What are some examples of personfication in Shakespeare's Macbeth?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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There are several examples of "personification" in Shakespeare's Macbeth.

First of all, personification is a literary device whereby the author, for the sake of providing a more impactful image, gives human characteristics (abilities, etc.) to non-human things.

A pair of examples  of personification are found in Act One, scene three, as Macbeth, marveling over their meeting with the witches, says to Banquo:

Or have we eaten on the insane root /

That takes the reason prisoner?  (84-85)

This basically means that Macbeth wonders if he has eaten a root, such as henbane or hemlock, which was supposed to cause madness: for they cannot believe what they have seen and heard in their encounter with the witches.

There are two examples of personification here: a root cannot be "insane;" personification also gives the "root" the ability to take the mind prisoner, something only a person could do, not a plant.

Personification is used again in Act One, scene five, when Lady Macbeth learns of the witches' prophecies, Macbeth's recent honors, and Duncan's impending visit; she calls on the spirits of darkness to make her tougher, and less womanly; she speaks also to the night:

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!'

This quote has several instances of personification. They are: "keen knife see," "Heaven peep," and [Heaven] "To cry 'Hold, hold!'"

A knife cannot "see," and Heaven does not "peep" or "cry [out]."

Shakespeare is masterful. Some believe he is the greatest writer who ever lived. There is no doubt that he is a genius in his expression and use of the English language. "Personification" is only one literary device that "the Bard" uses (and so well) in his plays and sonnets, specifically here, in Macbeth.

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