Macbeth and His Downfall
By: Sarah Donahoe
Lady Macbeth: The Cause of Macbeth's Downfall
Literary Devices Used in Macbeth
First, Shakespeare uses dramatic irony when Duncan comes to the Macbeth house to celebrate Macbeth's becoming Thane of Cawdor. Lady Macbeth acted like the token hostess, saying, "Your servants ever have theirs, themselves, and what is theirs in compt, to make their audit at your Highness' pleasure, still to return your own" (Shakespeare Act 1 Scene 6 39). It is ironic that Lady Macbeth is being so nice to Duncan right before she plans to murder him. The witches' prophecy and his wife's encouragement have convinced Macbeth to kill Duncan, and they have decided to do it that night. The dramatic irony is significant to the story because it demonstrates how two-faced the Macbeths are and that they cannot be trusted.
Second, in the beginning of the play, Shakespeare uses a paradox that ends up being a common theme for the story. While the witches are discussing upcoming events, they all speak in unison, saying "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" (Shakespeare Act 1 Scene 1 7). This paradox explains all of Macbeth's actions. Murdering Duncan, the "foul" he committed, was seen in his eyes as just, or "fair". Because of the witches' prophecy and his wife's persuading argument, Macbeth's judgment is warped into thinking that he deserves the throne, that murder is the only logical solution. This lack of conscience will lead him towards further evil.
Finally, Shakespeare uses the bloody daggers used to kill Duncan to symbolize how Macbeth and Lady Macbeth deal with the evil murder. After killing the king, Macbeth is filled with fear, shock, and grief, hardly able to think. Lady Macbeth however, is hardly dazed and frames the servants by putting the bloody daggers with them. While insulting Macbeth for being a coward, Lady Macbeth says, "Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures. 'Tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil. If he do bleed, I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt" (Shakespeare Act 2 Scene 2 57). She is able to think properly around all the blood, while Macbeth is struggling to keep his composure. This use of symbolism is very significant to the play because the idea that Lady Macbeth is the true evil mind behind all of Macbeth's murder is reoccurring.