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Paul Dean. Murderous Repetition: “Macbeth as Echo Chamber” English Studies 80.3 (1999) : 216-23. Thesis Statement.

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Paul dean

Paul Dean

Murderous Repetition:

“Macbeth as Echo Chamber”

English Studies 80.3 (1999) : 216-23

Thesis statement
Thesis Statement

  • George Walton Williams has shown the importance of verbal echo as a device in Macbeth. Dean further elaborates the significance of the technique of verbal echoes and mirror images in the play so as to exemplify its theme of murder.

Verbal reverberation 1
Verbal Reverberation (1)

  • Macduff’s Speech- echoes to the motif of eschatology and liturgy.

    Awake, Awake!

    Ring the alarum bell! Murder and treason!

    Banquo and Donaldbain! Malcolm, awake.

    Shake off this downy sleep, death’s counterfeit,

    And look on death itself. 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! Ring the Bell . (2.3. 73-80)

Verbal reverberation 2
Verbal Reverberation (2)

  • Macduff:

    ‘O horror, horror, horror!’ (2.3.63)

    ‘O gentle lady,/ Tis not for you to hear what I can

    speak,/ The repetition in a woman’s ear

    Would murder as it fell.’ (2.3.83-6)

  • Macbeth:

    ‘Do not bid me speak:/See and then speak yourselves’


  • Lady Macbeth:

    ‘Speak, speak,’ (2.3.83)

Repetition equivocation
Repetition & Equivocation

  • “repetition of words or phrase is sometimes cited as proof of textual corruption.” So said Paul Dean.

  • “Their gnomic utterance are further reminders that a word does not necessarily mean one fixed thing each time it is used…”

     Weird Sisters are fond of repetition

    I’ll do, and I’ll do and I’ll do. (1.3.10)

    Show me, show me. (1.3.27)

    A drum, a drum (1.3.30)

Echoes to other acts in the play

Act 2.

a. Lady Macbeth:

‘Walk like Sprites’ in her nightgown.

b. Macbeth:

‘perhaps assumed, perhaps sincere-,

Had I but died an hour before this chance.’ (2.3.91-)

c. Macduff

‘ Ring the alarum bell ’

Act 5.

Sleep Walking scene

Lament for the death of his wife: ‘Tomorrow, and tomorrow , and tomorrow…’ (5.5.19)

After seeing the moving of Birman Wood – ‘Ring the alarum bell’ (by Macbeth)

Echoes to other Acts in the Play

A world of word games
A World of Word Games

  • Words turning to each other

    why do you start and seem to fear

    Things that do sound so fair? (1.3.51-2)

    let me enfold thee

    And hold thee to my heart. (1.4.31-2)

  • Balancing of a word against itself

    Point against point, rebellious are ’gainst arm. (1.2.56)

    It will have blood they say: blood will have blood. (3.4.122)

     symmetries point to an underlying pattern, an order waiting to emerge.

Mirror images visual echoes


To the ghost of Banquo:

“Thou hast no

speculation in those eyes/ where thou dost glare with” (3.4.93-4)

(Latin speculum a mirror)

No speculation

the living death of


Eight Kings 

And yet the eighth appears, who bears a glass. (4.1.119)

Images from: parthenon/7781/art.html

Mirror Images=Visual Echoes

Mirror images visual echoes1

Lady Macbeth

Was the hope drunk

Wherein you dressed yourself? Has it slept since?

And wakes it now to look so green and pale

At what it did so freely?


Her reference to Macbeth’s cowardice as like a man with hangover looking at himself in a mirror.

Images from: macbeth_parallel.html

Mirror Images=Visual Echoes

Macbeth s death
Macbeth’s Death

  • Dean suggests that the reason of Macbeth’s despair is that he may be a Calvinist that engenders his inability to kill himself.

  • Shakespeare’s arrangement to have he killed by Macduff is to maintain this mirror image. “When they finally meet, Macbeth faces a man widowed and childless like himself, but in all other respects his antithesis.”


  • The technique of echoes and mirror-stages

    may serve to intensify the sense of claustrophobia, the impossibility, for Macbeth, of avoiding final self-confrontation and self-knowledge. Therefore, Jean Dean’s essay aims to show how, once has begun to think about Macbeth, one keeps on hearing reverberations in the play.