Literary Devices in Macbeth

Soliloquies are speeches given by characters that are supposed to enlighten us about their thoughts. Soliloquies are typically meant to not be heard by anyone except for the audience. Shakespeare uses soliloquies in the play in order to establish dramatic irony, such as with lines 41-69 of Act II, scene 1.

Dramatic Irony is any information the audience has that the characters do not. Like within the previous soliloquy, Duncan does not know Macbeth plans to kill him, but we know this is going to happen. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to build characters and sculpt the audience into behaving a certain way.

Similes are another tactic used by Shakespeare to make his plays more enjoyable to the masses. Similes are direct comparisons between two objects using like or as and are used to explain something the audience may not know about. Line 21 in Act I scene 7 compares pity to a helpless newborn to help the audience get a sense of what is happening.

Foreshadowing is one of the many tools used by Shakespeare to build tension. Foreshadowing is typically used to hint at for coming events. A prime example are all of the prophecies of the witches, which foretell the rise and fall of !acbeth before they even happen.

Allusions are another way to make sure that the audience understands a scene or to build a character by relating to another text or story they may have read. Shakespeare uses the allusion to roman mythology on line 73 ofAct II, scene two, which makes Macbeth seem cultured and kingly while also being depressed.

While using the scene to establish Macbeth’s guilt, hyperboles are outrageous exagerations used to build emotion. Shakespeare portraits the amount of guilt Macbeth is feeling by saying not all the water in the world could wash the blood from his hands, meaning that the guilt will linger forever.

Personification is the bringing of human qualities to inanimate objects. For example, when Macbeth kills Duncan, Macbeth claims that the knife kept screaming “Sleep no more!” Knives can’t actually scream, but the scene helps build on Macbeth’s guilt.

Symbols are used through out the story to help embodilize howcharacters feel toward each other. In Act V, Macbeth is referred to as a weed to describe how the people feel about his reign.


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