NCEA Formal Writing 1.5, Literary Essay


The Scottish Play is one crowded with witchcraft, ambition and consuming uncertainty.  Shakespeare makes full use of the conventions of language and theatre through Macbeth’s speech/actions to elucidate to the readers and audiences a world of direst cruelty. Macbeth forgets his morals and religion in the whirlwind of ambition he then suffers the consequences with the deterioration of his mind. The way Shakespeare illustrates this shows the volume of the crimes Macbeth has committed but also adds another dimension of direst cruelty by displaying mental illness.


Personification is one of the many language features that Shakespeare uses to convey the intense darkness of the play. In Act one, scene 4 Macbeth says “Stars hide your fires; let light not see my dark and deep desires…”. Macbeth does not want the “powers that be” to see his following actions; they are too completely wicked. This is said though the use of personification and symbolism. Stars are used as a emblem of the “Heavens” so by the means of this passage we can tell Macbeth is speaking to his “God”. He says to the stars to “hide their fires” so they cannot see his damnable ambition, but of course stars can neither hide fires nor see. Using personification in this situation, Shakespeare not only gives the impression that stars represent “God” but also shows the power of the stars; that they can see, and that there will grave consequences when they do. Deeper, the line shows that Macbeth fully believes in God and cares about what will happen to him in the afterlife. Like Macbeth, the original audience of the play Macbeth think “God” as undeniably real. A statement like “Stars hide your fires…” strikes fear and anticipation into the crowd of the 16th century because it shows that the following events are dire enough to send Macbeth to “Hell”.  This line so intensifies the plays submersion in ominous events.


“Mine eyes are made the fools o’ th’ other senses”. In Act 2 scene 1, Macbeth sees a dagger, one he cannot touch. This is an example of a theatre technique that reveals the darkness of Macbeth’s mind. He can see a dagger in front  of him, but he does not trust his eyes since he cannot grasp it; “Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.” At this stage he is very unsure if what he is seeing is real or a creation of his deteriorating mind. The dagger “appears” before Macbeth because he is completely consumed by the decision he has to make; to commit treason or not. In the soliloquy Macbeth says “The handle toward my hand?”, which shows he has imagined the dagger as if it is “asking” to be held. He also says “And such an instrument I was to use”, meaning that the dagger is the one he was planning to use when murdering King Duncan. Macbeth is convinced by these two things that he is meant to kill Duncan, that the dagger is a sign. From this he feels that the decision has been made for him, by the ‘dagger of the mind’. Such a theatre technique shows  the true intensity of the events that are about to occur, they induce a character under such heavy strain to conger up a hallucination to decide his fate. This scene further deepens the darkness of The Scottish Play. A character talking to a murder weapon (one meant for the king) that is not in front of him.  It storms the audience with uncertainty of Macbeth’s state of mind, but also, one now knows Macbeth is going to kill the King of Scotland.


In Act 2, scene 2, Shakespeare uses a hyperbole to convey Macbeth’s state of mind. Soon after murdering King Duncan, Macbeth says “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand?”. Will the whole ocean be able to wash the blood off Macbeth’s hand? The answer to this question is shown through the statement made by Macbeth, “making the green one red”. He feels that if he would try to clean the blood of his hands in the sea the blood would die the entirety of it red. He feels like the blood would never stop running from his hands, and he could never be rid of it. This of course is  extremely far fetched, the blood on someone’s hands obviously could not cause the entire ocean to become red but the imagery created from it makes such an impact. To actually have someone’s blood on one’s hands already represents so much; they are responsible for someone’s death. But to have so much blood on one’s hands that no amount of water could wash it off depicts that there is no way of escaping the guilt. To use a hyperbole in this instance really shows how grim an act of treason is and how it affects Macbeth’s state of mind. From murdering Duncan onwards Macbeth becomes a completely different person. He cannot escape his actions so it begins to define him. This powerful use of language also effects the audience heavily, reading or listening to a line like that provokes an image of gallons and gallons of blood polluting the largest body of water. It gives a sicking feeling. It again builds on  direst cruelty of the Play Macbeth. 


