What are some literary devices used in Act V of Macbeth?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Literary devices are methods an author uses to emphasize a particular idea, action, or event or to convey his or her message. The use of these devices makes it possible for a reader to analyze and critically appraise the writer's effort and purpose.

Below are a few examples of such literary devices in Act V.


A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once
the benefit of sleep, and do the effects of

The doctor is here, in Scene 1, making a comment about Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking. He contrasts the act of sleeping with her acting as if she is awake. 

Hyperbole (exaggeration)

All the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little

Lady Macbeth, also in Scene 1, is exaggerating the fact that she seemingly cannot remove the smell of King Duncan's blood from her murderous hands. Its stench has become so immersed that it will be impossible to remove.


I would not have such a heart in my bosom for the
Dignity of the whole body.

Lady Macbeth's gentlewoman, in Scene 1, is using a part (the heart) to represent the whole. She is talking about Lady Macbeth's heart, which is obviously anguished, although it is not just the heart which is in torment, but rather the whole person. 


Well, well, well

The doctor is repeating the word "well" here to emphasize his concern for Lady Macbeth's obvious sickness and also to express surprise at the incriminating remarks she is making about her involvement in King Duncan's murder.


He cannot buckle his distemper'd cause
Within the belt of rule.

In Scene 2, Caithness is using a comparison between a belt and Macbeth's destructive belief by saying that the tyrant's evil cannot be tied down as with a belt, which limits or ties an object down. The destruction that Macbeth has initiated cannot now be contained, even though he is king. 


Now does he feel his title
Hang loose about him, like a giant's robe
Upon a dwarfish thief.

Angus uses a comparison between the power that Macbeth has gained and a large cloak worn by a dwarf. The garment is ill-fitting and uncomfortable. He comments, in Scene 2, that Macbeth has now realized that the power and authority he had so malevolently gained has become too overwhelming for him. He cannot control it and is uncomfortable with it. Such power does not suit him. 


The time approaches
That will with due decision make us know
What we shall say we have and what we owe.

In Scene 4, Siward uses the repetition of the 'w' in these two lines to indicate a positive wish and to emphasize the fact that they have now reached a point where they are ready to go to war against the malevolent tyrant Macbeth.

mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth Act V, iii contains the following literary devices:

Nature Imagery: "Till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane I cannot taint with fear."

Alliteration: "Then fly, false thanes,"

Hell Imagery: "The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!"

Verbal Irony (understatement): "Geese, villain?"

Metaphor: "Those linen cheeks of thine Are counselors to fear."

Natural Imagery / Metaphor: My way of life Is fall'n into the sear, the yellow leaf,"

Verbal Irony (sarcasm): "Therein the patient Must minister to himself."

Disease Imagery: "The water of my land, find her disease And purge it to a sound and pristine health,"

Situational Irony: "Come, put mine armor on;" and then "Pull't off, I say."

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act V, Scene 3 of Macbeth there are also the following:


Macbeth asks the doctor, "Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff/Which weights upon the heart?" (heart represents the soul)


Macbeth says,

"And with some sweet oblivous antitdote..." (repetition of /s/)

"Thou lily-livered boy..." (repetition of /l/)


Macbeth:  "Go prick thy face and over red thy fear"


Macbeth:  "As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends,/I must not look to have; but, in their stead,/Curses not loud byt deep, mouth -honor, breath..."  (repetition of vowel /o/)


Macbeth: "Curses not loud but deep, mouth-honor, breath,/Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not." (the heart denies, but only a person can deny)