Literary Features

When studying and analyzing  any literary text, it is important that you know and understand the literary features used in the composition and construction of the text.

The three witches from Macbeth.

The term “literary feature” refers to a range of techniques at an author’s disposal when constructing their work. Depending on the type of literature, the features may differ. For instance, setting and characterisation are important features of novels and plays, but less so in poems. Poetry on the other hand, utilizes rhyme and meter more than other works of literature.

In Macbeth, we will focus on:

  • Themes (e.g. Guilt; Gender roles and expectation in society)
  • Conflict (internal and external)
  • Setting (Scotland in the 11th century)
  • Characterization (e.g. Lady Macbeth and the question of gender roles)
  • Structure (e.g. the changing relationship of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth; events happening off-stage)
  • Symbolism (e.g. blood, dagger)
  • Dramatic Features (e.g. dramatic irony; antithesis; soliloquies; allusion;)
  • Language (e.g.  imagery, meter, iambic pentameter, figurative language)

Below you can read a few of the key questions we will be addressing as we analyse Macbeth. It is important that you can connect these questions to the central themes of the play as well.

  • How does Shakespeare reveal the internal conflicts that tear at his characters?
  • How and why does the relationship of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth change throughout the play?
  • How is the setting of Macbeth important to the play’s ideas? Can it be adapted to other settings while still conveying the same ideas?
  • How and why does Shakespeare use devices such as dramatic irony, antithesis, imagery and figurative language?
  • What role does symbolism have in the play?
  • How and why does Shakespeare establish and break metrical patterns in dialogue and soliloquies?
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