Macbeth's Ultimate Sin

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Macbeth is a play about subterfuge and trickery. Macbeth, his wife, and the three Weird Sisters are linked in their mutual refusal to come out and say things directly. Instead, they rely on implications, riddles, and ambiguity to evade the truth. Macbeth’s ability to manipulate his language and his public image to hide his foul crimes makes him a very modern-seeming politician. As Bernard McElroy says in his literary criticism about Macbeth, “ When confronted with the possibility of committing a daring through criminal act, he willfully deceives himself for a short time and embraces an opposite view of the world...in the aftermath he’s committed to a world-view he does not believe.” Macbeth tricks himself into believing it is fine killing the king so he will become king himself, by what the Witches said to him. However, his inability to see past the witches’ equivocations, even as he utilizes the practice himself, ultimately leads to his downfall. At times equivocations in Macbeth are meant kindly, as when Ross tries to spare Macduff’s feelings by telling him that his wife and son are well when he replies, “They were well at peace when I did leave ‘em”(IV.iii.208). Macduff initially takes this to mean that his family is alive and healthy, but ross means that they are dead and in heaven. More often than not, though, such ambiguous statements lead to harm. The witches’ deceptive prophecies are perhaps the most destructive instances of equivocation. An apparition appears telling Macbeth, “Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn/ The power of man, for none of woman born/ Shall harm Macbeth,” but the apparition and the witches neglect to tell him that Macduff was surgically removed from his mother’s womb and therefore doesn’t fall into that category(IV.i.90-92). Similarly, they tell Macbeth with a third apparition, “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until/ Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill/ Shall come against him,” but again they don’t alert him to...
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