What is this figure of speech in Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 5: "Your face, my thane, is as a book where men / May read strange matters."

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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This line (in the version I am reading) is in Act 1, Scene 5. Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth that the expression on his face is too troubled and/or sinister. She uses a simile to compare his face to a book. A simile is a figure of speech in which two different things are compared to establish a similarity between those two different things. Similes use "like" or "as" to illustrate this comparison.

Your face, my thane, is as a book where men

May read strange matters. To beguile the time,

Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,

Your hand, your tongue; look like the innocent flower,

But be the serpent under't. (I.v.60-64)

At this point, Macbeth's expression and behavior communicate ambition. Lady Macbeth recognizes this will come across as suspicious, so she wants Macbeth to look, act, and speak with humility and appreciation when the king arrives. Therefore, to deceive (beguile) the king (and others), Macbeth will act like appropriately ("Look like the time;"); that is, Lady Macbeth wants Macbeth to hide his ambition and act like a loyal subject, grateful for the promotion.


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