Macbeth

by

William Shakespeare

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Macbeth: Hyperbole 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Definition of Hyperbole
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which a writer or speaker exaggerates for the sake of emphasis. Hyperbolic statements are usually quite obvious exaggerations intended to emphasize a point... read full definition
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which a writer or speaker exaggerates for the sake of emphasis. Hyperbolic statements are usually quite obvious exaggerations... read full definition
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which a writer or speaker exaggerates for the sake of emphasis. Hyperbolic statements... read full definition
Act 2, scene 2
Explanation and Analysis—Stepp'd In So Far:

At multiple points throughout Macbeth, characters utilize hyperbole in an attempt to describe the intensity of their emotions. Following the death of Duncan in Act 2, Scene 2, for instance, Macbeth uses hyperbole to illustrate the immensity of his guilt:

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash the blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.

Obviously, it would be impossible for the blood on Macbeth's hands to turn all the world's oceans red, but this use of hyperbole shows that Macbeth feels his sin to be so great that not even the power of a mythical sea god can wash it away.

In Act 2, Scene 3, Macduff hyperbolically compares Duncan's murder to the apocalypse:

Up, up, and see
The great doom's image. Malcolm, Banquo,
As from your graves rise up and walk like sprites
To countenance this horror.

Macduff logically knows that doomsday has not actually arrived, but it feels as though it has—Duncan's death is so horrific that the world might as well be ending.

In Act 3, Scene 4, Macbeth makes yet another hyperbolic statement about blood in order to articulate the overwhelming nature of his guilt:

I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.

Similarly, despite trying with all her might in Act 5, Scene 1, Lady Macbeth cannot wash the hallucinatory blood from her hands. As she sleepwalks, she imagines that she can still smell the rancid odor of blood:

Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.

Lady Macbeth is speaking hyperbolically—her hands are, in fact, clean, and even if they were not, the perfume of an entire region could certainly mask the scent. What she means is that no amount of sweet-smelling perfume will ever cover up the stench of her guilt.

Act 2, scene 3
Explanation and Analysis—Stepp'd In So Far:

At multiple points throughout Macbeth, characters utilize hyperbole in an attempt to describe the intensity of their emotions. Following the death of Duncan in Act 2, Scene 2, for instance, Macbeth uses hyperbole to illustrate the immensity of his guilt:

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash the blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.

Obviously, it would be impossible for the blood on Macbeth's hands to turn all the world's oceans red, but this use of hyperbole shows that Macbeth feels his sin to be so great that not even the power of a mythical sea god can wash it away.

In Act 2, Scene 3, Macduff hyperbolically compares Duncan's murder to the apocalypse:

Up, up, and see
The great doom's image. Malcolm, Banquo,
As from your graves rise up and walk like sprites
To countenance this horror.

Macduff logically knows that doomsday has not actually arrived, but it feels as though it has—Duncan's death is so horrific that the world might as well be ending.

In Act 3, Scene 4, Macbeth makes yet another hyperbolic statement about blood in order to articulate the overwhelming nature of his guilt:

I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.

Similarly, despite trying with all her might in Act 5, Scene 1, Lady Macbeth cannot wash the hallucinatory blood from her hands. As she sleepwalks, she imagines that she can still smell the rancid odor of blood:

Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.

Lady Macbeth is speaking hyperbolically—her hands are, in fact, clean, and even if they were not, the perfume of an entire region could certainly mask the scent. What she means is that no amount of sweet-smelling perfume will ever cover up the stench of her guilt.

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Act 5, scene 1
Explanation and Analysis—Stepp'd In So Far:

At multiple points throughout Macbeth, characters utilize hyperbole in an attempt to describe the intensity of their emotions. Following the death of Duncan in Act 2, Scene 2, for instance, Macbeth uses hyperbole to illustrate the immensity of his guilt:

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash the blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.

Obviously, it would be impossible for the blood on Macbeth's hands to turn all the world's oceans red, but this use of hyperbole shows that Macbeth feels his sin to be so great that not even the power of a mythical sea god can wash it away.

In Act 2, Scene 3, Macduff hyperbolically compares Duncan's murder to the apocalypse:

Up, up, and see
The great doom's image. Malcolm, Banquo,
As from your graves rise up and walk like sprites
To countenance this horror.

Macduff logically knows that doomsday has not actually arrived, but it feels as though it has—Duncan's death is so horrific that the world might as well be ending.

In Act 3, Scene 4, Macbeth makes yet another hyperbolic statement about blood in order to articulate the overwhelming nature of his guilt:

I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.

Similarly, despite trying with all her might in Act 5, Scene 1, Lady Macbeth cannot wash the hallucinatory blood from her hands. As she sleepwalks, she imagines that she can still smell the rancid odor of blood:

Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.

Lady Macbeth is speaking hyperbolically—her hands are, in fact, clean, and even if they were not, the perfume of an entire region could certainly mask the scent. What she means is that no amount of sweet-smelling perfume will ever cover up the stench of her guilt.

Unlock with LitCharts A+