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SparkNotes: Macbeth: How to Write Literary Analysis

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Literary Analysis of Macbeth

Literary Analysis of Macbeth Essay



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The scene opens to Macbeth contemplating to himself about the murder that he and Lady Macbeth are planning. He starts off by saying , “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly “ This means that if Macbeth can guarantee that no difficulties happen from the murder, and the murder can be done so no evidence is left, then it would be best to kill Duncan and kill him quickly. He wants to get the deed over with as soon as possible. This exposes Macbeth’s reluctance, denial and periphrasis of murdering Duncan, because he refers to the murder simply as “it”.

Diction becomes significant because instead of referring to the murder as “the murder”, he refers to it as “it.”He is trying to avoid saying murder, because he is very hesitant about murdering Duncan. The verb “to do” is used in with many different meanings in this sentence. By replacing all the meanings of done in the sentence you get If it were finished with when ’tis accomplished, then ’twere well It were performed quickly. By using the verb “to do” it also adds to Macbeths reluctance to commit the murder because he just wants to get the deed over with.

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Macbeth continues saying if th’ assassination Could trammel up the consequence, and catch With his surcease success, that but this blow Might be the be-all and the end-all here,” This means that the murder must have no consequences and must can be the with the end of success. By referring to the murder as “assassination,” it illustrates Macbeth’s departure from periphrasis. It shows he is no longer going in circles about the committing the murder. He again does not refer to the murder as “the murder,” but refers to it as “assassination, surcease, and the blow.”

This might indicate that he might not be totally out of periphrasis, and still doubts killing Duncan because he can’t say murder or kill. The diction, “if” to start off the first two sentences indicates the possibility of not going through with the crime. Shakespeare uses the diction “trammel up” which refers to catching something in a net. In context, it means to catch the wicked “consequences” in a net. This creates powerful imagery and personifies “consequences” as if they can be cached in a net. Alliteration of the letter “s” is used when Macbeth says “surcease success.” This denotes snake imagery because snakes make hissing noises, and the letter “s” sounds like a snake’s hiss. This indicates Macbeth’s wickedness for considering Duncan’s murder, because snakes are usually associated with evil. When Macbeth says, “be-all and end-all” it shows that Duncan’s murder will be the best of the best and the most essential factor for Macbeth’s success.

As Macbeth continues his soliloquy however, we hear a sudden change in his thinking. He says, “But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, We’ld jump the life to come. But in these cases We still have judgment here, that we but teach Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague the inventor.” The word “But” indicates that he is changing his thinking. When he says, “bank and shoal of time,” it is a metaphor fro life itself, because sandbars when constantly plagued with wave after wave from the sea, eventually crumble, so does our life. If Macbeth kills the king he acknowledges the fate of his soul in the afterlife by saying, “jump the life to come.” This reveals Macbeth clearly as a Christian, because he acknowledges he will be accountable for his deeds and may be sent to hell.

This is ironic partly because his “dearest partner of Greatness,” Lady Macbeth is a pagan spirit worshiper and believes in the power of spirits. This also reveals Macbeths yearning and belief that he should be king, because he uses “We” when he is speaking singularly about himself. This type of “we” is called the royal we and is used by kings. By using “we” Macbeth not only recognizes his hunger to be king, but also reveals that he will do anything including murdering Duncan to become king. The line, “return To plague the inventor” is like the Hindu philosophy of Karma, which is that the effects of all deeds will come back, making you responsible for your own life, and the pain and joy you bring to others. Macbeth realizes and accepts that he will be punished for Duncan’s murder.

Macbeth continues to say, “This even-handed justice Commends the ingredients of our poison’d chalice To our own lips. He’s here in double trust; First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself” Over here Macbeth acknowledges the justice of Karma by saying it is “even- handed. He knows that if he kills Duncan, whether by poison or stabbing or explosion, then he will have the same destruction because others might want the kingship and they might kill him to get it. This could also be an allusion to the witch’s prediction that Banquo’s sons will become king. Maybe Banquo’s sons will kill Macbeth just like Macbeth killed the king. This possible foreshadowing is the even handed justice that Macbeth might be referring to. Macbeth again uses the royal we to denote his passion for the kingship. Even though he is not king yet, he still believes that he is king. Soon however, Macbeth begins to list the reasons not to kill Duncan.

