Macbeth Language techniques

Point: During Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy (act 1, scene 5) Shakespeare, through the use of metaphors,  illustrates the power and pure evil she is inviting to help conduct her sinful plan. The use of metaphors is a frequently used language technique in many of Shakespeare’s plays as i gives the audience a strong understanding of the characters internal thoughts and also the reasoning behind their actions, to add to Shakespeare’s other language features.

Example: When Lady Macbeth is devising her nefarious plan of killing king Duncan she calls upon the evil spirits and asks them to remove the kindness and good in her feminine being and replace it with evil thoughts and strong will. Because of this she wants to shield herself from heavens eyes, she knows what she wants to do is bad. In the passage she says:

“Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark
To cry “Hold, hold!” (Lady M, Act 1, Scene 5)
Explanation: This metaphor validates the idea of Lady Macbeth’s plan being sinful and unjust for the time period Macbeth was set in. During the 11th century god’s, the powers that be, and heaven were very much believed and actions that opposed these beliefs were dangerous and frowned upon. People believed that these external powers dictated the unknown and also controlled who was in power (i.e kings, queens, ,status) . Lady Macbeth’s plan to murder king Duncan (treason) was one of the most dangerous forms of betrayal to these beliefs at the time and therefore (during this passage) she is asking heaven to not watch over her as she does the deed. She describes heaven as if it’s a child, scared to ‘peep through the blanket’ and see the dark. This metaphor portrays heaven as scared or afraid, and the ‘dark’ is Lady Macbeth’s plan. So she is describing heaven as scared of her plan or of what she is about to do. This tells us her plan would provoke the audience and make them feel uncomfortable, and nervous to see her plan unfold. When she states ‘to cry “hold, hold”‘ she is referring to her conscious stopping her from killing the king. She wants heaven to stay hidden from her evil thoughts and behaviour because she knows that heaven, god, and the powers that be,  wouldn’t approve. This metaphor clearly outlines how Lady Macbeth’s plan is ambitious, evil, and dangerous, because of how she feels about heaven watching her. 


One Reply to “Macbeth Language techniques”

  1. Your analysis of the metaphor you’ve chosen is detailed and confident. I’d like to address your (highlighted) statement about why metaphors are used by Shakespeare in this case. It’s not wrong, but it does suggest that you’re still working to explain why a metaphor might be used by a writer. I would suggest you think about how metaphors work in language. Essentially they’re making a form of comparison, where the qualities or our perception of the metaphorical component are being ascribed to the factual component.

    This means that metaphors are conceptual and connotative. They ask readers both to look at something in a new light, and according to a new concept.

    If I’ve explained myself well enough, how might this help you to explain this particular metaphor even better?

    (Feel free to talk to me if this makes no sense to you)


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