In ancient Greek mythology, Pandora opens a forbidden box out of curiosity. When the box is opened, all the evils of the world escape, but what remains is hope. The lesson behind this myth is no matter how evil or unbearable a situation, there is always supposed to be hope. However, in Shakespeare’s work Macbeth, there is no more hope. In 5:5 of Macbeth is portrayed as hopeless and emotionless through Shakespeare’s use of diction and metaphors.
Shakespeare use of diction helps the reader (or listener) feel the emotion of a certain character. In the first stanza Macbeth uses the words “…famine and ague eat them up.” This is a powerful use of words because ‘famine’ is a lack of food, not something that eats. Also, ‘ague’ contains the gross eww sound. Ague holds more grossness and negativity than malaria or the word fever. The word “farced” is used powerfully because the sound of the word is very strong and rough. Macbeth also uses the word farced to relate to the famine reference in the previous line. In the second stanza Macbeth uses diction to reinforce how emotionless he has become. The most powerful line in this stanza is, “To hear a night-shriek, and my fell of hair Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir As life were in’t.” Powerful words are used to say, hair used to stick up on the back of my neck. ‘Night-shriek’ amplifies a yell in the listeners mind, making it shrill and loud. ‘Dismal treatise’ reinforces the ‘night-shriek’ and shows the despair of a possible situation. Lastly Shakespeare shows that Macbeth’s hair used to “rouse and stir” at these sounds, but no longer does. For someone to no longer feel anything, not even a ‘stir’ of hair, shows the lack of emotion and hopelessness Macbeth possesses.
The metaphors in 5:5 of Macbeth illustrate Macbeth’s loss of emotions. In the first stanza Macbeth places his strength on a pedestal by declaring “Our castle’s strength Will laugh a siege to scorn,” In this quote Macbeth predicts the enemies attack will be weak and Macbeth will effortlessly win. [The term siege to scorn once again relates to fair is foul, foul is fair*] In the third stanza many metaphors are used. “And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.” This compares yesterday to a candle that only leads us to death. Life is pointless and we all die in the end.
Macbeth tells life to just go away, “out, out, brief candle.” Macbeth feels life is short and will soon expire. Macbeth feels life is worthless and intangible, “Life’s but a walking shadow.” He once again repeats the short length of life in his metaphor about an actor having one of hour of glory on stage and afterwards having no significance. In his final comment of the third stanza, Macbeth makes life look significant by calling it a tale. He then destroys all positive images of life by saying “…told by an idiot, full of sounds, and fury.” Macbeth no longer appreciates life, has no hope, and realizes death is imminent.
Macbeth is hopeless and heartless in 5:5, and this hopelessness and emotionlessness is clear through certain diction and metaphors. Shakespeare uses Macbeth to explore what a human would be like if he or she did not have hope, a trait that all humans share. It was the one benefit of Pandora opening the forbidden box of evils, hope.
*doesn’t pertain to my topic, but thought it should be included.