Literary and dramatic devices

Soliloquy and aside

Since there is no narrator in a play, other literary or dramatic techniques must be used to show the characters’ feelings and thoughts in Macbeth. Two dramatic devices - soliloquy and aside - are particularly useful for showing inner characteristics.

A soliloquy is a lengthy speech meant to be heard by the audience and typically spoken when the character is alone on stage. One example is Macbeth‘s soliloquy in Act 1, Scene 7 when Macbeth is logically outlining the pros and cons of killing King Duncan (1.7.1-28). So far, we have mainly seen him as the brave warrior and loyal subject. Now, being alone, he reveals his motives and moral scruples to us: Macbeth needs to kill Duncan to become king himself but fears the consequences.

However, before this point, Macbeth has allowed us a glimpse into his feelings and thoughts via another device: the aside. An aside is a brief remark meant to be heard by the audience but not by the other characters. In Act 1, Scene 3, the witches’ prophecy kick-starts Macbeth’s thought process, which Shakespeare shows us by having Macbeth suddenly speak five asides in that scene. When Macbeth exclaims, “Glamis, and thane of Cawdor!/ The greatest is behind” (1.3.123-124) in his first aside, it tells us that he immediately believes in the prophecies (unlike the sceptical Banquo) and expects to become king soon.

Other examples of so...

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