This supports Shakespeare’s theory that people are essentially good because Macbeth used reason to go back to virtue. He says, “He’s here in double trust: First as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed.” Macbeth is Duncan’s cousin, and he has sworn allegiance to Duncan as his king. These are powerful arguments against the murder. Another reason why murdering Duncan would be wrong, is because Macbeth is ” his host” When you visit someone house, you expect them to protect you. For example, this would be like me having a sleepover and me murdering everyone there. I am supposed to protect the people, not back stab them.

As Macbeth concludes his soliloquie, he says, “Besides, this Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been So clear in his great office, that his virtues Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against The deep damnation of his taking-off; And pity, like a naked new-born babe, Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubins, horsed Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself And falls on the other —“ Duncan is depicted as a saintly, good, virtuous king who has governed well. If Duncan is murdered, the angels in consequence would vociferously speak out against the awful murder and would let everybody know who did it and how. Heavy imagery is used by Shakespeare here to portray the king as some flawless individual who is comparable to angels. The personification of “A naked newborn babe” to pity creates powerful imagery.

Babies are sinless so this would mean that pity is needed to commit the murder. Macbeth must have pity for Duncan, or he will never be able to carry out the plan to murder him. The ultimate hyperbole is used when Macbeth says, “ heaven’s cherubins, horsed Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, That tears shall drown the wind” This portrays Duncan’s righteous and kindness to the point that the universe will feel bad at the death of Duncan, to the point that people will cry so much that the wind would not be able to blow anymore. Macbeth metaphorically imagines he is on an invincible horse, without eyes that will still deliver the message of the murder as a courier.

He is going to need a “spur” to make the horse go faster to go above any difficulties he might encounter. While he is on his way back to virtue and thoughts of not killing the king, Lady Macbeth interrupts him as illustrated by the punctuation “-“ Maybe Macbeth would have fully overcome the wicked intentions he had of killing the king if Lady Macbeth did not come. However because she interrupted him on his journey back to virtue, she left a small crack open, which could increases back to murderous thoughts.

Macbeth is deeply troubled by the terror of murdering Duncan, who is his cousin, a honest man, and a loyal friend. Macbeth’s greatest obstacle in the way of killing Duncan is the guilt he has towards the deed.

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  4. Lady Macbeth Is Portrayed As English Literature Essay

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Lady Macbeth Is Portrayed As English Literature Essay

Was Lady Macbeth a fiend like queen or flawed woman? I do believe that Shakespeare intended for her to be both. Initially in the tragedy that is Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as ambitious and willing to commit one of the greatest sins of all – Murder – for Macbeth to become King and for her to gain more power.

Act out: Act 1, scene 5, lines 36–52

Out of Role:

In this scene it is clear that Lady Macbeth is willing to do whatever it takes to get to the throne. The overwhelming need for a purpose is contrasted with Macbeth’s affinity to waver with decisions.

This is a prime example of how Lady Macbeth is the backbone of Macbeth and her ambition –not evil- is strong enough to pressure her husband into murdering Duncan. Simultaneously the language of his words grasp the thought of masculinity which is a reoccurring theme- "unsex me here…..come to my woman’s breasts, take my milk for gall," is what Lady Macbeth says to prepare herself for the crime she about to commit. The language implies that her breasts and milk – symbolic reference of nurturing ways – impedes her from acting on her wishes to perform violent and cruel acts, because she associates it with manliness (the violence etc). Again the relationship between masculinity and violence is deepened when Macbeth refuses to commit murder and his wife tells him effectively to ‘be a man’ and get on with it. A most notable quotation from this scene is;‘… I have given suck and know .How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me’ [reference]

Her words endow the reader with the thought that she would give up everything for Macbeth, but also hints that they had perhaps lost a child? If true the loss of a child for anyone would cause trauma and stress along with a great deal of grievance. In the eyes of Lady Macbeth killing Duncan may be a way of seeking revenge on the world, and by becoming King and Queen the Macbeth’s would once again share something filling the void of a lost child. This implicit point may be fuelling her ambition.

