Macbeth’s Language


  • David Schalkwyk Queen Mary University of London and University of Warwick



This essay approaches the question of language in Macbeth from the perspective of the recent proliferation of interest in computational analysis. Using the programmes Docuscope, LATtice, and Wordhoard, it examines the LATtice indication that, based on Language Action Types (LATs), Macbeth is, after Troilus and Cressida, linguistically closest to Hamlet and the Wordhoard finding that in Macbeth the pronoun she is used less often than in Shakespeare’s canon. It argues that, despite the apparent similarity of language in the two tragedies, there is a profound difference between the two when one takes into account the poetic qualities of metaphor, rhythm, and the variation of single and multiple-syllabic words. Finally, examining the relative occurrence of the noun “woman” in the play, it argues that, in linguistic terms, the preponderance of uses in the final act in the phrase “of woman born” creates a rhythmical mantra that suggests that the root of evil in the Scottish play lies in the denial of the female.

Author Biography

David Schalkwyk, Queen Mary University of London and University of Warwick

Academic Director, Global ShakespeareSchool of English and DramaQueen Mary University of London