In Act 2 Scene 2, Lines 1 to 13 of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, Shakespeare questions the reader about who in truth is controlling Macbeth, Lady Macbeth or himself. Shakespeare also makes us ponder if Lady Macbeth has a healthy ambition, that she herself controls, or if her ambition is controlling her. The three main themes of Evil, Ambition, and Macbeth-The Victim of Manipulation are heightened through the use of Positive and Negative Sleep Motifs, expressed in a negative context.
Also found in this selection are examples of Negative Diction, Religious Symbolism, and Animal Imagery which all develop the reader’s understanding of death, and develop the three key themes that circulate around the idea of death. Contrast is used to express the difference in power and confidence between Lady Macbeth and King Duncan’s attendants, and also to distinguish life and death, in the case of the attendants. Punctuation is used very effectively. Through the use of punctuation, one can visualize the emotions of Lady Macbeth.
During the first few lines, each line is its own individual sentence, which ends in a period or colon. Simply by looking at the punctuation one can see that she is calm. Near the end of these lines, Lady Macbeth uses many commas, caesuras, and enjambments, she is out of order. Here one can sense just how nervous and frightened Lady Macbeth is. The final key device used in these lines is Foreshadowing. It gives the reader a glance at what will come out of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth’s decision to kill Duncan through the archetype of “fire”, which appears in line 2.
Fire symbolizes light and warmth, yet at the same time symbolizes chaos and destruction. This can be related to their decision which will either make them or break them. Found throughout this passage are many literary devices, all of which are significant. However the most significant devices are Negative Diction, Religious Symbolism, and Sleep Motif. Religious Symbolism is immensely important in shaping Lady Macbeth’s character and sculpting the recurring themes, yet does not appear nearly as much as Negative Diction and Sleep Motif.
One can find Lady Macbeth say “The doors are open”, Here she is literally talking about the doors to Duncan’s chamber, however one can interpret these doors as the doors of death. The doors are open for Duncan to walk through. This line can be related to Alexander Grahame Bell’s famous quote “As one door closes, another door opens. ” Both Lady Macbeth’s and Mr. Bell’s quotes relate to death in a way; the door of life closes, and the door of death opens, waiting for us to walk through. Another example of Religious Symbolism is found in the lines “That death and nature do contend about them // Whether they live or die.
This is symbolic of God and the Devil having a battle for the lives of the attendants, and later dueling for them to either be rewarded in Heaven or condemned to Hell. The image of God and the Devil gambling for the souls of the dead is expressed in the song “Spanish Train” by Chris De Burgh. This song has a similar religious meaning, as in both one can see a battle going on between God and the Devil for minor pawns or as one likes to say, humans. Another device, Sleep Motif, is used throughout these lines to portray the idea of sleep.
In this piece one can find two main ideas: death and sleep. These two ideas are interconnected by a Religious meaning. One can see just how cleverly William Shakespeare uses the two devices of religious symbolism and sleep motif. Without one, the other, would not be as important. These two tools work hand in hand to develop the character of Lady Macbeth and the several themes throughout the play. Most of these sleep-orbiting words can be divided into three categories. The first category being what one usually consider sleep as, what we do each night in order to rest our body for the new day.
This category can be referred to as the conscious form of sleep. Words that fall under this category are “good-night”, “snores”, “slept”, and “awaked”. These terms are the most positive sleep revolving words found in these lines. The next form of sleep is the sub-conscience form of sleep. This form of sleep is commonly known as “drunk” or “intoxicated”, and is usually found quite discouraging. “Drunk”, “Surfeited”, “Drugg’d”, and “Possets” fall under the sub-conscious form of sleep. The last category of sleep is the unconscious form.
Words that fall under this category may seem depressing for non-believers of an afterlife or second life, but for believers they symbolize a new beginning. This form of sleep is tied in greatly with religious symbolism because it is rooted in the spiritual life. One does not quite know what happens after death, however there is a general belief that the spirit lives on, while the body lays under an eternal rest. The reader can see just how influential sleep is in this excerpt. One sees a sleeping Duncan, and later a deceased Duncan and also sees drunk attendants by Duncan’s side.
In these few lines the reader envisions all three types of sleep. Although both Sleep Motifs and Religious Symbolisms play a huge role in shaping the themes of this scene, the most used device, and particularly important in these 13 lines is Negative Diction. Throughout, one sees words spoken wickedly by Lady Macbeth. She speaks wickedly about a wicked deed. Throughout the text one can see numerous examples of negative diction; “drunk”, “stern’st good-night”, “the owl that shriek’d the fatal bellman”, “surfeited”, “mock”, “drugg’d”, “death”, “die”, “confounds”, “afraid”, and “daggers”.
Through Lady Macbeth’s vocabulary one can easily sense just how sinister Lady Macbeth is in both her words and actions. In this section of “Macbeth” one finds several literary tools that aid in conveying the character of Lady Macbeth and the three central themes. The most important devices used throughout this passage include Religious Symbolism, Sleep Motif, and Negative Diction. These three devices are interconnected as they revolve around the ideas of sleep and death.
These three terms work together to shape the reader’s understanding of death and sleep which Shakespeare exemplifies to us through Lady Macbeth’s manipulation of Macbeth into the killing of the righteous King Duncan. The reader can relate what Shakespeare illustrates to the Human Condition. Everybody in life has ambitions, be it big or small, most people strive to help themselves, and through helping themselves, they help others around them. In few scenarios like in the case of Lady Macbeth, her foul ambitions overpower her and corrupt her to a point of sheer evil.
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