Examples of Hyperbole in Macbeth

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About this sample


Words: 840 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 840|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Macbeth's Ambition: The Hyperbolic Drive
  2. The Hyperbolic Power of Guilt
  3. Hyperbolic Fears: The Seeds of Paranoia
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

William Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth, is filled with dramatic language and powerful imagery that captivates readers and audiences alike. Throughout the play, Shakespeare employs various literary devices to emphasize the characters' emotions and heighten the intensity of the plot. One such device is hyperbole, a figure of speech that involves exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. In Macbeth, hyperbole is used to emphasize the characters' ambitions, fears, and guilt, ultimately contributing to the play's tragic atmosphere.

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Macbeth's Ambition: The Hyperbolic Drive

From the very beginning, Macbeth's ambition is portrayed through hyperbolic language, highlighting his relentless desire for power. In Act 1, Scene 3, after the witches prophesy that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and eventually the King of Scotland, he exclaims, "Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor: The greatest is behind" (1.3.116-117). This hyperbolic statement suggests that becoming Thane of Cawdor is already a significant achievement, but Macbeth believes that his ambitions extend far beyond that. He portrays his hunger for power as insatiable, creating a sense of foreboding and setting the stage for his tragic downfall.

Furthermore, Lady Macbeth's hyperbolic language is equally influential in driving Macbeth's ambition. In Act 1, Scene 5, she receives a letter from her husband detailing the witches' prophecies. In her soliloquy, she states, "Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty" (1.5.38-41). Lady Macbeth's hyperbolic request to be "unsexed" and filled with "direst cruelty" conveys her willingness to go to extreme lengths to achieve her and her husband's ambitions. This hyperbolic language not only emphasizes her determination but also foreshadows the extent to which she will manipulate Macbeth and drive his actions.

The Hyperbolic Power of Guilt

As the play progresses, hyperbole is used to depict the characters' overwhelming guilt and its devastating effects. After Macbeth murders Duncan, he is consumed by guilt, and his conscience torments him with hyperbolic visions. In Act 2, Scene 2, he exclaims, "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?" (2.2.78-79). This hyperbolic statement emphasizes Macbeth's belief that his guilt is so immense that not even the vastness of the ocean can cleanse it. The hyperbole amplifies the magnitude of his guilt and the impossibility of escaping its consequences, contributing to the play's tragic atmosphere.

Lady Macbeth also experiences overwhelming guilt, which manifests in her sleepwalking and her constant attempts to wash her hands clean. In Act 5, Scene 1, she exclaims, "Out, damned spot! Out, I say!... What, will these hands ne'er be clean?" (5.1.30-37). These hyperbolic statements express Lady Macbeth's desperation to rid herself of the guilt she feels. The repetition of the word "out" and the exclamation mark accentuate her mental anguish and the impossibility of erasing her guilty conscience. Through hyperbole, Shakespeare highlights the characters' guilt as an inescapable burden, underscoring the tragic consequences of their actions.

Hyperbolic Fears: The Seeds of Paranoia

Hyperbole is also employed in Macbeth to depict the characters' escalating fears and the growing sense of paranoia. After Banquo's murder, Macbeth becomes increasingly paranoid about his own safety and the threat of others discovering his crimes. In Act 3, Scene 4, Macbeth exclaims, "There's not a one of them but in his house / I keep a servant fee'd" (3.4.139-140). This hyperbolic statement reveals Macbeth's extreme mistrust of everyone around him. By exaggerating the extent to which he monitors others, Macbeth portrays himself as a formidable and fearful figure, highlighting the depths of his paranoia.

In addition, Lady Macbeth's hyperbolic fears are evident in her sleepwalking scene. In Act 5, Scene 1, she exclaims, "Yet here's a spot... What's done cannot be undone" (5.1.52-71). These hyperbolic statements demonstrate Lady Macbeth's fear of being exposed and her inability to escape the consequences of her actions. The repetition of the phrase "What's done cannot be undone" emphasizes her sense of helplessness, further intensifying her fears. Through hyperbole, Shakespeare effectively conveys the characters' growing paranoia and the psychological toll it takes on them.


In Macbeth, hyperbole is used to accentuate the characters' ambitions, fears, and guilt, contributing to the play's tragic atmosphere. Through exaggerated statements and claims, Shakespeare emphasizes the characters' relentless pursuit of power, the overwhelming burden of guilt, and the escalating sense of paranoia. By utilizing hyperbole, Shakespeare creates a heightened sense of drama and intensity, allowing readers and audiences to fully immerse themselves in the characters' emotional turmoil. Macbeth serves as a powerful reminder of the destructive consequences that can arise from unchecked ambition, guilt, and fear.

Overall, hyperbole in Macbeth serves as a testament to Shakespeare's mastery of language and his ability to evoke profound emotions through the use of literary devices. Through the characters' hyperbolic expressions, the play explores the depths of human ambition, the weight of guilt, and the destructive power of paranoia. By incorporating hyperbole into the text, Shakespeare not only engages the reader but also underscores the universal themes and timeless relevance of Macbeth.

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Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, 1992.

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Examples of Hyperbole in Macbeth. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Examples of Hyperbole in Macbeth.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
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