Page 25. Act 1. Scene 5.
Identify two features of language, and explain how Shakespeare used these to convey his idea that Macbeth lacks the ambition to kill king Duncan.
In the text, Macbeth has told his wife, lady Macbeth about how he has been prophesied to be king. Here is a quote about how Lady Macbeth views this: “Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be what art promised.- Yet do I fear thy nature: It is too full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” This is a metaphor for how Lady Macbeth believes Macbeth to be too kind to others, and that he won’t realize the quickest way for him to be king. Because of this fear that Macbeth is too kind, she decides to motivate him herself. The metaphor is written with the “milk of human kindness” being how Macbeth is filled with the kindness and caring of humanity. It also refers to the fear she feels at the idea of him not becoming king soon. And the liquid milk, a thing only babies drink. Which means Lady Macbeth believes that Macbeth isn’t tough enough or strong to do this himself and needs help from someone else.
“That I may pour spirits in thine ear, And chastise with the valour of my tongue” is a metaphor for how Lady Macbeth plans to convince Macbeth on how killing King Duncan is a smart idea. The spirits she plans to pour into his ear are the ideas she is presenting to him; the ideas that the death of King Duncan will lead to only benefits. The valour of her tongue is the power of her speech, and how it will bend Macbeth to her way of thinking.
In both these cases, Shakespeare uses the idea of liquids to present a person’s personality. The first time we see this is with the milk, which is attached to the idea of Macbeth being too weak-minded and kind to do what is needed of him. The second one is the spirits being poured into his ears, which is referring to the ideas being presented to him, like a poison that will infect his mind. Both of these were metaphors, describing the character of Macbeth, and how Lady Macbeth views him.
By the end of the scene, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are leaving to go talk to others, but Lady Macbeth has begun her plan to manipulate Macbeth into killing king Duncan, and to stop him from being so kind towards others. Macbeth disagrees with the plan, but it is already too late as he is too weak-willed to resist his wife for long. He leaves, with the promise that he will come back to the conversation later.