brief explanation of each.

 

The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan(40)
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here
And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full
Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood,
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,(45)
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances(50)
You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark
To cry, “Hold, hold!”(55)

Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor!
Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter!
Thy letters have transported me beyond
This ignorant present, and I feel now
The future in the instant

Asked on by jhg

2 Answers

mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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  • Animal Imagery: "The raven himself is hoarse"
  • Sound Imagery: "That croaks"
  • Death Imagery: "the fatal entrance of Duncan"
  • Foreshadowing: "the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements."
  • Apostrophe: "Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts," AND "Come, thick night,"
  • Bodily Fluids Imagery: "And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood," AND "Come to my woman's breasts, And take my milk for gall,"
  • Alliteration: "murdering ministers,"
  • Darkness Imagery: "Come, thick night,"
  • Hell Imagery: "And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,"
  • Knife Imagery: "That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,"
  • Time Imagery: "Thy letters have transported me beyond This ignorant present, and I feel now The future in the instant"
  • Personification: "Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark To cry, “Hold, hold!” AND "You wait on nature's mischief!"
  • Epithets: "Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor!"
  • Caesura: "Under my battlements. Come, you spirits"
  • End-stop: "Stop up the access and passage to remorse,"
  • Enjambment:

"hake my fell purpose nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,"

andrewnightingale's profile pic

andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Literary devices are methods used by a writer to convey his or her message clearly. A literary device enhances the author's writing and provides the reader deeper insight into the feelings, moods and conditions in a literary work. It also adds to the drama and suspense and assists in plot development. Clever use of literary devices enhances one's reading experience and enriches the pleasure of viewing a play.

Shakespeare employs a number of these devices in the extract.

The raven in the opening line is used as a symbol or metaphor for death. In this regard, an association is created between the bird and dying. Since ravens are scavengers and feed on carrion it is easy to understand the connection. The birds are deemed harbingers of death and their appearance bring up images of death and dying. Lady Macbeth's reference in this instance makes it clear that the raven has cried out and announced Duncan's death many times over and is, therefore, hoarse. She is accentuating the fact that Duncan's time is up. He should die soon. 

Lady Macbeth uses apostrophe when she calls on the spirits dwelling in her mind to unsex her. In apostrophe, an idea, intangible object or dead person is addressed as if it were alive. By using the apostrophe, Lady Macbeth is emphasizing her desperation to kill Duncan. She wants all her feminine qualities removed so that she may become harsh and remorseless enough to kill him. It is quite ironic that she feels the need to call on the assistance of supernatural forces since it is pertinently evident that she has more than enough malice to commit the deed without any help. Her desperate request, however, does add to the drama. 

Shakespeare uses juxtaposition in Lady Macbeth's plea to the spirits. There is a clear contrast between what Lady Macbeth wants to become and the nurturing and caring feminine qualities she, as a woman, naturally has. She wants to be made dreadfully cruel and completely remorseless in opposition to having feelings of care and affection. Obviously, being cold and ruthless would make committing the nefarious deed she is plotting so much easier.

The use of personification also adds to the dramatic quality of Lady Macbeth's request. In such an instance, human qualities are attributed to something non-human. She asks that heaven should not peep through the dark and cry out at her to refrain from committing her evil. Heaven is a symbol for good and the contrast between her planned malice and the forces of virtue further emphasizes just how much ambition has turned her into a creature of infamy.