Ambiguity & Equivocation in Macbeth

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In William Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, the theme of ambiguity and equivocation stands our quite clearly. The Oxford definition of equivocation is: ‘use of ambiguity to conceal the truth'. Macbeth's voluntary misinterpretation of the ambiguity and equivocation of the witches relates to the play's theme. After the first of the witches' prophecies comes true, Macbeth begins to believe in their truth. However, he also believes that the prophecies must all lead to his enrichment and empowerment. The use of equivocation in Macbeth also incorporates a sub-theme of appearance versus reality and the powers of evil. In the end, he twists the witches' words to fit his own purposes, ignoring the possibility that the prophecies might have other, less fortunate meanings (equivocation). This voluntary misinterpretation, committed in pursuit of power and ambition, leads Macbeth to perform certain actions which result in the death of the king, his own friends, Lady Macbeth's madness and suicide and eventually his own death.

From the beginning of the play, Macbeth desires great power. After he is made Thane of Cawdor after his ‘heroic loyalty to the king and his country', he realizes that the predictions made by the witches were right, "All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane Of Glamis! / All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane Of Cawdor! / All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!" He immediately begins to consider the other part of their prophecy and what is meant by it. "My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical…" Macbeth also contemplates the predictions made about Banquo, "Lesser than Macbeth, and greater. / Not so happy, yet much happier. / Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none." and immediately, his attitude towards his best friend changes as he has become somewhat of a threat to him. This change of attitude shows the effects of the equivocate predictions which are made.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth use ambiguity and equivocation in pursuit of power for...
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