Act Out: Act One, Scene Seven

Out of Role:

It is during this seen that it can become easier to merely classify Lady Macbeth as evil. Macbeth is being mocked, and taunted into killing Duncan. By telling him not to "live like a coward" this teases and questions his masculinity. I believe her main ambition is for her husband. Initially she shows her strength and determination by saying ‘Glamis though art and Cawdor, and shalt be

what art though promised…’ and realises the only way to drive him forward is to put pressure on him and wear him down. Lady Macbeth rallies for the occasion and displays a rather meticulous attention to detail in regards to the murder of Duncan. However, morals were seeping through her comment about how she would have killed Duncan via her own hand had he not resembled her father as he slept. I can’t be sure whether it was her impression that suppressing her conscience for the deed was enough, and it would later just dissipate. This didn’t eventuate, and Macbeth and Lady Macbeth suffered through lack of sleep, due to fears of experiencing terrifying visions. Somehow Lady Macbeth manages to maintain a sense of composure with what little sanity she has, which is more than her husband could muster. Urging him to be happy, she practically rescues him from the frailty of his conscience. When Banquo’s ghost appeared before Macbeth’s eyes she created an excuse for to explain his behaviour. When the situation became more dire, she took charge and promptly dismissed the lords from the feast.

Act Out: Act 5, Scene 1, lines 30-34?

Out of Role & Conclusion:

Earlier in the play after Macbeth had killed Duncan he believed his hand was irreversibly stained with blood, lady Macbeth had tried to comfort him when said, "A little water clears us of this deed" [2.2.65]. However, it seems she too sees the blood. And causes her to become undone by guilt and so begins her descent into madness. Her lack of sleep was foreshadowed in the voice that Macbeth had thought he heard while killing the king – a voice bellowing out that her was murdering sleep. Lady Macbeth’s delusion that there is bloodstain on her hand plays the use of blood as a symbolic reference to guilt. "What need we fear who knows it when none can call our power to account?" [Reference] she asks, reassuring herself that as long as her and her husband had secure hold of power the fact they had killed Duncan would not do them any harm. However her words were hollow as the guilt and mounting madness became apparent. "Hell is murky," she says which implies that she is aware of the darkness intimately. Lady Macbeth and her husband in their destructive power have created irreversibly their own hell, where the torment of guilt and lingering sanity reign supreme.

Act five scene one, is the final appearance for Lady Macbeth. It is right now that she has reached breaking point; her maids and doctor have witnessed her sleepwalking and she has deeply regretted what she had done. In retrospect I felt this scene was important because for the first time I truly felt sorry for her. The opposing natures of her strong minded and powerful character and the lack of stability and the suffering she had endured. It is hard for one not to feel sympathetic towards her. This was when she exposed to the ideal reader that she did have good qualities and was not a fiendish queen. Would a purely malicious person become affected by their crime?

Points to Consider;

Also indicate how characters and discourses have been privileged and/or marginalised.

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Faculty & Staff > Teacher Pages > Sandra Strom >

Macbeth Essay

Macbeth Essay

Choose one of the following topics for your essay. Develop it thoroughly and specifically with "sparkling prose." This is half of your semester exam grade.

1. In many works of literature, the main character is developed partially through the use of a "foil,’ that is, a character who, by providing a strong contrast to the main character, underscores the characteristics of the main character. In a well-organized essay, discuss the ways in which either Banquo or Macduff serves as a foil to Macbeth. Draw evidence from the play to support your assertions. Do not merely summarize.

2. Some readers argue that Macbeth was completely a victim of the Witches’ misleading prophecies (and later, of Lady Macbeth’s manipulation). Others argue that the Witches and Lady Macbeth simply provided the impetus to Macbeth’s carrying out his own desires. In a well-organized essay, discuss which position you consider to be most accurate. Support your points with evidence from the play.


So, here’s the deal…

The above was the original assignment, but then I got to thinking…maybe the above two topics do not buzz your buzzer. There is the issue of the supernatural in the play…then there is the character of Lady Macbeth, the most dominating female in all of Shakespeare’s plays, who basically disintegrates before our eyes as the play goes on…then there are the themes of blinding ambition and appearance vs. reality and good vs. evil and the destructive force of power and the influence of superstition and on and on and on…then there are the powerful images and motifs…then there are the soliloquies…

Well, you get the picture…

So I decided to let you pick a topic, one about which you have at least a smattering of interest, and plan an essay about it. You must make a statement about the topic and defend it with specific support of two kinds, quotes from the play itself and commentary from an outside source. We will be in the library the week we come back from Christmas break. The essay in word processed, double-spaced format will be due at the end of the week on Friday. You may work on it between now and then as much as you like. You will also need to turn in a copy of the article that you use for a source in the essay. So, essentially, the opinions in the essay will be yours, the interpretation will be yours, the thoughts will be yours. You will just validate them from the play and source. (Or you can disagree with the source, if you wish.)

In case you are thinking…I think I will just exempt…not so fast…you will still have to write this essay. It will count as a test grade or as half of your semester exam. So choose wisely and have fun!

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