What literary devices are used in Macbeth Act V, Scene 7?

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This scene opens with the use of figurative language from Macbeth, who, "bear-like," knows he must "fight the course." This is juxtaposed with the enigmatic advice he has been given that only one "that was not born of woman" can kill him. Macbeth is heartening himself and telling himself that he can indeed continue on because such a person surely does not exist.

We know that Macbeth feels very sure of himself in this regard; Shakespeare uses the technique of the rhyming couplet to signify a sense of completion and conclusiveness in Macbeth's thought: "But swords I smile at, weapons laugh to scorn / Brandish'd by man that's of a woman born."

The stage directions are important in this short scene. The repeated use of entrances and exits and the continuous "alarums" underscore the chaotic nature of what is going on. The interchanges between characters are generally short parries, reminiscent of swordplay. At the end of the scene, we see a temporary lull which is, in fact, an example of dramatic irony: Siward says that the castle is "gently render'd" and that "little is to do." He does not know how fierce the fighting has been, nor that Macduff, who is indeed not "of woman born," will yet kill Macbeth in a pivotal scene.

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As the opposing armies make their way toward his stronghold, Macbeth uses a metaphor to describe his situation. He says that his enemies have tied him "to a stake...bear-like." This is a reference to bear baiting, a blood sport popular in Shakespeare's day, in which bears would be tied to stakes and forced to fight off dogs until they finally succumbed. After setting the tone with this gruesome literary device, which reveals Macbeth's state of mind as the battle approaches, Shakespeare uses irony in two places in the scene. First, when Macbeth points out that young Siward, whom he has just killed, was "born of woman," and exits, only to be followed by Macduff, who, we find out, was not born of woman, having been delivered by Caesarian section. Then there is an example of classic dramatic irony. Siward describes the battle in terms that suggest that Macbeth's castle was taken with relatively little loss. "The castle," he says, "is gently surrounded...little is to do." He does not know that his son was among the dead before the castle walls, killed earlier in the scene by Macbeth. These are the main literary devices in this relatively short, but important scene.

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