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.

One Reply to “Macbeth Language Techniques”

  1. I’m very pleased to see you making observations about particular words and exploring the possible connotations of these words. I would take it further and, as opposed to simply expressing the questions that come to mind, name some of the effects of this use of language.

    “When Shakespeare has Lady Macbeth speak of the valour of her tongue, he is showing that she is using her words in the way a courageous soldier might use his weapon”

    Be as specific as you can about the facts you make reference to. Shakespeare wrote this play during the reign of Elizabeth I, which is why his work fits into the classification of “Elizabethan Theatre”. Elizabethan England is a good classification for the era of society where the rights of women were significantly circumscribed. Then of course there’s the time Macbeth is actually set…

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