Throughout the play Shakespeare uses paradoxes to show the connection between appearance and reality. He writes, “God’s benison go with you and with those/
That would make good of bad and friends of foes.” (2.4.55-56). His paradoxical words convey there is no relationship between one’s appearance and their reality; it is as if reality and appearance are complete opposites. Shakespeare uses character’s deception to prove his theory on appearance and reality.
In the first act of the play it is discovered that the Thane of Cawdor has been a traitor to Scotland. Duncan is deceived by the Thane’s false appearance:
No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive
Our bosom interest. Go, pronounce his present
Death, and with his formal title greet Macbeth. (1.3.73-74)
Once again Duncan makes the mistake of judging by appearance and gives the title to Macbeth. Now Macbeth the next Thane of Cawdor’s appearance will deceive him, which was Macbeth’s intention.
Lady Macbeth instructs him: “Look like th’ innocent flower/but be the serpent under’t.” (1.6.76-77). By using the serpent there is a biblical reference to the deceiving serpent that tricked Eve to eat the apple causing original sin. The serpent did not appear to Eve as being harmful just as Macbeth did not appear to Duncan as harmful, but just as the serpent did Macbeth had a destructive nature that was concealed by his false face and dishonest words. Duncan continues: “There’s no art/To find the mind’s construction in the face.” (1.6.76-77) There was no way that Duncan could have seen through Macbeth’s honorable appearance to his vaulting ambition that would kill anyone for the crown. His appearance deceived his destructive nature.
Shakespeare also uses language of borrowed clothes to convey Macbeth’s unfitness for his title. As the nobles learn of Macbeth’s nature they realize that his title was based on his appearance and not on his reality. To be king one had to be honorable, trustworthy, and good natured which was what Macbeth’s appearance conveyed, but his nature was the exact opposite: ruthless and immoral. The noble Angus replies, “Now does he feel his title/Hang loose upon him, like a giant’s robe/Upon a dwarfish thief.” His title was too great for the absence of greatness that he had. His appearance was deserving of his title, but his reality lacked all the greatness that his appearance carried.
Macbeth’s had a title, an honor, and a life all riding on his appearance. When his reality was discovered he lost all that he had. His appearance deceived all for sometime, but in the end his reality came out. Macbeth’s appearance was paradoixical to his reality. He seemed fair, but in reality was foul natured.
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Appearance vs. Reality The role of deception and the motif of appearance and reality had a large role in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. The motif of appearance and reality is first introduced by Shakespeare early on in the play when Macbeth must cover up for the murder of Duncan. This motif of appearance versus reality, or deception, appears again when Macbeth fools the murderers that killed Banquo. Macbeth tricks the murderer’s into believing it was Banquo’s fault that they led such miserable lives when in reality Banquo had nothing to do with them.
Finally, the reader sees this motif of appearance versus reality appear one last time towards the end of the play when Macbeth believes he is invincible and ends up ignoring one of the witches’ prophecies which ultimately leads to his demise. Throughout Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth has the knack to make others believe in him although he is ultimately lying to them. This can be first seen during the murder of King Duncan and his two servants when Macbeth must disguise the fact that he had committed the crime.
Macbeth initially feared committing a crime such as killing Duncan because he had no reason to do it and feared the consequences. Lady Macbeth, however, sensing the weakness in her husband’s heart gives Macbeth a piece of advice; “False face must hide what the false heart doth know. ” (I. VII. 92). Lady Macbeth tells her husband to deceive everyone into believing that neither he nor his wife had anything to do with the murder of Duncan or his servants. After the crime has been committed, both Lennox and Macduff knock on Macbeth’s door.
At this point Macbeth is feeling extremely guilty. However, Lady Macbeth diverts all attention away from Macbeth by fainting. “Help me hence, ho! ” (II. III. 129) During this brief time span Macbeth manages to collect his thoughts and weasels his way out of a hole by lying about his knowledge involving Duncan’s death. As the play progresses Macbeth uses his ability to deceive people to his advantage. He uses this ability to remove suspicion from himself when he kills his best friend, Banquo.
The motif of appearance versus reality was shown to appear after a murder, but as the play wears on it is possible to see that it also occurs before a murder. An ideal example of this can be seen when Macbeth decides to kill Banquo. Macbeth decides to hire professional murderers to carry out the deed of killing Banquo so that he would not have to get his hands dirty. The murderers, stricken by poverty, lead difficult lives and Macbeth uses this fact to manipulate the murderers into believing his lies.
Macbeth blamed the murderers’ hardships on Banquo even though Banquo had nothing to do with it. “Both of you Know Banquo was your enemy. ” (III. I. 124-125). Using the ability to deceive others, Macbeth managed to trick the foolish murderers into believing Banquo was indeed their enemy. He later arranged for a feast to occur on the same day as the murder so that he could have his name cleared from any list of suspicions. Finally, one can also see the concept of appearance vs. reality when the Weird Sisters foretell their prophecies.
One of the three apparitions that the weird sisters made appear before Macbeth was a child holding a tree. This apparition told Macbeth that he “shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him”(4. 1. 105-107) By saying this, the apparition caused Macbeth to gain great confidence, because if taken literally, it then sounds impossible for Macbeth to die. How can a forest move? Well it can’t. The witches used equivocation to deceive Macbeth into thinking that the whole forest needs to move, but reality only parts of the forest need to move.
An example of this would be when each person in Siward’s army carries one piece of the forest to Dunsinane and unknowingly Siward has completed part of the prophecy. Soon after Macbeth receives word of this, “As I did stand my watch upon the hill, /I looked toward Birnam, and anon methought/ the wood began to move. ” (5. 5. 37-39) Once Macbeth gets word of this, he realizes that what he thought was impossible, has just happened. The second apparition is a bloody child. This apparition tells Macbeth to “Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn/ The power of man, for none of woman born/ Shall harm Macbeth. (4. 1. 90-92) Because of this apparition Macbeth gains copious confidence. Through his eyes, every man is of woman born, for everyone has a mother. The Weird Sisters, being very devious, do not count being born by a caesarian section as “of woman born” (4. 1. 91) This causes Macbeth to get a since of false security. So through Macbeth’s eyes he appears to be very safe. But in reality there is a dark future in store for him. The last of the three apparitions would be the armed head. This apparition says “Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware Macduff! Beware the Thane of Fife! Dismiss me. Enough. ” (4. 1. 81-82) This apparition essentially foretells who will kill Macbeth, sadly after hearing the preceding apparition, Macbeth ignores this warning and makes it seem irrelevant. These apparitions have, through Macbeth’s eyes, been nothing but good news. First he hears he will not die until a forest moves to his castle. Then he hears that he should beware Maduff, but then ignores the warning after he hears that anyone born from a woman cannot kill him. Anyone would have gained confidence after having heard this news.
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However, the Weird Sisters never speak literally, “the witches’ prophesies are intentionally ambiguous” (Lizhi, Ye). So this since of invincibility that Macbeth gets, will later lead to his inevitable yet heroic demise. In conclusion, the concept of appearance vs. reality is found throughout the whole play. This concept of deception is used, but not limited, to Macbeth. Macbeth takes the idea of deception and enhances it to the point of manipulating other people. This not only causes Macbeth to rise to power, but also once he has gained too much confidence, it causes his heroic and inevitable downfall.
Author: Cari Minns
Macbeth Appearance vs Reality
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