In the play Macbeth, Shakespeare presents a story about Macbeth, the protagonist of the play, and his desire to gain power, however Macbeth decided to go down the wrong path, which led him to his fall. Macbeth experienced hell through this as he was tormented by guilt and lived his life petrified of the truth. This impacted massively on his mind and as the play went on Macbeth’s mind deteriorated. However, Shakespeare doesn’t just say this or just present that simply on stage. He uses many linguistic, dramatic and figurative techniques, as well as building the structure of the speech to show Macbeth’s mind state.
Macbeth isn’t just another fictional play. Shakespeare had based the play off Macbeth an actual old Scottish king, who became a monarch by killing the previous king. Shakespeare had done this because, at the time, Queen Elizabeth I was dying and had chosen King James VI of Scotland to be her successor and become the King of England. William Shakespeare presented this play, based of the old tale, to King James since it was about his ancestors, Banquo and Fleance. Only thing is, Shakespeare presented Banquo and Fleance as good people but in history Banquo was helping Macbeth. Shakespeare clearly did that so he would not offend the King.
Within the structure of the dialogue, Shakespeare uses meter to add a rhythm or flow to the speech. With Macbeth’s lines, Shakespeare uses iamb completely up until the point where Macbeth kills King Duncan.
‘If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly. If the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow’. This a quote said by Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 7 (before he kills Duncan). It is all in iamb.
‘Whence is that knocking?
How is ’t with me when every noise appalls me?
What hands are here? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes’. This is another quote said by Macbeth in Act 2 Scene 1 (after he has killed Duncan). None of it is in iamb as it has an extra syllable. Usually when a character is speaking in iamb, it shows they are of a high status and that their mind is stable. When a character has an extra syllable it can be interpreted that this character’s mind is faltering. Macbeth’s mind could be faltering after killing Duncan and is probably due to guilt.
A language device Shakespeare uses is metaphors. Shakespeare packs his script with metaphors to add emphasis and detail to his and the characters opinions. Shakespeare uses his metaphors to demonstrate Macbeth’s mind is deteriorating. ‘Full of scorpions is my mind’- Act 3 Scene 2 is a line Macbeth uses to describe his own mind. He claims his mind is full of scorpions, obviously not literal, but as a metaphor to say his mind is causing him serious pain, like it is poisoned by scorpions. There could be different explanations for why his mind could be painful, but Shakespeare is wanting to show that Macbeth’s mind isn’t right.