Intro paragraph: In a riveting play laden with the supernatural, nothing is as it outwardly appears to the naked eye. Tension, mystery, dread and ambiguity pervade the drama. Using the theme of appearance vs reality, Shakespeare delves deep into the darker side of humanity and the inner plotting/scheming of the human mind.
1) Witches: the witches set the scene for confusion and illusion in the play. They successfully manage to mislead, cheat and incite evil throughout Scotland via deliberately ambiguous and misleading language. Even their physical appearance is contradictory and perturbing.
Fair is foul and foul is fair
Lesser than Macbeth and greater
You should be women and yet your beards forbid me to interpret
Look not like the inhabitants of the wart yet are on’t
(Last 2 are both Banquo)
This supernatural soliciting cannot be be ill, cannot be good
2) Duncan’s naive and misplaced trust shows that none can be believed or truly relied upon. The dramatic irony between himself and Macbeth as well as his dismissal of Donalbain’s advice are key.
There’s no art to find the minds construction in the face
There’s daggers in men’s smiles
More is thy due then all can pay
(Duncan to Macbeth)
Black and deep desires
3) Lady Macbeth is the foremost example and epitome of deceit and false appearances. Inwardly she is consumed with a lust for power but outwardly maintains a masquerade of a loving and subservient wife.
Fill me from the crown to the toe top full of direst cruelty
Take my milk for gall you murdering ministers
Too full o’ the milk of human kindness
Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under’t
My keen knife not see the wound it makes
4) Macbeth fools Duncan and carries out his coup against him. In the aftermath of the murder he abandons his once dearly held principles and lies to the assembly. Maintains his reputation while secretly corrupted by his own delusions of grandeur by building up a masquerade of selfless devotion and martyrdom.
Is this a dagger I see before me?
(Supernatural helps Macbeth to carry out the murder)
I do repent me of my fury that I did kill them (the two guards he framed for the murder)
Had I but died an hour before this chance I had lived a blessed time
5) Banquo is the most subtle example of appearance vs reality. He successfully hides his ambition. Unlike the others his mask is never unveiled due to his untimely demise at the hands of Macbeth.
Too cruel anywhere (the murder)
Bosom franchised and allegiance clear
I fight of treasonous malice
I fear thou playd’st most foully for it
May they not be my oracles as well?
But hush! No more.
6) Even the forces of good who oppose Macbeth are drawn into deception and appearance vs reality. The princes are falsely accused if Duncan’s murder. Malcolm is forced to lie to Macduff to test his loyalty and convictions. Very important paragraph, most people will overlook it.
Stolen away and fled which puts upon them suspicion of the deed
His flight was madness
(Macduff’s wife scorns his exile)
A good and virtuous nature may recoil under an imperial charge
Confound unity on earth
My more having will be as a sauce to make me hunger more
7) Macbeth himself is undone by his association with the witches. The equivocation of the witches give him a false sense of security and superiority which ultimately makes him very vulnerable to being overthrown.
Macbeth shall never be vanquished
Great Birnam wood
Shall come against him
None of woman born shall harm Macbeth
Damned all the trust them
I cannot taint with fear