The Shakespearean play ‘Macbeth’ is a ocean of inference to be explored. The use of irony, symbolism, metaphor and meter are ubiquitous in every scene. Moreover the way these language effects are manipulated can create completely different effects to further develop a scene or character.  In the case of Macbeth Shakespeare uses language effects to convey a dark, sinister emotion to the play. This is in order to dramatise  the degradation of the characters Macbeth and Lady Macbeth because after all this is a play and Shakespeare needed to retain his audience’s attention. To support this idea , the content of this essay will explore these language features that create the impression of direst cruelty that the play so vividly displays.

As of recent times irony is generally associated with comedy and amusement as is evident in modern media and routine conversation. On the other hand in Macbeth Shakespeare uses irony either to outline a moral or theme, or simply to dramatise the audience’s experience. Irony portraying a moral is usually in the form of situational irony and irony in purpose to dramatise the play is usually shown as dramatic irony hence the its name. Instances of irony in macbeth are usually surrounding sinister themes as is the dark nature of the play. 

An example of this sinister irony shakespeare uses in Macbeth is shown in Act 1 scene 6, where King Duncan has arrived at Macbeth’s castle. Macbeth and his wife are kind and affectionate in the welcoming of duncan going out of their way to comfort his stay at their estate. Here in lies the irony. Prior to the arrival of king Duncan, Lady Macbeth receives a note from her husband explaining his confrontation with the witches.

Shakespeare was a frequent user of metaphors in his writing implicating them into almost every scene in his play Macbeth. The use of Metaphors in Macbeth was to express a theme, usually dark or sinister. An example of shakespeare’s more common ‘dark’ metaphors is present in Act 5 scene 5.

Out, out, brief candle ! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more”

This quote is said by Macbeth as a response to news of his wife’s death, Lady Macbeth . With this recent news to digest and his already fractured state of mind, we can deduce that Macbeth is implying some form of negativity towards his existence. This is supported through the exploration of the text. “Out, out, brief candle”  is a metaphor referring to life,  particularly Macbeth’s desire for the end of his own life. The candle in this instance is a metaphorical symbol for warmth and happiness as is the ideal nature of life. The implication of ‘ brief ‘ shows that Macbeth’s joyous lifestyle was short lived. That was caused by the introduction of the witches and their puppeting of his ambition which led to the degradation of his sanity. Macbeth’s plead for the outing of his candle signifies his desire for the end of his life, a response to his unhappiness.

He then describes life as being “ a walking shadow”, a shadow being substanceless and always dark. Shakespeare is implying that Macbeth believes his life is worthless,

lacking the presence of his friends and family through the means of his own self destruction. This absence of content in Macbeth’s life lead to his loneliness and emptiness of soul. Hence Shakespeare’s use of a shadow, substanceless entity.

The use of this metaphor in this passage is to emphasize, and help the audience visualise, the dark reality of Macbeth’s mental state. Shakespeare uses this vividness that a metaphor creates not only to retain the audience’s attention but to give an impression of direst cruelty of Macbeth’s situation.   

The meter of a piece of writing is usually undetectable  status socially and mentally
Let not light see my black and deep desires.


Macbeth is Witches puppet, controlled and misguided by his ambition : enotes

“James I soundly believed in witches.”

“Duncan was said to be reckless and greatly disliked while Macbeth was favored by the people and reigned successfully for seventeen years”.



Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Hugo.

    Should I be worried here?


  2. Achievement Achievement with Merit Achievement with Excellence
    Develop and structure ideas in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas convincingly in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas effectively in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control to command attention in formal writing.

    Not Achieved


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