Another powerful use of theatre in Macbeth was the Iambic pentameter. Throughout the play Shakespeare uses a pattern of speaking that both makes the lines easier to remember for the actors, but also and more importantly conveys ‘status’. The higher in society a person is in Macbeth, the less likely they will falter the rhythm of the iambic pentameter. For example, the gentlewomen’s lines are; “That, sir, which I will not report after her.” and “Ay, but their sense is shut” where there is no real rhythm recognisable. While, when King Duncan speaks it is always recognisable; “We will establish our estate upon” and “But signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine”.  Macbeth is of the highest status in the country for the majority of the play, meaning that the rhythm of his speech should not waver, yet it does. This is noticeable in  Act 5, scene five where Macbeth says his speech that begins with “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…” Every second line of this has 11 syllables, when they should just have 10. The technique of using the iambic pentameter adds another dimension to the storyline and the idea that Shakespeare want’s to convey: Macbeth’s life is ending. In the speech that Macbeth makes, he talks about days being meaningless, that instead time is measured in syllables: “To the last syllable of recorded time…”. At this point in the play Macbeth has given up, he no longer values life: “Signifying nothing.”, and no longer cares about what will happen to him after he dies: “The way to dusty death.” (dusty signifying that when we die we simply become dust). So now Macbeth does not care about using up his ‘syllables’, he uses one more every second line. The use of the iambic pentameter really shows how Macbeth’s mind has diminished; he is a king and can no longer talk properly. This point in the play is the height of the sickness of Macbeth’s mind. Macbeth’s mind being dark, darkens the whole play and even for some, their view on life.

In the play Macbeth, Shakespeare uses many, many language and theatre techniques to drench the audience in a world of direst cruelty. Examples of this are his use of personification, hallucinations, hyperboles and iambic pentameter. These techniques reach so much further than simply Macbeth’s character or the storyline, it steps over into real life. The techniques relate the play to the world the audience lives in, their religion, their values, oceans and views on life so the darkness of the play is quite influential. Macbeth’s struggle with his mind dimensioning and the ideas his character convey because of it really effects the audience. Sometimes even name of the play inspires darkness in one’s mind, so some cannot even say the name, Macbeth.



Ideas For Macbeth Essay

Macbeth is referred to only as The Scottish Play by actors and theatre-makers, such is the dark power of the play. How does Shakespeare exploit the conventions of language and theatre to fill his play from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty – and moreover, why is this so essential to the universal meaning of the play?

Macbeth is referred to only as The Scottish Play by actors and theatre-makers, such is the dark power of the play. How does Shakespeare make full use of and derive benefit from the conventions of language and theatre to fill his play with extremely serious cruelty. And why is this so essential to the universal meaning of the play?

Shakespeare makes full use of the conventions of language and theatre by showing it through Macbeth’s speech and actions.  Forgetting his morals and religion in the whirlwind of ambition he then suffers the consequences with the deterioration of his mind. The way Shakespeare illustrates this shows the volume of the crimes Macbeth has committed but also adds another dimension of direst cruelty by displaying mental illness.

  • Main characters (most time on stage, most lines, most important characters in the storyline)
  • Minds deteriorate (seen in use of metaphors, “hallucinations”, sarcasm, soliloquy and use of iambic pentameter)
  • Shows the power of the crimes they committing
  • Also makes us think of: morals, greed, mental illness, religion, meaning of life
    He puts his desire to be king over all his friends and religious beliefs, achieves his goal but feels worse than before, even though he has committed so many ‘sins’ as L.M. has he still feels baffled and betrayed by “god” when L.M. dies

Useful Quotes:

“To know my deed, ’twere best not know myself.” – He would prefer to be absolutely unaware of the crime than to think of the crime he commited. He knows this was a bad idea and regrets it, feels ashamed of it. Crime and M are separate.

“Stars, hide your fires! Let not see my black and deep desires…”
“Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.”
“Yet do I fear thy nature: it is too full o’ the milk of human kindness”

“My hands are of your color, but I shame To wear a heart so white”

“O! full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife! ”

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

“To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

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”


“Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand?” (Act II, Scene I)

“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red” (Act II, Scene II)

“False face must hide what the false heart doth know.”

