Essay, Research Paper: Macbeth And Lies
Shakespeare's Macbeth is saturated with thought-provoking situations and
enigmas. Many of these enigmas are contradictions or overlapping puzzles.
Equivocations, or things said alongside their opposites, occur often in the
play. The presence of the supernatural also enhances the eluding effect.
Finally, statements made by characters analyzing their own situations often
illustrate the idea of illusion versus actuality. This theme of truth and
reality opposing fallacy and fantasy is a prominent idea in Macbeth. Throughout
the play, especially in the first act, duality and contradiction is commonly
mentioned. Initially, this is seen as the witches speak in the opening scene.
"Fair is foul," they say, "and foul is fair" (I, 1, 12). The
Weird sisters also speak in this manner when they address Banquo. They tell him
he will be "Lesser than Macbeth and greater" (I, 3, 68). Although this
seems perplexing, one later finds that what they say is true; though Banquo does
not become a king he is a better man than Macbeth. In the fourth act, many
things "double." The witches wish upon Macbeth double the pain, and he
wants to be double sure about himself. Another example of equivocation is the
imaginary liar the drunken porter allows into the gates of hell. This further
proves that this eluding form of speech is wicked and deserves punishment. By
saying two separate things together as truth, one is unsure about the validity
of the statement. Another confusing aspect of Macbeth is the reality of the
impossible and supernatural. The witches, whether real or illusion, had an
enormous effect on the lives of the characters. They make Macbeth believe he has
control over his fate, and by doing so they have changed his fate. The
apparitions they bring about also have great impact on Macbeth's plans and state
of mind. These images contradict one another, making him be more concerned with
which statement is true, than the apparitions' own legitimacy. One, an armed
head, cries, "Beware Macduff!/ Beware the Thane of Fife!" (IV, 1,
81-82). The next ghost, a bloody child, tells Macbeth, "Laugh to scorn/The
power of man, for none of woman born/ shall harm Macbeth" (IV, 1, 90-93).
One would be skeptical of these prophecies, because one says to beware Macduff
and another says not to fear anyone. Macbeth, however, continues to put his
trust in them, and this leads to his downfall. The dramatic climax occurs when
Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo sitting at his dinner table. He is the only one
who can see the ghost, and the dinner guests think their host is going crazy.
Certainly, the existence of this ghost, visible only to one man, is
questionable. Through all their trials, the main characters agree that
appearance is often a poor indication of reality. This is seen from the point of
view of both the liars and the deceived. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth say that they
should hide their ambitions from Duncan and the other guests. "False face
must hide what the false heart doth know," says Macbeth at the close of Act
1 (I, 7, 95). Lady Macbeth encourages herself and her husband to pretend to be
peaceful but be offensive and wicked. There is also a lot of mention of clothes,
which cover and loosely hide what is truly underneath. Malcolm, who is cautious
of cover-ups and lies, eloquently says to Macduff, "Though all things foul
would wear the brows of grace/ Yet grace must still look so" (IV, 3,
29-30). This means that everything, even evil things, can appear harmless and
pure. Nothing should be judged only by its visible attributes. The dual nature
of people and situations, confusing the issue of fact and fantasy, is a major
theme illustrated in Macbeth. This is seen first through the equivocations of
the Weird sisters and others. Also, the supernatural beings and occurrences
reinforce the idea. Lastly, characters' notice of the triviality of appearance
further demonstrates the theme. Because Macbeth was too trusting in that which
could not be trusted, he was bound to fall tragically.
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