Literary Devices Used In Macbeth Research Paper
Shakespeare was an English author and playwright who created one of the most famous plays, called Macbeth. Throughout the Scottish tragedy, Shakespeare utilizes different literary devices, including the lines “Fair is foul and foul is fair” (1.1.12-13) as well as “There’s daggers in men’s smiles” (2.4.165). These lines are considered oxymorons, which add complexity to the play and allow Shakespeare to be more creative because he can add little phrases that may sound normal but have a deeper meaning behind them. These devices enable the audience to become more engaged due to the deeper meaning, which consequently allows the reader to think more crucially. Literary devices play a crucial role throughout Macbeth, and Shakespeare’s use of oxymorons does an exceptional job of suggesting that not all is as it seems.
The literary devices employed by Shakespeare enhance the play in many areas because he does not only use metaphors, similes, and other simple devices; he uses irony, monologues, soliloquies, and most importantly, oxymorons. These different techniques offer a specific enhancement to the play as a whole, but Shakespeare’s oxymorons add the most value to Macbeth and add the central theme of not all is as it seems.
The first oxymoron Shakespeare utilizes is “Fair is foul and foul is fair” (1.1.12-13), chanted by the witches. Since the line suggests that not all is as it seems, the witches’ words foreshadow the betrayal and treachery that will be committed throughout the play. The chanting of these words also signals to characters as being deceiving. They may seem like loyal people but will come out of the shadows and take what they want when the opportunity arises. Both betrayal and deception are evident when Macbeth murders Duncan and takes the throne. Macbeth was regarded as a soldier and a brave man, but then when the opportunity came to take the throne, he murdered Duncan for his own selfish reasons. After the slaughter of Duncan and his men, Macbeth said, “I have done the deed” (2.2.19). This demonstration of treachery and betrayal perfectly portrays how not all is as it seems through the quote, “Fair is foul and foul is fair” (1.1.12-13).
Another oxymoron that Shakespeare employs to demonstrate that not all is as it seems is "There's daggers in men's smiles" (2.4.165), which Donalbain declared. Donalbain portrays his worry and fear through his words because he realizes that people can be deceiving and that not all is as it seems. The oxymoron is evident when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth pretend to be outraged when they discover Duncan's deceased body. It starts with Lady Macbeth stating, "Woe, alas! / What, in our house?" (2.3.102-103), which demonstrates deceit because Lady M is attempting to portray herself as unaware of the murder, which is not true. Moreover, Macbeth goes on to add, "Had I but died an hour before this chance, / I had lived a blessèd time; for from this instant / There's nothing serious in mortality. / All is but toys. Renown and grace is dead. / The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees / Is left this vault to brag of." (2.3.107-112), which illustrates an attempt to seem innocent. Later Macbeth also talks about killing Duncan's murderers due to his anger and outrage, which is a foolish attempt to seem innocent; however, he believed it would help cover the fact that he was the one to murder Duncan. This deceit from both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plays a large role in displaying that not all is as it seems through the quote "There's daggers in men's smiles" (2.4.165) because they portrayed themselves as innocent but were, in reality, the ones that murdered Duncan.
Both “Fair is foul and foul is fair” (1.1.12-13) as well as “There’s daggers in men’s smiles” (2.4.165) have an enormous impact on the overall play. These quotes do not only represent the deceit, betrayal, and treachery that is evident throughout the play, but they allow the audience to think deeply about the play as a whole. When a reader has to stop and think about a particular area in a piece of literature, they can appreciate the deeper meaning behind them, which is precisely what these oxymorons add to the play. Overall, Shakespeare’s use of oxymorons to suggest that not all is as it seems greatly influences and enhances the play in many ways.