Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth conveys the message that ambition can be destructive and destroy societal norm and human kind. Shakespeare’s audience are provided with this knowledge by showing the degrading mind of Macbeth throughout the Shakespearian play. Macbeth’s fracturing sanity is a result of dire ambition which controls his conscience. Macbeth has handed the keys of his will to ambition, which abidingly uses them to steer him in a sinful direction. Shakespeare shows this through the use of figurative language such as; metaphors, personification and iambic pentameter. Figurative language is rich and fruitful with in the Shakespearian text of Macbeth, as the use of figurative language adds storms of emotion and dark dimensions to his play.
As with many writers one of the favourite figurative tools which Shakespeare uses commonly is the metaphor. Metaphores create significance and purpose, to an object, by comparing one thing to another for the purpose of adding insight to the audiences understanding. One such example of this is after Macbeth has murdered the sleeping King Duncan “…..The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees is left this vault to brag of “-Macbeth. Within this quote Macbeth expresses the guilt for his murderous actions, guilt that sheds as the play unfolds. The above quote compares Macbeth’s life to an empty bottle of wine which has been drained of all its humane and empathetic qualities. Qualities which were like the sweet, numbing beverage that occupied the now vacant bottle. Macbeth compares the wine bottle to a vault, which his body has become after the murder of King Duncan, an empty, dark, heartless dungeon. But at the bottom of this wine bottle there remains a small amount of lees, which are the sheds of empathetic guilt that Macbeth gained from committing his crime. But like any unwanted material the guilt will soon root and evaporate away and Macbeth will just be left with his empty, bottomless, cold-hearted dungeon.“….My way of life is fall’n into the sear, the yellow leaf” -Macbeth. Macbeth is comparing the way he has come to be to that of an object which has deteriorated over time and is dying due the environment it has been cultivated in. The yellow left indicates the decaying that is occurring to Macbeth mental state of mind. Autumn leaves decay before winter, so not to have to linger in the brisk and raw season. Macbeth’s state of mind is decaying and rotting so as a consequence he does not have to live with the mental regret, culpability and consequences of his actions. Due to this Macbeth is committing more treason as he feels no remorse any longer for the actions he commits.
One of the best quotes of Macbeth brimming with metaphors is present in Act 5 Scene 5 when Macbeth learns the knowledge of his spouses death. “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more” -Macbeth. Macbeth compares his life to a walking shadow. On a sunny and cloudless day a shadow can be seen, and seen to be a living thing that moves with the individual it belongs to. But yet a shadow is substance less object. Macbeth is comparing himself to an object devoted of substance, an object which is incapable of human emotion. Life is then compared to a poor player “….that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more” This quote signifies the brevity of life. Of an actor who is perchance very animated, theatrical and flamboyant but then is never heard from again. “…….A tale told by and idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” -Macbeth. If this metaphor was simply comparing Macbeth’s life to a tale, his life would still have structure and meaning. But a tale told by an idiot is a tale with no substance, no depth and no meaning. A tale that is boisterous and showy. Macbeth’s life is a story with no structure, and tale with no construction. Just like a substance less object Macbeth’s life has no significance. These quotes symbolise Shakespeare perception of the deflating illusionary nature of the Elizabethan theatre, for Macbeth is just a ‘player’ himself. This is a time within the play that Shakespeare makes the audience come out of the theatrical bubble as the play of Macbeth can also be an event full of ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing’. These quotes explain the limit to were Macbeth’s driving ambition has brought him, to nothingness. He has come to the point where he cannot see the purpose for life anyone. Just like when a bottle of wine has been used up and drained of all its substance we throw it away, as there is no need for it anymore.
The figurative tool of personification is used widely in the play of Macbeth by Shakespeare. Personification is giving human characteristics and qualities to a nonliving or nonhuman thing. “Me thought I heard a voice cry sleep no more! Macbeth doth murder sleep….” -Macbeth. Shakespeare is personifying sleep to be something that can be murdered. Sleep is representative of a peaceful rest and Macbeth has undeniably taken this from Duncan, when Macbeth deprived him of his existence. Sleep provides healing and peace something that Macbeth will not be able to do from this moment on in the play. “Is this a dagger…? Come let me clutch thee! I have thee not, and yet I see thee still… Thou marshal me the way that I was going” – Macbeth. This is a detrimental personification that shows Macbeth’s insanity when he starts to follow the guidance of lifeless objects. This happens in Macbeth’s dagger soliloquy, when Macbeth personifies the dagger to be a living being beckoning him in a determined direction. ……”Our castles strength will laugh a siege to scorn” -Macbeth. Within this quote Macbeth’s castle has Malcom, Macduff and the soldiers of England threatening its safety as they advance from the forest of Birnam up the hill to Dunsinane. Even with death breathing down his neck, the ambition that is driving Macbeth refuses him to see sense that could possibly prevent him from performing ambition’s desires. Macbeth’s mind has come to the absolute limit of disintegration with in these final scenes of the play. Macbeth is stating that his castle is so strong that it can laugh off their siege, the soldiers that threaten his safety. When you personify a nonhuman object it is for the purpose of conveying meaning in a imaginative way to appeal to the audiences senses. I believe in this context the uses of personification just proves to Shakespeare’s audience the psychotic character Macbeth has developed into. I believe that at this point in the play the use of personification by Macbeth just proves the deranged state of mind he has and how incapable he is of being able to see the realistic truth in the world.
Everything has rhythm, life is a rhythm. Shakespeare uses rhythm in his plays in the form of the iambic pentameter. The iambic pentameter refers to the number of syllables in each line of poetry, which is ten, assembled into five pairs of stressed and unstressed syllables. The iambic pentameter has the sound of a da-DUM / da-DUM / da-DUM / da-DUM / da-DUM. Most of Shakespearian plays have the structure of the iambic pentameter. “So foul and fair a day I have not seen” -Macbeth ( so-FOUL / and-FAIR / a-DAY / i-HAVE / not-SEEN ) This Shakespearian sentence is full of the structure of the iambic pentameter, this quote is present in Act 1 Scene Three and is the first words we hear Macbeth speak. At this point in the play Macbeth has a complete and intact sphere of sanity and has a mature mind. This is proven as the iambic pentameter consists of its correct structure. “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player” -Macbeth. Present in the fifth scene of Act Five is this quote. This rhythm is crippled and fragmented not following the structure of the iambic pentameter. Macbeth is unable to construct appropriate sentences with the correct pattern of the pentameter. This proves to us, in an unconscious formate, how degraded Macbeth’s mind has come to be. Macbeth has come to such a point of insanity that he cannot even construct correct sentences.
Through the use of metaphors, personification and the iambic pentameter Shakespeare has undoubtedly implemented the idea that Macbeth’s mental state of mind degrades and fractures throughout the play of Macbeth. Macbeth is the proof of what unrestrained ambition, greed and egoism can do to a person, it can destroy you.