How Shakespeare shows Macbeth’s ambition causes his mental state to degenerate through using language techniques and conventions 

In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses many examples of different language techniques and conventions to show his intentions. He use techniques like alliteration and personification which I will be identifying from some of Shakespeare’s text. He uses these techniques throughout the play that show the ambition of Macbeth and the degeneration of the characters thoughts because of this ambition. All the quotes I have used are from Act 3, Scene 2 which is after Macbeth had killed Duncan. In this text Macbeth’s mental state is starting to break down and I will be explaining how Shakespeare uses these language techniques to show these ideas in the text. 
In this scene Macbeth says “We have scorched the snake, not killed it. She’ll close and be herself whilst our poor malice remains in danger of her former tooth.” It means that it has caused Macbeth to think about the consequences of his ambition. In this line it also says “scorched the snake” which is a form of alliteration. Shakespeare uses this technique to draw the reader’s attention and give those words more importance. In this he is referring to Duncan as a snake and that they have scorched him but haven’t killed him. How I see it is that he is pretty much saying that killing Duncan will come back to haunt him and that he’s not truly dead because the idea of him is still in their minds. In this line he also says “She’ll close and be herself whilst our poor malice Remains in danger of her former tooth.” meaning that what they he has done will eventually cause him to be threatened because of his ambition which is shown by him killing King Duncan.
Also in Act 3, Scene 2 Shakespeare writes “In the affliction of these terrible dreams that shake us nightly.” Which is a personification. When he says “dreams that shake us nightly.” The dreams do not physically shake him but this personification means that the dreams make him scared and worried. It also shows us that Macbeth’s having bad dreams which only came because he killed Duncan. His ambition also caused  his mental state to get worse. We can tell from this text that he is definitely thinking about the murder of Duncan and that Macbeth is mentally breaking down by having these dreams. 
Another quote from Act 3, Scene 2 Shakespeare writes  “Oh, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!” This is a metaphor which Shakespeare uses to show how Macbeth’s feeling mentally. It is a metaphor as it is saying how there are scorpions in his mind but there is not actually any in his mind. It is just referring that Macbeth’s mind is being poisoned from “scorpions” which is affecting his thoughts and how he is functioning mentally. When thinking of “scorpions” I think sharp and painful. In this it is saying Macbeth is going through pain in his head but not physical pain, mental pain. We know this as a fact because Macbeth says it himself and we know this only happened because of his ambition to become king. 
As we can see Shakespeare shows us his intentions through using these language techniques like alliteration, personification and metaphors that show us how Macbeth’s mental state is degenerating and that his everyday life is being affected by these thoughts. He shows us that Macbeth cannot sleep “dreams that shake us nightly.” and that his thoughts are mentally affecting him “full of scorpions is my mind”  He is also afraid that what he has done will come back to bite him “remains in danger of her former tooth.” As I have shown Shakespeare includes many different language techniques which give his ideas more meaning and makes you think more about what his actual intentions are. He lets us see Macbeth’s ambition and how he is mentally coping with the consequences through his use of language. 

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. There are some very good examples of precise analysis here and you demonstrate a strong grasp of the task and its parameters.

    What it needs is a greater sense that the analysis is a whole piece, developing a coherent set of ideas. This will probably be best achieved through the writing of a separate introduction that outlines your whole argument and points towards the instances in the text that support this point. This is also an opportunity for you to enrich the language you use to convey you ideas. Your main focus, once you’ve completed the over-all structure, is to build into the piece some more nuanced language effects of your own. It’s not a persuasive piece, however you do still want to use your skill as a writer to convey your ideas with as much fluency as possible. I encourage you to look at the exemplar in the task outline to see how that writer used metaphor to underline and illuminate (both metaphors) the points they wanted to make.

    Your concise style is something worth protecting, though, so make sure you write to meet your own expectations of a piece like this.


  2. Achievement Achievement with Merit Achievement with Excellence
    Develop and structure ideas in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas convincingly in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control in formal writing.

    Develop and structure ideas effectively in formal writing.

    Use language features appropriate to audience and purpose with control to command attention in formal writing.


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