Speech: “Is this a dagger which I see before me

Speech: “Is this a dagger which I see before me

by William Shakespeare

(from Macbeth, spoken by Macbeth)

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools o’ the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes. Now o’er the one halfworld
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain’d sleep; witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate’s offerings, and wither’d murder,
Alarum’d by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.
[a bell rings]
I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

Summary of Speech: “Is this a dagger which I see before me

  • Popularity of “Speech: “Is this a dagger which I see before me”: It a famous soliloquy from Macbeth written by William Shakespeare, a great English poet and writer. The speech, “Is this a dagger which I see before me” is about the supernatural in Macbeth’s life. It was originally published in 1623. The poem speaks about the mental and emotional condition of Macbeth before murdering King Duncan. It also illustrates how his lust and greed dragged him to the brink of insanity.
  • “Is this a dagger which I see before me” As a Representative of Evil: This excerpt is an expression of wonder. Macbeth sees a dagger floating in the air with its handle toward him. At first, he thinks if it’s a real one or his guilty conscience had envisioned it. After some time, he notices that the dagger has some blood on it. As soon as he sees the blood, he realizes that he is going to use this instrument to kill Duncan. He then comments on the wickedness of the world and the darkness he sees around. Unfortunately, his thoughts are disturbed by the ringing of bells that invites him to the horrible ground he has prepared for the heinous crime. Thus, comes out of his dream-like state and goes off to accomplish his mission. What, however, stays in the minds of the reader is the way he reflects the evil nature of mankind.
  • Major Themes in “Is this a dagger which I see before me”: Evil, insanity, and supernatural elements are the major themes underlined in this passage. Throughout the passage, Shakespeare reflects upon the wickedness and dark side of human nature. The main character of the play is a weak man who is deprived of peace of mind through hallucinations, prophecies, and terrifying dreams that led him to chaos and murder. The dagger represents his evil instinct, while the blood on the dagger shows his guilt and remorse: he feels guilty even before committing the crime. While talking about the dark nature, he alludes to the darkness of his own heart. Shakespeare wants to convey the idea that when you take one step toward evil deeds, the path ultimately drags to the hell.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Speech: “Is this a dagger which I see before me”

Literary devices are tools that allow writers to choose their words and create their style while keeping the meanings intact. In fact, with the help of these devices writers convey their ideas, feelings and emotions to the readers. Shakespeare has also employed some literary devices in this excerpt to show the wickedness of the soul. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been discussed below

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same lines of poetry. For example, the sound of /ee/ in “I see thee yet, in form as palpable” and /o/ sound in “Which was not so before”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of the same consonant sounds in the same lines of poetry. For example, the sound of /m/ in “Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going;” and /h/ sound in “Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.”
  3. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

“I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Is this a dagger which I see before me”, “With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design” and “And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood.”
  2. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. Here “dagger” is the symbol of crime and death.
  3. Simile: A simile is a figure of speech used to compare something with something else to make the meaning clear to the readers. For example, the dagger is also compared to a ghost in, “Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth.”
  4. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a question that is not asked in order to receive an answer; it is just posed to make the point clear. For example, “The handle toward my hand?” and “To feeling as to sight?”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Speech: “Is this a dagger which I see before me”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are two stanzas in this poem with each having a different number of verses.
  2. Rhyme Scheme: The whole poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme.
  3. Trochee: Trochee means there is a one stressed and one stressed syllable in a line.
  4. Stressed and Unstressed Syllables: These two types of syllables are used in trochee such as the first is stressed and the second is an unstressed syllable in Speech: “Is this a dagger which I see before me” and this pattern continues throughout the poem.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful while talking about the cunning nature of mankind.

It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes.”