Appearance and Reality in Macbeth
William Shakespeare’s Macbeth displays an interesting use of different themes and motifs. A motif that is used throughout the play is the contrast between appearance and reality. This motif is simultaneously a theme in that the glaring contrast between the appearance and reality in Macbeth is used by Shakespeare to express that one should be careful of this contrast that exists in everyday life.
In the very beginning of the play, the Three Witches allude the audience to this contrast when they say together, “Fair is four, and four is fair. / Hover through the fog and filth air” (1.1.10-11). This serves as a warning to the audience to be aware of how things are not actually as they appear to be.
Macbeth’s actual character gradually contrasts with its initial appearance as the play progresses. In the beginning of the play, he is praised as being a brave and valiant soldier. The positive light that Macbeth is put in causes him to seem as a person of good character. Even after Macbeth kills Duncan, he still appears to have good character because of how passionately he professes his guilt: “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather / The multitudinous seas incarnadine” (2.2.59-61). This appearance slowly diminishes as Macbeth becomes more corrupted with power and murders more people.
Lady Macbeth’s character also gradually changes throughout the play. She initially appears to be a ruthless and shameless person. After reading Macbeth’s letter that tells her of the witches prophesy, her only concern is that Macbeth’s nature is “too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness” (1.5.15). She also shows these qualities while she is convincing Macbeth to go through with their plan to kill Duncan: How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums,
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