In Shakespeare's Macbeth, act 4, scene 1, find one literary device. Name the literary device, quote the line(s), and explain how the literary device is used in these words.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Act 4, scene 1, Shakespeare makes fruitful use of meter. The Weird Sisters speak in trochaic tetrameter, often in rhyming couplets. This means that the standard line has eight syllables divided into four feet (tetra-), and the first syllable of each foot is accented while the second is not. For example, in the following, I will mark stressed syllables with bold font and use the "|" mark to indicate breaks between feet:

Dou ble | dou ble | toil and | trou ble
Fi ire | burn and | caul dron | bub ble

Use of this trochaic meter, as well as the rhyming couplet form (where every two lines share an end rhyme), makes the sisters sound not only otherworldly, but menacing. The heavy rhythm begins with a stressed syllable rather than leading up to the accent, making them sound rather threatening and aggressive. Further, the rhyming couplet structure lends itself to their incantations; it sounds like they are spell-casting (which they are!), and it's a bit hypnotic.

Further, many of the spell-casting lines are actually truncated, meaning that the final (eighth) syllable of the line is missing. For example,

Round a | bout the | caul dron | go
In the | poi soned | en trails | throw

Notice that there are only seven syllables per line, and the final unstressed syllable is missing in these lines. This missing syllable leaves us with the feeling that the there is more to come, that the witches have not finished manipulating Macbeth; it's almost like a verbal equivalent of foreshadowing. We are waiting for that last syllable, just as we await to see what happens to Macbeth next.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, in Act IV, scene one, there are a number of literary devices used, including alliteration, repetition, etc. There is also personification used.

Who can impress the forest, bid the tree

Unfix his earth-bound root? Sweet bodements, good!

Rebellion's head, rise never...  (107-109)

Personification is a device used when human characteristics are given to non-human things; it's a form of imagery, and not to be taken literally. 

First, "impress" means "compel" or "force to do something." In terms of personification, a forest cannot be compelled. A tree cannot be "bid" (or "requested") to pull up its roots—or express a will to pull them up. "Rebellion" is given a "head," which is also not possible, and therefore, it could never rise. The use of personification generally provides imagery that has more impact on the reader. The image created in one's mind is often more memorable. In this instance, Shakespeare may also have used it in order to show Macbeth's personal sense of power, even over nature, feeling invincible because of the witches' predictions.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team