Deception is, understandably, a significant theme in the play “Macbeth” as it is a play about evil. We know that if evil is to succeed, it must mask itself under the guise of goodness. It must put on a false appearance. Evil hides within the main protagonists, Macbeth and his wife, who wreak havoc upon others during the course of the play. However, even evil deceives its hosts. For evil to succeed, it must use deception. So, throughout the play “Macbeth” we find the recurring theme of deception.
Early in the play we learn that Duncan has been a victim of deception. He has taken appearance for reality. The first Thane of Cawdor has deceived Duncan. He was a traitor who obviously put on the appearance of loyalty and deceived Duncan’s “bosom interest”. Duncan says “he was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust”. We feel that Duncan will not be easily deceived again when he says “there’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”. But ironically, he is about to be deceived again.
Duncan replaces the Thane of Cawdor, who has just deceived him, with a new Thane, Macbeth, who will deceive him. Duncan heaps praise on Macbeth calling him “noble Macbeth”. He plans to elevate Macbeth further: “I have begun to plant thee and will labour to make thee full of growing”. As Duncan utters these words, Macbeth is already harbouring murderous thoughts of regicide against Duncan: “Stars hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires”.
Lady Macbeth knows instinctively that she and her husband will have to use deception if their evil plans are to succeed. If evil is to succeed, it has to appear to be good. Lady Macbeth tells her husband “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t”. This is the expert of deception who will greet the innocent Duncan on arrival at her castle. As she greets him she plays the role of welcoming hostess.