“If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me
Without my stir”



“If Chance will have me king, why, Chance may crown me
Without my stir”  – Personification
Fully believes and trusts in his religion. At this stage he will not defy it to fulfil his ambition. Seen as: quote as a whole means if he is meant to become king, he will. Macbeth will not do anything to become king. Chance = fate/god because chance is not a living thing but they say “chance will have me” and “chance may crown me” which confirms he is talking about “god”. From this statement we see that  he trust that “god” will give him the best and it is more important to him to be seen as “good” by “god” than break the law, but more importantly defy his religion by committing treason. He has his values and morals in order and his mind is stable.
* chance has a capital C too so this again shows he is talking about a proper noun.
“Stars, hide your fires! Let not see my dark and deep desires; ”  personfication
“Is this a dagger I see before me…”    – Hallucination
 This is the first falter of his mind. With the intense pressure from his wife and the underlying ambition in him he is finding the decision of what to do incredibly difficult. Macbeth knows what is right but he also has the temptation so he congers up a dagger that is “making the decision for him”. He actually voices his doubt of the reality of the dagger: “A dagger of the mind, a false creation proceeding from the heat oppressed brain” – actually thinks about whether he should trust himself.   (Could be schizophrenia)
 “To know my deed, ‘t were best not to know my self” – guilt


Act 5 Scene Summaries


Act 5

scene one: 

This scene shows Lady Macbeth break down. A doctor and a gentle waiting lady are present with her in a room in the castle trying to figure out what is wrong with her. The waiting woman says she has not really woken. As they are observing her sleepwalking she looks as if she is washing her hands. Then she speaks but she speaks nonsense. Finally the Doctor says that the ‘condition’ she has is beyond his practice. After this Lady Macbeth starts telling them they need to go to bed.

“Yet there is a spot” 

“Out, damned spot! Out I say! – One; two; why, then’t is time to do’t – Hell is murky. … Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him?”

“More she needs the divine than the physician…”

“To bed, to bed: there is a knocking at the gate. Come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s done cannot be undone.”


scene two:

News of Malcom and Macduff coming to defeat Macbeth has spread. Mentieth, Angus, Caithness and Lennox talk about this. They all agree that Macbeth has killed Duncan and Banquo.


scene three: 

Macbeth has taken on a new role. He is now portraying himself as confident and unworried, he believes that what the witches told him; that no man thats born of woman shall e’er have power upon him and he has nothing to worry until Birnam wood remove to Dunsinane. Macbeth’s servent comes to explain what is going on with the english army coming, but Macbeth makes fun of his enemy and says to the servent that he does not want to hear anymore. Soon after Macbeth orders in Seyton and then asks him what is going on outside.

Act 4 Scene Summaries

Act 4

scene one: 

At the start of this scene the three witches are in a dark cave making a potion with disturbing ingredients such as ‘sow’s blood, that hath eaten her nine farrow’. This is also where the witches say the iconic line ‘double, double, toil and trouble ‘.  Hecate, the chief witch appears for the first time. When Macbeth comes and demands more information Hecate gives the information in the form of three apparitions. The first apparition is and armed head, the second a bloody child and the third, a child crowned with a tree in his hand. The apparitions say that Macbeth should be weary of Macduff but they also say no person could harm him and he has no worries until trees walk. Finally, Lenox arrives and is asked by Macbeth if he saw the ‘weird sisters’. Lenox says he didn’t then tells Macbeth of the news, Macduff has fled to England, confirming what the witches said.

“Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! beware of Macduff; beware of Thane of Fife. – Dismiss me. – Enough. ”

“Be bloody, bold and resolute: laugh to scorn the power of a man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth”

“Be lion-mettled, proud and take no care who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are: Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him. ”


scene two: 

This scene is a discussion between Lady Macduff and her son. She is telling him Macduff is a liar and a traitor, and that he has been put to death. The son does not believe his mother. He doubts because Lady Macduff is not sad. He is right to think this because Macduff is not dead, only dead to her. 

“If he were dead, you’ld weep for him: if you would not, it were a good sign that I should quickly have a new father”

Act 3 Scene Summaries

Act 3

scene one: 

This scene is the scene where Macbeth states his worries. His only fear is that Banquo will prove that he murdered Duncan. He has hired 2 murderers to kill Banquo and his son. While telling the murders what to do he makes an in depth explanation as to why Banquo and his son should be killed and why he can’t do it himself. This shows that he is unsure of his decision. He is almost trying to justify his decision to himself not the murders. 

“Whose loves I may not drop, but wail his fall who struck myself down: and hence it is that I to your assistance do make love, masking the business from the common eye, for sundry weighty reasons.”

scene two: 

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth talk about the present situation; Macbeth is breaking down. He makes it very obvious he is not doing well with the burden of his previous actions. While Macbeth is expressing all this Lady Macbeth is doing her best to calm him down and resolve the problems.

