What are some of the literary techniques used in Act II, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Macbeth, and how are they used? 

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act II, Scene 2 of Macbeth, there are several examples of metaphors. For example, at the beginning of the scene, the owl that is heard shrieking is referred to as the "fatal bellman" (line 4), as it was thought that an owl flying over one's house portended death. A person would generally ring a bell when someone was near death, but in this case, the owl is acting as the bellman. 

In lines 47-51, there is an extended metaphor about sleep:

"Macbeth does murder sleep, the innocent sleep,

Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,

The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,

Chief nourisher in life's feast,--"

In this metaphor, sleep is compared to a needle that can repair a sleeve that has become unraveled. It is also compared to the death that ends each day and to something that can soothe someone who is tired from work or hurt in mind. Sleep is referred to as the main nutrient in the feast of life. In this passage, sleep is also personified, as it is a live thing that Macbeth can murder. 

In lines 75-79, Macbeth uses several other examples of personification. He asks, "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?" He is asking whether the ocean, ruled by the god Neptune, will be able to clean the blood from his hand. In the next two lines, he says, "No, this my hand will rather / The multitudinous seas incarnadine, / Making the green one red." In this example, he says that his hand will turn the seas red because he has so much blood on his hand.