Shakespeare is renowned for his language. It may seem difficult, but it is all about cracking the code. Shakespeare’s language is rich in dramatic techniques and literary devices. The type of meter is also important, as it is used as a marker of a character’s social status and state of mind. This means that you will be able to make important analytical points about the play by understanding how each character speaks. 

In the following, we take you through some of the most analyzed aspects of the language in Macbeth.

Note that you can find even more language devices in our Shakespeare topic guide.

Here you can read an extract from our study guide:

Iambic pentameter consists of a line of verse written with a five-beat rhythm where an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable. It echoes the natural sound of English. Each two-syllable unit is called an iamb, or simply a foot.

All upper-class characters speak this way. For instance, Banquo speaks in iambic pentameter when he describes the witches: “The earth has bubbles, as the water has.” (1.3.81). This line consists of five iambs, with the stressed syllable in bold for clarity. Banquo’s use of iambic pentameter reveals his position in the social hierarchy: He is a nobleman.

Most of the scenes in Macbeth are written in iambic pentameter, which shows us that the play’s characters generally belong to the upper class. Note that you will sometimes see characters completing each other’s verse to make up a unit of, say, five feet. Most book versions of the play today indicate this via the placement of lines on the page.

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