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Tone in Macbeth

Tone Examples in Macbeth:

Act I - Scene I

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"Fair is foul, and foul is fair...."   (Act I - Scene I)

Shakespeare establishes a mysterious, chilling tone and conveys one of the main themes of the play: Things are not what they seem, and the witches suggest that perhaps what is good will be bad, and what is bad will be good.

"We are men..."   (Act III - Scene I)

The First Murderer's reply is likely spoken in a grim tone in order to address Macbeth's challenge of their bravery. This line indicates that they are not cowards and are strong and eager enough to seek revenge on Banquo.

"Avaunt, and quit my sight!..."   (Act III - Scene IV)

Upon seeing the ghost again, Macbeth's tone changes drastically as he is roused by anger, yelling at the ghost to go away and leave him be. The effect of this violent tone of voice would have a significant impact on the guests in attendance.

"Her nine farrow; grease that's sweaten..."   (Act IV - Scene I)

While the ingredients that have been added to the cauldron thus far have been grotesque, these additions prior to the spirits rising to answer Macbeth's questions are even more vile: the blood of a sow (pig) that has eaten nine of her young (farrow) and the body fluids from a murderer that have soaked into the wood of the hang-man's gallows (gibbet). Such ingredients help to fully portray the unholy, magical atmosphere of the scene.

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!(25) Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing..."   (Act V - Scene V)

In a play in which ambition and power were the only goals of the main characters, Macbeth realizes that all of his decisions and actions are meaningless: life is a "brief candle" set to go out. Not only does Macbeth realize that life is meaningless, he begins to see his life as ruled by others. This is a take on the Shakespearian trope of "all the world's a stage;" but rather than highlighting the performed nature of identity or love, Macbeth uses this theater metaphor to show that our ambitions and actions are part of a badly scripted performance without meaning. In other words, life, ambition, achievement are all illusions that dissolve in death. This is one of the most famous speeches from this play and it has inspired multiple literary and artistic works, including William Faulkner's 1929 The Sound and The Fury.

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