Literary Terms and Author Techniques for Macbeth

Blank Verse Shakespeare’s essential pattern in his plays. Also called unrhymed iamic pentameter. Whenever a reader notices a change in this pattern, there is a reason for the change. With the change, Shakespeare is creating a mood, establishing character–something
Figurative language use of similies and metaphors to expand ideas and amplify imagery. Macbeth utters many similes that are complex and poetic. Ex. simile- his virtues will plead like angels Ex. metaphor- Macbeth is a dead butcher
personification the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form. ex. pity like a naked newborn babe, I think our country sinks beneath the yoke.
hyperbole excessive exaggeration ex. will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
understatement the presentation of something bein smaller or less important than it actually is. Ex. This is a sorry sight
soliloquy a monologue whereby the character is alone on stage. Device used to give insight into character’s thoughts and emotions
Aside the character speaks to himself or directly to the audience. There are other characters on stage who by convention do not hear the aside
foil a character who highlights or emphasizes certain traits of the main character by contrasting them. Shakespeare uses both Banquo and Lady Macbeth as foils for Macbeth. Banquo’s integrity and Lady Macbeth’s ambition heighten the inner conflict between Macbeth’s own wavering integrity and ambition
allusion an indirect reference to another event, person, or work which the writer assumes the reader is familiar. In Macbeth, there are allusions to Greek and Roman mythology, Roman history, and the Bible
Supernatural Used in Macbeth, favors King James 1, attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature
madness either real or pretended, being mentally ill
tragic hero a great or virtuous character who is destined for downfall, suffering, or defeat as a result of his own actions. The protagonist of a tragedy.
internal conflict psychological struggle within the mind of a literary or dramatic character, the resolution of which creates the plot’s suspense, in Macbeth, the primary conflict is internal between Macbeth’s strong sense of right and his strong desire to be king and to please his wife.
dynamic character someone who undergoes an important, internal change and conflict. Ex. Macbeth
static character a character who undergoes little or no inner change; a character who does not grow or develop. Ex. Macbeth
Weird Sisters referred to as “witches” only in the stage directions. No one sitting in the audience seeing the play will hear the word “witch” even once. In context, the word “weird” means fate or destiny.
Tragedy literary work depicting serious events in which the main character, who is often high-ranking and dignified, comes to an unhappy ending.
paradox a contradiction that on closer inspection is actually true. Ex. “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.”
Theme a central idea of a literary work
alliteration repeated sound of the first letter in a series of multiple words ex. fair is foul, and foul is fair
Act 1 exposition, exciting force, rising action
Act 2 Rising Action
Act 3 Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action
Act 4 Falling Action
Act 5 Falling Action, Catastrophe
Exposition the general atmosphere, time, place, main characters, and opening conditions of the play
exciting force something happens that starts the action of the play moving, usually in the first act
rising action this is a series of actions usually covering more than one act. During the rising action, the hero of the play (the protagonist) is the active force, trying to make things work out as he or she intended
Climax The protagonist reaches the peak of his or her power and a distinct change occurs in him or her as well as in the direction of the action. Things begin to go against the protagonist, who seems to be following a downward path
falling action this also covers several scenes and shows all the ways the main events are going against the main character. At this time, the antagonist becomes the essence of the play.
Moment of final suspense usually found in the fifth act of the play, the moment of final suspense has a particular function in the organization of the plot. Close to the end of the play, it is more significant to the protagonist than it is to the audience. It is the moment when things begin to look as if they will go the way of the protagonist again. He or she momentarily believes that tragedy will be averted.
Catastrophe this is the complete downfall of the protagonist, either through death or some other devastating circumstance. If the protagonist is a villain, then the catastrophe will be seen by the audience as a good thing.

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