What is Shakespeare trying to communicate about life in this passage spoken by the character Macbeth?

In Act 5 Scene 5, Macbeth preforms a brief soliloquy about life just after he is informed about his wife’s (Lady Macbeth) death. It is in these twelve lines where Shakespeare is believed to be sending messages to his audiences about life, through the mouths of the actors that play his character Macbeth. However it isn’t as simple as Shakespeare just giving his opinion of life, instead he uses many linguistic, dramatic and figurative techniques, as well as building the structure in a way to create and deliver his message.

One structural technique Shakespeare had used in the soliloquy is meter. In the lines of this soliloquy Shakespeare used iambic pentameter except for lines 1,3,5,7,8 and 12. Line 12 consisted of six syllables so instead was iambic trimeter and line 1 had seven syllables. The other lines had 11 syllables each, meaning they all had one extra syllable then they should have had. This is called weak foot or is also known as the feminine ending. Weak foot disrupts the balanced rhythm and may throw off the actors or audiences. However there is reason to it. Weak foot is usually used to signify status, characters faltering or to cause suspense. To show status, normally a characters with low statures would have it in their lines to demonstrate their insignificance. For suspense, an actor would be asked to take a break and look confused, as if they don’t know what they are about to say. Weak foot is then also used to show that a character is faltering. Meaning either their mind is shaken up and are unstable, that they are not thinking straight or that this line is really emotional, that it causes them distress. This is what Shakespeare could be doing in these lines.











  • In iambic pentameter besides few lines
  • use of metaphors


  • Macbeth has begun to despair
  • No grief over his beloved wife
  • same thing everyday
  • short worthless meaningless
  • work so hard, thrive, stress, panic and in the end it dies with us
  • He has hit rock bottom
  • broken man
  • his shell has broken; is vulnerable
  • ‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more.’
  • ‘It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.’
  • Shakespeare is taking to his audience
  • Brings everyone out of the fictional world and back into reality
  • everything happening to Macbeth can happen to anyone
  • refers to himself as ‘idiot’








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