Developing the personas of characters is an important technique in all texts that make use of characterisation because it enables the plot to develop a certain depth and tension that can only come with varied and conflicting perspectives. In his renowned dramatic script of the tragedy of “Macbeth,” Shakespeare has cleverly crafted the perspectives of its two main characters, Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, through his use of language techniques, which when read, enhance meaning in the minds of responders.
Such language devices as personification, metaphors, similes, bloody and religious imagery, irony, dramatic irony, hyperbole and recurring motifs of clothes and emasculation used within the dialogue and soliloquies reflect the thoughts and attitudes of the characters toward the act of murder and the victim himself, Duncan, King of Scotland. Prior to the murder of Duncan, the conflicting outlooks of Macbeth and his wife concerning the deed were predominantly emphasised within duologues and soliloquies (the act of speaking while alone), through which the most accurate insight into Macbeth’s conscious thoughts is enabled.
Macbeth’s attitude toward the deed is characterised by a nervous ambivalence, where two distinct and opposing factors waged war within his mind: that which was acquiescent and eager to murder Duncan, and that which feared the consequences. In Act 1, scene 7, Macbeth expresses his opposition to killing Duncan, who he regarded as having “borne his faculties so meek… that his virtues will plead like angels… and Pity… shall blow the horrid deed in every eye. In this quote, the personification of Duncan’s talents combined with the religious imagery within the simile of “pleading like angels” serves to emphasise Macbeth’s acculturated belief in Duncan’s position (as King) at the top of the “chain of being” and hence, accentuates the consequences of the murder. Macbeth’s fear of being caught and experiencing retribution then compels him to personify the pity he and others would feel as a negative force that would contribute to his downfall.
However, in scene 5, Macbeth considers his obstacles to the crown in an aside, saying, “The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step on which I must fall down, or else e’erleap, for in my way it lies. ” This presents Macbeth’s more practical and callous thoughts, free from sentiment. In this state of mind, he is able to contemplate the path that is required to fulfil his ambition. By comparing Malcolm, the Prince of Cumberland, to a step or physical obstruction, Macbeth dehumanises him and presents jumping over the obstacle in a more simple light, reinforcing his willingness to act.
The following lines, “Stars hide you fires! Let not light see my black and deep desires” is further evidence of this fact. Macbeth’s mind is largely set by his ambition and he finds that he needs to check himself to ensure that he doesn’t give away his intentions thought his expressions. At the same time, the perspectives of Lady Macbeth are evident though her duologues with Macbeth, to whom she feels she must bolster and “chastise with the valour of [her] tongue. Lady Macbeth’s attitudes towards the murder are dominated by the same spirit that could be seen in Macbeth’s crueller moments, as previously discussed. Lady Macbeth intensions, however, remain steady in her mind, reflecting a notion that she may want the Crown more than her husband. Her harshness is evident in the metaphor, “O never shall sun that morrow see” where she implies with ruthless enthusiasm, that Duncan would never see the next morning. Her intentions are also reflected in her quote, “He that’s coming must be provided for. Here, dramatic irony is used to create a feeling among the audience that Lady Macbeth is truly pitiless, thus reflecting her attitude that it is best to dehumanise the victim (“That my keen knife see not the wound it makes”) and simply see her actions as a means to an end. She is appalled by the idea of doing otherwise, as can be noted when she tells Macbeth, “Art thou afeard to be the same in thine own act and valour as thou art in desire? Would’st thou… live a coward in thine own esteem, letting `I dare not’ wait upon `I would,” implying that to be distracted by guilt and fear is to become a coward.
This is also reflected in her recurring motif of questioning Macbeth’s masculinity, for example, “when you durst do it, then you were a man. ” Although the function of this speech was predominantly to augment Macbeth’s confidence, it also reveals her attitude towards what she thinks is brave and becoming of man. These ideas however were contradicted by Macbeth- “I dare do all that may become a man, who dares do more is none. ” Macbeth’s perspective just after the murder of Duncan (Act 2 scene 2), remains loyal to the notion that his actions disturbed the chain of being natural order) and thus were against nature. For this, he feels that “great nature’s second course,” sleep is being rightfully taken away from him. “Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep,’ the innocent sleep. ” Here, Shakespeare simultaneously personifies the killing of Duncan and the butchering of Macbeth’s purity and right to normalcy of life. Referring to sleep as “innocent,” also reflects the innocence of Duncan, emphasising Macbeth’s perspective of his victim.
