Macbeth Literary Analysis

motif an element that repeats throughout a story (or a series of stories)
foreshadow hints at coming events; sometimes overt hints, sometimes subtle hints
dramatic irony occurs when the meaning of the situation is understood by the audience but not by a character in the play
situational irony occurs when an outcome turns out to be very different from what was thought or expected
theme a message, lesson, or universal idea found in a story, play, or poem; this should be a general idea that can also be found in other stories
example of motif in Macbeth -blood-darkness-unnatural occurrences-hallucinations-prophecies
example of foreshadowing in Macbeth -all of the witches’ prophesies-Macbeth cutting off Macdonwald’s head at the beginning of the play
example of dramatic irony in Macbeth Macduff says to Lady Macbeth after Duncan’s body has been found: “O gentle lady, / ‘Tis not for hear what I can speak / The repetition in a woman’s ear, / Would murder as it fell.” (“Oh gentle lady, my news isn’t fit for your ears. If I repeated it to you, it would kill you as soon as you heard it.”) -Macduff, 2.3.78-81
example of situational irony in Macbeth Lady Macbeth says “A little water clears us of the deed” after Duncan’s murder, but by the end of the play she is feeling that guilt even in her sleep, trying to wash the blood from her hands.
In Macbeth, blood symbolizes… the double nature of violent acts, since Shakespeare’s audience would have approved of violence in a noble king’s war (bravery) but also deplored the treasonous murder of a king for his throne (crime/guilt).
symbol a thing, place, etc., that represents or stands for something else, especially something abstract
personification giving a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, such as an object or an idea
metaphor comparing one thing to something else directly (without the use of “like” or “as”)
allusion a reference to something some other literature, mythology/religion, history, etc., that the author assumes the reader will recognize
example of personification in Macbeth “Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more! / Macbeth does murder sleep” -Macbeth, 2.2.34
example of allusion in Macbeth “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?” -Macbeth, 2.2.57-58″Angels are still bright even though Lucifer, the brightest angel, fell from heaven. Even though everything evil wants to look good, good still has to look good too.” -(trans.) Macduff, 4.3.21-24
example of metaphor in Macbeth “You are too full of the milk of human kindness to strike aggressively at your first opportunity.” -(trans.) Lady Macbeth, 1.5.16-17
the corrupting influence of ambition (the pursuit of power can make people do terrible things) “Even someone with a good and virtuous nature might give way to a royal command.” -(trans.) Macduff, 4.3.20-21. This supports the theme of…
ambition strong drive for power, status, or success
the difference between kingship and tyranny (true leadership versus self-serving leadership) In the play, Duncan is always referred to as a “king,” while Macbeth soon becomes known as the “tyrant,” whom his own lords have come to see as serving his own interests above the kingdom. This supports the theme of…
soliloquy a long speech expressing the deep thought or emotion from a character alone on stage
dynamic character a character who undergoes a change in traits, motivation, values, etc., during the course of a story
static character a character who maintains the same traits, motivations, values, etc., through the course of a story
flat character a character who is not very well developed; has few identifiable characteristics
round character a character who is fully developed – the writer reveals good and bad traits as well as background
foil characters characters that contrast each other in order to emphasize traits
examples of foil characters in Macbeth Duncan and Macbeth -both kings, but one is generous and just while the other one is a murderous “tyrant,” showing how differently they handle powerMacbeth and Lady Macbeth -Macbeth starts out feeling hesitant and guilty about his crimes then becomes cold-hearted and kills without a second thought; Lady Macbeth starts out cold-hearted, killing without guilt, then becomes so guilty about each murder that it starts affecting even her sleep

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