Examples of Diction in Macbeth

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About this sample


Words: 873 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 873|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Body
  2. Conclusion
  3. Bibliography

William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, is known for its powerful and evocative language. Through the skillful use of diction, the playwright creates a vivid and atmospheric world that enhances the themes and motifs of the play. Diction, or the choice and arrangement of words, plays a crucial role in shaping the characters, establishing the tone, and conveying the underlying meaning in Macbeth. This essay will explore several examples of diction in Macbeth, highlighting their significance and impact on the overall narrative.

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One of the most striking examples of diction in Macbeth is the language used by the three witches. From their first appearance in Act 1, Scene 1, the witches' dialogue is filled with dark and foreboding words. They speak in rhymed couplets, which adds to the sense of incantation and mysticism. For instance, in Act 1, Scene 1, the First Witch declares, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (1.1.11). This paradoxical statement immediately sets the tone for the play, suggesting that appearances can be deceiving.

The witches' diction also includes vivid and grotesque imagery. In Act 4, Scene 1, the Second Witch describes the ingredients for her potion, saying, “Eye of newt and toe of frog, / Wool of bat and tongue of dog” (4.1.14-15). This macabre imagery not only reflects the dark nature of their magic but also foreshadows the gruesome events that unfold throughout the play.

The witches' language serves to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and supernaturalism, emphasizing the themes of fate and the corrupting influence of unchecked ambition. Their diction not only characterizes them as sinister figures but also influences Macbeth's own language and actions as the play progresses.

Macbeth's diction undergoes a significant transformation as he becomes consumed by ambition and the pursuit of power. In the early acts, Macbeth is depicted as a noble and valiant warrior, but his language gradually becomes more violent and ruthless as he succumbs to his inner desires.

In Act 1, Scene 7, Macbeth wrestles with his conscience and contemplates the consequences of murdering King Duncan. He expresses his reluctance, saying, “I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself / And falls on th' other” (1.7.25-28). Here, Macbeth's diction reveals his inner turmoil and the conflict between his ambition and his sense of morality.

As the play progresses, Macbeth's language becomes more brutal and devoid of moral considerations. In Act 3, Scene 4, when Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost, he exclaims, “Avaunt! and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee! / Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold” (3.4.95-96). This harsh and dehumanizing language reflects Macbeth's descent into madness and his willingness to eliminate anyone who stands in his way.

The shift in Macbeth's diction illustrates the corrupting influence of power and ambition, emphasizing the destructive nature of unchecked desires. It also serves to highlight the contrast between his initial nobility and his eventual descent into villainy.

Lady Macbeth also employs powerful diction to manipulate Macbeth and further her own ambitions. In Act 1, Scene 5, she receives a letter from Macbeth detailing the witches' prophecies. In her soliloquy, she calls upon the spirits to “unsex” her and fill her with “direst cruelty” (1.5.40-41). Lady Macbeth's diction here reveals her desire to shed her feminine qualities and embrace a more ruthless and determined persona.

Throughout the play, Lady Macbeth's language is marked by its persuasive and coercive nature. In Act 1, Scene 7, she challenges Macbeth's masculinity, saying, “When you durst do it, then you were a man” (1.7.49). This manipulative diction preys on Macbeth's insecurities and pushes him further down the path of violence and betrayal.

However, as the consequences of their actions unfold, Lady Macbeth's diction shifts from commanding and authoritative to filled with guilt and remorse. In Act 5, Scene 1, she sleepwalks and desperately tries to wash imaginary bloodstains from her hands, exclaiming, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” (5.1.26). This fragmented and tormented language exposes Lady Macbeth's deteriorating mental state and her inability to escape the guilt of her actions.

Lady Macbeth's diction showcases the power of manipulation and its consequences. It highlights the destructive effects of ambition and the toll it takes on one's conscience, ultimately leading to a tragic downfall.


The examples of diction in Macbeth demonstrate the significant role language plays in shaping the characters, establishing the tone, and conveying the underlying themes of the play. From the witches' ominous language to Macbeth's transformation from noble warrior to ruthless tyrant, and Lady Macbeth's manipulative discourse, Shakespeare effectively uses diction to enhance the dramatic impact of the play.

The choice and arrangement of words not only provide insight into the characters' thoughts and motivations but also contribute to the overall atmosphere and mood of the play. The diction in Macbeth serves as a powerful tool that engages the audience and deepens their understanding of the tragic events unfolding on stage.

By analyzing the examples of diction in Macbeth, we can gain a deeper appreciation for Shakespeare's mastery of language and his ability to craft a compelling and timeless tragedy. The play serves as a reminder of the enduring power of words and their capacity to shape our actions and destinies.

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Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2015.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Examples of Diction in Macbeth. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Examples of Diction in Macbeth.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Examples of Diction in Macbeth. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Examples of Diction in Macbeth [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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