Macbeth Close Reading Excercise

Macbeth Close Reading Exercise – Act 1 Scene 5

Identify two features of Language and explain how Shakespeare used these to convey his idea that Macbeth lacks the ambition required to kill King Duncan.

Shakespeare used languages features to convey his idea that Macbeth lacks the ambition required to kill king Duncan. He used the character of Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s wife to predominantly portray this, she knows or is shown to know Macbeth, she knows whether he has the ambition to kill King Duncan. “It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” It’s a metaphor stated by Lady Macbeth that is comparing Macbeth to milk. Qualities of milk are that it’s white, pale, smooth, soft and it is something that provides nutrition to babies. These qualities are portrayed to be Macbeth’s as well, showing that he’s soft – he can’t hurt a fly, smooth and of baby nature not able to do much without the help of those stronger. These are qualities which are the complete opposite to what Macbeth would need to have enough ambition to kill the King. “Art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it.” This also aids the idea that Macbeth lacks ambition, this quote states that Macbeth does have ambition but he doesn’t have the mean streak to be able to have enough to do this dead of killing the King. Using the word “illness” as a symbol of having a mean streak where he doesn’t care about anyone but himself, where he would easily kill the king without a second thought about the consequences of his actions. These things show how Macbeth has ambition but he doesn’t have the personality that goes with doing bad things because of ambition, he’s too kind and thinks about others.




  • Identify a language feature – Metaphor
  • Quote – “Milk of human kindness.”
  • Explain how feature communicates the idea – compares Macbeth conferring qualities of milk : pure, soft, nurturing, sustenance.
  • 2nd Quote – Metaphor – “That i may pour my spirits in thine ear.”

Respond now!