16th May 2017

Exam practice question

How does Shakespeare use language to reinforce his ideas in Macbeth?

IDEA: Brevity of life/ meaninglessness


  • Metaphor, – “out out brief candle”
  • Use of meter –
  • Repetition –
  • Alliteration –

What to have:

  • Connect to question
  • Provide insight
  • Supply examples



Statement: Shakespeare in his tragedy Macbeth is preoccupied with the relationship between humanity and the forces in life beyond our control. Quote ( quote weaving): Macbeth who has just learned of his wife’s untimely death considers his life to be “like a walking shadow”. Relate to the language used:  It is in his use of metaphor, and the interplay between symbols of light and dark, that Shakespeare communicates his idea of the nature of death. More evidence and depth: In his metaphor “a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more”, Shakespeare is comparing our lives to that of an actor on stage, which is characterised as being full of effort and self-obsession, but ultimately transient and unimportant. This serves to underline Macbeth’s own sense of futility as all his plans and machinations have led him here to the point where he is alone, facing almost certain defeat and losing the only person left alive who he loves.


How does Shakespeare use language to reinforce his ideas in Macbeth?

IDEA: Macbeths state of mind


Shakespeare in his tragedy Macbeth illustrates the effects on a person who has committed evil upon a person such as Banquo. In Act 3, Scene 4, Thanes and high powers are sat down at Macbeth’s coronation party when Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo sitting in his chair, this hallucination reflects the deed of evil that Macbeth has commanded (The Murder of Banquo). Macbeth is deeply unsettled by the images he sees before him. As he quotes,

Act 3, Scene 4

Characters: Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Rosse, Lenox, Lords, Ghost of Banquo, Murderer

Location: Forres, a room in the palace

Time: At Macbeth’s coronation party

Events: Macbeth is informed of Banquo’s death although Fleance’s escape concerns him. Macbeth pretends that he is upset Banquo hasn’t come when the ghost of Banquo enters and Macbeth yells that nobody can say he killed him. Lady Macbeth attempts to make up for her husband’s outbursts as the party guests worry he has fallen ill, then tells him off for his “hallucinations.” Banquo leaves and Macbeth attempts to regain his composure and apologises for his outbursts. At this moment Banquo re-appears and again shakes Macbeth up as he tells Banquo to leave. He is full of confusion as he can’t see how the others aren’t as scared of the appearance of Banquo’s ghost as he was; he doesn’t realise that only he can see him. This second round of outbursts causes the thanes to leave as Lady Macbeth sends them away with an explanation that he is simply sick. Macbeth is now concerned that Macduff didn’t attend the party and decides to revisit the witches to learn what is to come. He vows that, as he already has killed two, he won’t stop now if it means he can get what he wants.

Quote #1: “There the grown serpent lies: the worm, that’s fled, hath nature that in time will venom breed, no teeth for the present.” – Macbeth

Banquo is dead but Fleance has the possibility to become dangerous even though he is harmless at present.

Quote #2: “I am in blood. Stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.”

Macbeth compares his situation to crossing a river of blood: he has gone so far that it would be difficult to go back as to continue to the other side.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. This planning looks very strong – and I’m thrilled to see you selecting relevant quotations as you go. Both the structure and your proposed content fills me with confidence in your work.

    I’ll keep a close eye on it as it develops, and do feel free to post any questions you might have on here as a comment.


  2. Hi Fiona,

    Your progress with this piece has been slow – I’m not sure if there’s something happening in the background, or whether you’ve reached an impasse.

    Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to support you



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About Fiona

Born in Christchurch, One of New Zealand's children, dweller of the south island, I enjoy being called Fi, thanks. Spelling needs work. Yep. Nice.