Theme of Deception/Deceit in Macbeth
Throughout Macbeth things are not always as they seem. Deception in the play is always present, with Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and the three witches being the chief instigators of deception. From the very first scene, the deception within Macbeth’s world is clearly defined. “Fair is foul and foul is fair”, say the witches at the beginning of Macbeth. This language of contradiction that Shakespeare uses adds to the play’s sense of moral confusion and quickly introduces the theme of deception to the audience, by implying that nothing is quite as it seems. Also, the play clearly shows how living a life of deceit will ultimately end in disaster.
Macbeth, evidently led by his wife, but also by his own ambitions, is guilty of deception many times throughout the play. He deceives his comrade Banquo, King Duncan, as well as his public. From the beginning he welcomes Duncan into his home, knowing that he is about to be murdered. After murdering Duncan he then goes on to kill the guards outside Duncan’s chamber to cover up for himself and make it look as though the guards committed the murder.
Lady Macbeth is also one who conveys the theme of deceit in this play. She is very skilled at persuading others, especially her husband, into be She is telling Macbeth to look and act pure, but to be evil inside. ”
However, Macbeth does not heed Banquo’s words of wisdom, and allows the witches to further deceive him with words that have double meanings and misleading messages, such as those spoken about Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane and that “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth”. The three witches portray the theme of deception in a different way.
Banquo suspects their deception and treachery early on in the play, just after Macbeth has received the title of Thane of Cawdor. The deception once foregrounded as an advantageous quality has now led to this self-deception, craziness, and Lady Macbeth’s eventual suicide. She schemes and plans right from the beginning to influence Macbeth to kill Duncan and make himself king.
“To beguile the time
Look like the time, bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower
But be the serpent under’t. They play with Macbeth right from the start by greet him as ‘Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and King hereafter’ knowing Macbeth will go to any lengths to make these prophecies true. Self-deception is the worst kind of deceit, as we can see that the guilt becomes overwhelming, causing insanity. The deceit does take its toll:
“O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!”,
and Macbeth’s conscience is imprisoned by the build up of denial and self-deception. The illusions, such as the ghost of Banquo and the knife, show that like his wife, Macbeth’s own self-deception has sent him crazy. She is finally so caught up in deception that she cannot take the stress any more. Macbeth’s learned evilness and deception also affects him negatively, and the quest to be king is tragic.
Macbeth’s state of mind is also not that of a normal person, as he is trying to go against his nature to convince himself that deception is the only way to be King.
Moral Lessons of Macbeth
"Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't." (Shakespeare 1.5. 64-66) Throughout Shakespeare's Macbeth, things are not always as they seem. Deception in this play is always present, especially with the main characters - Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is the most skilled at persuading others, especially her husband, into believe things that are not true. The above quote, spoken by Lady Macbeth to her husband, shows exactly how manipulative and deceiving she can be. She is telling Macbeth to look and act pure, but to be evil inside. Macbeth, evidently led by his wife, but also by his own ambitions, is likewise guilty of deception. He deceives his best friend Banquo, King Duncan, as well as his...
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