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Language and Dramatic Techniques in Macbeth

Language and Imagery in Macbeth

One of the most important symbols in Macbeth is blood, which is repeated in both the dialogue and imagery throughout the play. Blood symbolises guilt and the horrific consequences of the characters’ actions. For example, after murdering King Duncan, Macbeth mourns, “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?” This quote illustrates Macbeth’s immediate guilt and the understanding that his crime has irreversible consequences, much like the blood stains he imagines to be permanent.

The play is filled with dark and sinister imagery, reflecting the tragic and bloody events that unfold. In the first act, the witches open the play with the famous line “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” This sets the tone for the deceit and treachery that characterise the rest of the play.

The witches’ prophecies are cryptic and their true meanings are hidden behind riddles. This reflects the theme of appearance versus reality that takes place throughout the play. For example, when the witches tell Macbeth that he cannot be killed by any man born of a woman, it gives him a false sense of security. However, the reality is that Macduff, who was not born of a woman in the conventional sense, is able to kill him.

Soliloquy in Macbeth

A soliloquy is a dramatic technique that involves a character speaking their thoughts and feelings aloud. This is typically when they are alone on stage. Shakespeare often uses soliloquies in Macbeth, allowing characters to express their innermost feelings directly to the audience. 

One notable soliloquy occurs in Act 1, Scene 7, where Macbeth contemplates the consequences of murdering King Duncan:

“Is this a dagger which I see before me.
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee!
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?”


In this soliloquy, Macbeth wrestles with his conscience as he visualises a dagger before him. It symbolises his intent to murder King Duncan. Through this monologue, the audience gains insight into Macbeth’s inner turmoil and the psychological conflict he experiences before carrying out the murder. 

Dramatic Irony

Dramatic irony, where the audience knows something that the characters do not, also comes up throughout the play. This technique heightens the suspense and tragic impact of the events.

An example occurs when Duncan arrives at Macbeth’s castle in Act 1, Scene 6. He comments on the pleasant environment, saying, “This castle hath a pleasant seat.” However, the audience is aware of Macbeth’s plan to murder him. This makes his comment deeply ironic and heightens the sense of impending doom.

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