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"Life's but a walking shadow..."
Act 5,
Scene 5
Lines 19-28

An explanation of Macbeth’s speech in Act 5, Scene 5 of myShakespeare’s Macbeth.


Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

In this pivotal speech, Macbeth uses theater imagery to metaphorically compare life to a play on stage. To put his words another way, life is like a story told by some insignificant actor, who rants and rages on the stage for an hour, then never to be heard from again—a story, seemingly full of passion and action, that ultimately is meaningless.