Literary Techniques in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

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Queen Elizabeth uses appeals to Pathos, Ethos, and Logos in order to rouse her army. She appeals to Pathos by creating pity for herself. Queen Elizabeth says “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman” (Lines 6-7). She makes the soldiers feel pity for the Queen and they will want to fight for her. Queen Elizabeth appeals to Ethos by demonstrating her character and her willingness to fight for her country. Queen Elizabeth says “to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust” to prove to the soldiers that she is the leader who will battle alongside them (Lines 5-6). Queen Elizabeth appeals to Logos by explaining to the soldiers that people are worried for their safety in this war. Queen Elizabeth says “We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery” (Lines 1-2). She says this in order to give reasons and an explanation for why they are doing what they are doing. The English army wins the battle at Tilbury and this victory greatly strengthened nationalism within England.

King James I enjoyed the arts. He admired poetry and the dramatic arts just like the ones Shakespeare wrote. When James became King of England, he also became the new sponsor for Shakespeare’s theater company. The company would later rename itself “The King’s Men”. The puritans believed that art should represent God and his image. They didn’t believe in the plays that Shakespeare wrote and King James I endorsed. The play was set in Scotland due to King James VI of Scotland becoming King James I of England after Queen Elizabeth’s death.

The Renaissance mentality was that women should be subservient to men. This mentality is not seen in Macbeth due to lady Macbeth’s behavior with Macbeth. When Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo at the banquet, Macbeth is terrified and begins to throw a fit in fear. Lady Macbeth calls Macbeth over to the side and begins to question him. Lady Macbeth questions Macbeth’s manhood and insults him. Lady Macbeth says “Imposters to true fear, would well become a women’s story at a winter’s fire, authorized by her grandam” (III.iv.77-79). Lady Macbeth insults Macbeth for having fear of the ghost of Banquo. Lady Macbeth goes and says “What, quite unmanned in folly” (III.iv.88). Lady Macbeth is not being subservient to Macbeth. She is blatantly attacking him and insulting him.

One literary element used in act 3 was the use of verbal irony. Verbal irony is saying one thing while meaning the opposite. Lennox gives a perfect example of verbal irony in act 3. Lennox says “The gracious Duncan was pitied of Macbeth” ( his talk with the lord, Lennox seems to have a sarcastic tone. Lennox finds it very strange how Macbeth pities Duncan after he has been killed. He also finds it odd how Banquo goes out walking late one night and happens to be killed. Lennox uses verbal irony when speaking about Macbeth’s “pity” towards the death of Duncan. Shakespeare uses verbal irony in order to help the reader understand that the people are beginning to realize that Macbeth is evil without giving it away.

In act 3, Macbeth uses a metaphor to describe the way he is feeling about the issue with Banquo and Fleance and the death of Duncan. Macbeth begins to have mental problems since the killing of Duncan. He has even more issues once Banquo and Fleance become suspicious of Macbeth. Macbeth says “O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife! Thou know’st that Banquo and his Fleance still lives” since he is nervous about the situation regarding Banquo and Fleance (III.ii.41-42). Macbeth uses a metaphor in order to describe his feelings about the entire situation involving the death of Duncan and Banquo and Fleance being on his tail. This use of a metaphor helps the reader to understand how Macbeth is feeling. Shakespeare knows that no one can literally have mind full of scorpions. He uses the scorpions to represent Macbeth’s anxiety about Banquo and Fleance.

Act 3 contains even more literary elements. One of these elements is foreshadowing. Banquo remembers the witches prophecy from act 1. When Banquo remembers this and he becomes suspect of Macbeth. Banquo believes Macbeth killed Duncan in order for him to to get the throne but he can’t accuse Macbeth of anything without any evidence. Banquo states “Thou hast it now-King, Cawdor, Glamis, all as the Weïrd Women promised, and I fear thou played’st most foully for’t” (III.i.1-3). Banquo realizes the prophecy of the witches and becomes suspicious of Macbeth. He also remembers from the witches prophecy that his heirs will take the throne. This foreshadows event that will occur later in the story. This allows the reader inside information on what could be occurring next in the play without directly telling them what will happen next.

Act 3 also contains the use of personification. Personification is when something nonhuman is given human attributes. Banquo does while he talking with Macbeth. Banquo says “Our time does call upon’s” (III.i.40). Time is calling to Banquo and Macbeth as if it could speak to them. Banquo gives time the ability to speak even though time obviously can’t talk. This helps the reader to understand what is happening in the story. The reader understands why banquo is leaving. The sun will set soon and Banquo must ride a horse back to where he is going.

Allusion can be seen in act 3 of Macbeth. Allusion is when someone indirectly references something. Macbeth does when talking to two murders and a servant before sending them to kill Banquo. Macbeth says “Are you so gospeled to pray for this good man and for his issues” (III.i.98-99). Shakespeare does this in order to get the point across better for Macbeth. Macbeth is asking these murderers if their so religious that they would pray for the man and issues while that man has pushed them to a close death. Doing this helps to allow the reader to understand the point that Macbeth is trying to make stronger. These murderers would never pray for a man who has done them so wrong in the past.

Imagery can be seen in act 3 of Macbeth as well. Imagery is when a writer uses descriptive or figurative language when describing something to create a specific image in the reader’s mind. Macbeth does this when speaking about Banquo’s murder and Fleance escaping. Macbeth says “There the grown serpent lies. The worm that’s fled hath nature that in time will venom breed” (III.iv.32-33). Macbeth uses the images of a serpent and a worm to describe Banquo and Fleance. Banquo is the main predator and he is the serpent while Fleance is a worm that will become a serpent if not dealt with. Shakespeare does this in order create an image in the reader’s mind of how Macbeth sees Banquo and Fleance.  

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Literary Techniques in Shakespeare's Macbeth. (2019, Oct 10). Retrieved from

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