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"barren scepter"
Metaphor
Act 3,
Scene 1
Lines 58-62

An explanation of the “barren scepter” metaphor in Act 3, Scene 1 of myShakespeare’s Macbeth.

Macbeth

They hailed him father to a line of kings.
Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown,
And put a barren scepter in my gripe,
Thence to be wrenched with an unlineal hand,
No son of mine succeeding. If 't be so,

A scepter, or an ornamented staff, is symbol of throne. In this metaphor, Macbeth notes that the witches handed him a scepter, so to speak, by prophesying that he would become king. But the scepter is barren, or infertile, because they also predicted that he will not have male heirs, and thus the scepter—and the kingship—will then pass to some unrelated person.