Macbeth Motifs

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Jasmine Watkins
Mr. Seborowski
British Literature Honors
April 9, 2013

Motifs play a central role in Macbeth as a way to display important actions, scenes, and lines. Motifs are a recurring subject, theme, or idea especially in a literary artistic or musical work. In the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth, the three motifs, appearances vs. reality, blood, and darkness are used in Macbeth to demonstrate repetitive structures, contrasts, and literary devices that aid in the development of the characters and play.

In Act one Scene one of the play Macbeth, appearances vs. reality was the first motif presented. This motif can also be referred to as the theme of deception and hypocrisy; this is because what is fortunate for one character may result in the downfall of another. An example of this recurring theme is in Act one Scene one when the three witches, are introduced chanting in ambiguous equivocations: “Fair is foul and foul is fair/ Hover through the fog and filthy air” (I.i, line 10). This is a perfect example of deception and hypocrisy because what is portrayed as “fair” or good for humans is “foul” or unpleasant for the witches. Another prominent example of appearance vs. reality in Macbeth is the entire scene of Scene five in Act one when Lady Macbeth lures Duncan into her castle. During this scene Lady Macbeth behaves like an “innocent flower while being the serpent underneath” by accepting Duncan into her house happily, making him believe she was a loyal subject to him all-the-while plotting his death. The last example of appearance vs. reality in Macbeth is in Act four Scene three when Malcolm meets Macduff in England, he is initially wary of him. To test his integrity, Malcolm pretends to have very low moral values and pretends to be a womanizer, greedy, and dishonorable; yet it reality, Malcolm is just the opposite.

In Act one Scene two of Macbeth, blood was the second motif presented. Blood is displayed everywhere in the play Macbeth...
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