“O! full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife! ”


scene three: 


Act 2 Scene Summaries

Act 2

scene one: 

In this scene Banquo, Fleance and Macbeth are all awake at Macbeth’s castle after 12am at night because they all cannot sleep. They both say they are happy to talk more about the Witches and what they said to them, they both don’t mind when. Lying to each other, they are polite but underneath they do not trust each other.  Later on Macbeth is by himself and has a big soliloquy where he says he can see a dagger.  He cannot touch it and his other senses cannot detect it so he is not sure whether what he is seeing is real and it is a sign or it is a figment of his imagination. 

“There’s a husbandry in heaven; Their candles are all out”



scene two: 

Lady Macbeth drugged Duncans guards. Macbeth has killed Duncan but feels very guilty about it. He could not say “Amen” and he could not go back and put blood on the servants to frame them so Lady Macbeth says she will do it instead. 

“Still it cried, “Sleep no more!” to all the house. Glamis hath murdered sleep, and therefore Cawdor Shall sleep no more. Macbeth shall sleep no more.”

 “My hands are of your color, but I shame To wear a heart so white”


scene three: 

The Porter and Macduff located in a courtyard in the castle, go to wake Duncan but instead find that he is dead.  Everyone else in the castle comes to see and they also discover the guards hands are covered with blood and that the dagger is beside them. Lady Macbeth acts like this is the first she’s heard of it and faints. Macbeth then goes to kill the guards before they wake up. Some of the men are suspicious that it was not the guards that killed him.

“T is not for you to hear what I can speak: The repetition, in a woman’s ear, would murder as it fell. ”

“Question this bloody piece of work”


scene four:

In this scene Duncan’s death is talked about between an old man, Rosse and Macduff. Rosse says that it was definitely the servants that Macbeth kill were the ones that murdered Duncan. He says they did it because the servants were paid by Duncans sons; Malcom and Donalbain. They are prime suspects because they also just fled.

“Thou seest the heavens, as troubled with man’s act,
Threatens his bloody stage.”

Macbeth Language Techniques

Point:   In Act 1, scene 5 Shakespeare introduces Lady Macbeth as a strong minded woman, rare of the time. The language Shakespeare uses is very unusual but overall it gives the impression that Lady Macbeth thinks she is stronger than Macbeth and that she can firmly influence him or even brainwash him to do what she wants.

Evidence:   “And chastise with the valour of my tongue…” – Lady Macbeth

Explanation:  This quote Shakespeare uses expresses how Lady Macbeth is thinking regarding her present situation and what she will do about it. She desperately wants her husband to become King and herself to become Queen but in the society her character was created in, killing the King as a woman simply cannot be done, so she has to convince Macbeth to do it. That is what Lady Macbeth is says in this quote; “And chastise with the valour of my tongue…”. The phrase communicates that Lady Macbeth will talk him into doing what she wants: committing treason, but the choice of words is very interesting. Chastise is to discipline someone, especially by corporal punishment, valour means boldness or determination in facing great danger such as in war, and ‘my tongue’ is referring to what she says of course; not her literal tongue. As Macbeth’s wife one would assume she would not ‘discipline him physically’ and by using the word ‘valour’ it suggests what she is doing is quite courageous. The way Shakespeare has written this creates a lot of questions such as, ‘ is she actually going to harm Macbeth physically? ‘ , ‘ is she the dominant person in the relationship?’ ,  ‘how dangerous is what she is doing?’, ‘will what she is doing cause a war?’. Regardless of how these questions will be answered, the language choice gives the audience more information about Lady Macbeth’s character (she is very strong minded) and there is more suspense for what will happen in the following scenes. Word choices such as these enhance the text so much because it adds another dimension to reading or seeing the play. It is one of the many techniques the Shakespeare uses that has made his work so captivating.

Macbeth Scene Summaries

Act 1

scene one:

Three witches in a desert place where they plan to meet again after the battle. They plan to meet Macbeth upon the heath

“When the hurlyburly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won”

“Fair is foul and foul is fair”



scene two:

In this scene we are introduced to the King of Scotland, Duncan and we learn more about the war between Scotland and Norway from an injured soldier. The soldier describes brave Macbeth killing Macdonwald and Scotland winning the war.

“… As two spent swimmers, that do cling on together…”



scene three:

Macbeth and Banquio meet the three witches at the heath. The are told of their future: Macbeth will become Thain of Glamis, Thain of Cawdor and King while Banquio’s children will become king. Macbeth and Banquio do not know if these predictions are true or not. Macbeth believes the witches because later on in the scene he is told that he is now Thain of Cawdor, but Banquio is not sure about the witches predictions.

