What are some literary devices found in Macbeth, Act 3 (scene 4)?

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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William Shakespeare's Macbeth is filled with examples of literary devices. Specifically looking at Act III, scene iv, here are the literary devices which appear.

Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound within a line of poetry. An example of alliteration is found in line 5.

And play the humble host.

Here, the repetition of the "h" sound in "humble" and "host" is defined as alliteration. Another example is found in line 7.

And we will require her welcome.

This time, the "w" sound in "we," "will," and "welcome" is repeated.

Personification: Personification is the giving of human characteristics to non-living/non-human things. An example of personification is found in line nine.

For my heart speaks they are welcome.

Here, Lady Macbeth's statement gives her heart the ability to speak.

Metaphor: A metaphor is a comparison between two things (not using "like" or "as", as with a simile, to make the comparison). An example of a metaphor is found in lines 23 and 24.

Then comes my fit again: I had else been perfect,
Whole as the marble, founded as the rock.

Here, Macbeth compares his prior state of existence to that of a rock. This defines him as being a person who used to be strong.

Later in the act, line 32, another metaphor is found.

There the grown serpent lies; the worm that's fled.

Here, Macbeth compares Banquo to a snake and Banquo's son, Fleance, to a worm.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In this scene, Shakespeare uses the literary device of dramatic irony. We as an audience have been given the information that Banquo is dead, but the guests at the party have no idea of it. They see Macbeth acting very strangely, but he brushes it off as a childhood infirmity. Then he drinks a toast to Banquo. The guests join in, not knowing as we do that the man they are cheerfully toasting is dead. Another example of dramatic irony is that while we as an audience know that Macbeth is seeing Banquo's ghost, the guests are utterly confused and can't understand what Macbeth is going on about.

Macbeth uses hyperbole too in addressing the ghost, stating that even the most fearsome creatures in nature would not be frightening to him when compared to the ghost: 

Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,
The armed rhinoceros, or th' Hyrcan tiger;
Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
Shall never tremble.
Shakespeare also employs rhyming couplets to add drama and emphasis near the end of the scene. One example is
Strange things I have in head, that will to hand,
Which must be acted ere they may be scanned.
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jameadows eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Act 3, scene 4, Macbeth uses a series of similes to describe how he feels after he hears Fleance has escaped. He says, "I had else been perfect/Whole as the marble, founded as the rock" (lines 23-24). He later uses a metaphor to describe Fleance's escape; he says, "There the grown serpent lies" (line 31). In this metaphor, he likens Fleance to a worm who will grow into a snake and develop the capacity for venom. Later in the scene, Lady Macbeth says that the ghost and dagger that are menacing Macbeth are "impostors to true fear" (line 77). This is a metaphor in which Lady Macbeth says that Macbeth's fears are not real.

Later, Macbeth says that if ghosts keep springing from graves, "our monuments shall be the maw of kites" (line 87). In this metaphor, Macbeth is comparing graves, or monuments, to stomachs of the birds of prey, which regurgitate parts of what they eat. Later, Macbeth describes the appearance of Banquo's ghost as something that "overcome[s] us like the summer's cloud" (line 136). In this simile, Banquo's ghost is compared to a cloud that overshadows a fair day.

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