He is truly ashamed to have committed the act, worrying that “all great Neptune’s ocean [could not] wash this blood clean from my hand… [which would] rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine” The hyperbolic use of metaphor is one of several examples of bloody imagery that serves to communicate his guilt complex. Similarly, Lady Macbeth’s views at this time continued to mirror those prior to the act. She returns from the scene of the murder with blood on her, saying to Macbeth, “My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white. In personifying Macbeth’s heart as clothing, she also draws a parallel between his spirit and what she perceives to be his child-like naivety through a well-known use of colour symbolism, where white stands for purity. Her mind, still focused on her job has no desire to contemplate “these deeds … after these ways; so, it will make us mad. ” Although, this advice was manly for Macbeth’s benefit, the irony enters towards the end when it is revealed that her stoic nature caused her to go “mad” herself.
Another example of her fiercely resolute sense of objective is apparent when she loses patience and rebukes Macbeth’s paralysing fear. “Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures: ‘t is the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil. ” Here, she not only continues to mock his maturity and manhood, using a metaphor to compare him to a child, but captures the essence of her beliefs prior to seeing Duncan’s corpse. She cannot understand her husband’s dread as she refuses to acknowledge the victim as a person to whom she could relate.
Incidentally, however, by comparing the scene to a painted devil, she does concede that it will not be a pleasant sight. In contrast to the beginning of the book, the scenes much later in the play following the murder see a switching of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s perspectives as their relationship experiences a role reversal. In Act 3, scene 4, Macbeth conveys a sense of defeat and promptly accepts that his life is forever hence cursed by his earlier decisions. “I am in blood stepp’d in so far, that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er. In this metaphor, he compares his homicidal actions as taking him into a river of blood up to the point that he is standing in the middle. This is then followed by the remark that to change direction and fix his life, so to speak, would be equally as difficult and effective as just continuing. This reflects his defeatist attitude that saw no use in remedying his actions and creates a sense that he may be drowning under the blood or consequences of his actions. Still, a sense of apprehension prevails in his mind and is manifested in the words, “It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood. This denotes that following the first blood spilt, that of Duncan, has started a chain of events whereby more blood, e. g. Banquo’s, must be spilt in order for Macbeth to feel safe from avengement of the first. Due to these attitudes, Macbeth eventually expresses the fact that he has “I have supp’d full with horrors; direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts, cannot once start me. ” This metaphor of gaining dire experience by devouring it corresponds to Macbeth looking back on his actions and finding that he has always willingly partaken in them.
When he murdered Duncan, his own ambition and intent forced him to do so. This reflects his attitude towards the murder of Duncan as being essential to his rise to Kingship as well as its role in desensitising him. As a consequence of the role reversal, however, Lady Macbeth began taking up the notion that the murder of Duncan may not have been worth it. In Act 3, scene 2, she declares that “Nought’s had, all’s spent, where our desire is got without content. ” This is the first instant where she exposes her deepest, most unwanted thoughts.
Here she reveals that the murder Duncan did not in fact make her happier, despite making her Queen, but has left her feeling rather emptier than before because, having put all of her energy and spirit into the plan, she remains disappointed. She also articulates an envy of Duncan’s position saying, “ ‘T is safer to be that which we destroy than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy. ” Like Macbeth, she too fears their downfall. Her remorse finally becomes evident in Act 5, scene 1, where she sleepwalks and speaks with her mind dwelling on the night of the murder. “Out, damned spot! ut I say… who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? ” Despite her earlier assurance that “a little water will clear us of the deed,” Lady Macbeth finds that the water couldn’t clear her mind of her guilt which manifests itself in her dreams as an incorrigible stain on her hand. “Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. ” This hyperbole serves to further accentuate her compunction in the same manner that Macbeth’s earlier claim that “all great Neptune’s ocean [could not] wash this blood clean” does.
In short, Lady Macbeth feels that nothing on earth can absolve her of her guiltiness. For these reasons, she later commits suicide in scene 5. In these ways, Shakespeare has made use of personification, metaphors, similes, bloody and religious imagery, irony, dramatic irony, hyperbole and recurring motifs of clothes and emasculation within duologues and soliloquies to create and express the various, shifting and conflicting perspectives of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth towards the murder of Duncan.