“The Thane of Cawdor lives: why do you dress me in borrowed robes?”




scene four:

The previous Thane of Cawdor’s execution is stated and Macbeth promises his loyalty and commitment for his new role as the Thane of Cawdor to King Duncan, but all the while contemplating killing him.

“…by doing everything safe toward your love and honour.” – Lie from Macbeth

“Stars, hide your fires! Let not see my black and deep desires…”

“Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.”


scene five:

Lady Macbeth is introduced. She is educated about the events in the last 4 scenes from a letter written by Macbeth. She learns the situation regarding Macbeth becoming king and goes on to talk about Macbeth’s kindness. She does not think Macbeth could kill him so she is wishing she would become evil and have no conscience so she could kill Duncan herself.

Lady Macbeth’s speech conveys her nature and her plans. It shows she is a very strong minded woman and thinks for herself which is very rare of this time. Without input from her husband she starts devising a plan to kill the King of Scotland. This shows she must be greedy in order to go to such far measures to become Queen and her husband King.

“Yet do I fear thy nature: it is too full o’ the milk of human kindness”

“…And fill  me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty”

“…Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.”


scene six:

This scene occurs outside of Macbeth’s castle where Lady Macbeth welcomes her guests; King Duncan and Banquo.

“See, see, our honoured hostess”


scene seven: 


In situations where people want to be liked they copy the other persons body language and texting style.

  • Change language, body language, punctuation, use of emojis

Everyone needs to be liked. By a boss, by a teacher. We need to be liked for our overall wellbeing, because people are social creatures.  People like and connect with people who are similar to them, subconsciously we already know this.  We subtly mirror the other persons facial expressions and body language, which gives the impression that we understand them and feel the same as them. There has been countless studies proving this. But we are in a new age now. We don’t always communicate face to face, we communicate over the phone, email, texts, messenger, instagram, snapchat… In these new ways of communicating we can’t easily use our face and body to relate to people, instead we use punctuation and emojis. Thought this text I will investigate if people copy each others punctuation and emoji use, just like how we copy each others body language.

Emojis. They are a revolutionary invention when it comes to texting but it’s almost a statement to send one. When an emoji is sent it further conveys how a person is feeling like body language does in real life. When you send one back it communicates that you are on the same page. This is seen in Abigail and Annika’s text conversation that was posted on Abigail’s online journal ; Annika: ‘Oh man’ , Abigail: ‘(tongue out emoji),  Annika: ‘Morning (smilie face)_ still ready for me at 8:15?’. In this conversation previously there had been no emojis used but Abigail uses one and then so does Annika. Of course this could have been because they both especially wanted to communicate their emotions in these two text messages, and just a coincidence that they were consecutive.  But, it is also very possible Annika only added an emoji in her next text in response to Abigail’s emoji to show that she still likes her and feels the same she does.  To further my point in Annika and Abigail’s conversation there were many occasions Annika could have used and emoji such as when she texts ‘Yay!’ (a happy face would be suitable after this statement) or ‘R u on the bus’ (a confused face would fit this question well). Annika only uses an emoji after Abigail does. This happens again after four messages back and forth when Abigail texts: ‘Yumm!!! Ur cakes are the best (two tongue out emojis)  and Annika texts: ‘(smilie face emoji)’. This evidence confirms we do copy other people’s texting style like we copy each others body language.

Text Transcript

Me: Hoi (unusual spelling) Persia, how r u (homophone/logograms)?

Persia: hewoooo im (no punctuation because of speed and the other person in the conversation understands) good how r u?

Me: Good thanks! how’s ur (abbreviation) yr (abbreviation)11 going?

Persia: pretty (no capital because the start of the sentence is already obvious) awesome so far hby (initialism) ?

Me: same except i feel so dumb in maths. It’s so DIFFICULT (capital letters to indicate raised voice)  😥 (emoticons)

Persia: :laughing faces: If you feel dumb how do you think I feel?? :laughing face:

Me: ur smarter than me so good probs :smilie face:


Me: It’s crazy aye! Last year they were like 1/4 = 25% and this year they’re making us answer 500 word questions!!!!!! not ok!

Persia: PREACHHHH :praying hands: It stinks like our teacher gives us 5 pages each night and it’s so boringggggg 

Me: Same!!!! we have 10 flipping booklets to do! :frustrated face:

Persia: Oml (Initialism) fun fun