What a Tangled Web We Weave

Topics: Macbeth, Deception, Duncan I of Scotland Pages: 5 (974 words) Published: December 3, 2005
From the beginning of time man has deceived to avoid consequences and achieve his evil

desires. The first to deceive was the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Since then man has been

caught in the, "tangled web of deception". In the play MACBETH, by William Shakespeare,

deception is used several times and is the cause of death for the tragic hero Macbeth. It is

the medieval time period in Scotland, and witches have gained the trust of Macbeth by telling

him he will be king of Scotland. When Macbeth does become king, he completely relies

on the witches prophecies, and as a result many people get caught up in a web of deceit that leads

to his downfall and death.

The theme of deception is introduced early in the play by the witches when they say,

"Fair is foul, and foul is fair"(1.1.12). What this quote means is that things are not what they

appear. This proves true several times throughout the play, such as when Macbeth and Lady

Macbeth are planning to kill King Duncan. Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth, "Look like the innocent

flower, But be the serpent under't"(1.5. 67-68). What she means is, Macbeth is to appear nice

and friendly to Duncan, but in reality have evil intentions for him. Macbeth echoes what Lady

Macbeth told him when he says, "False face must hide what the false heart doth know"(1.7. 92).

They succeed in deceiving Duncan and as a result he is killed and his murder covered up.

Another example of things not appearing what they seem is when Ross tries to deceive

Macduff. When Ross meets with Macduff and Malcolm in England, he falsely reports that

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Macduff's family is resting peacefully. He later reveals that when he said they were resting

peacefully, he meant it in the sense that they were dead. Ross knew all along they were dead but

he did not want to have to tell Macduff.

Malcolm demonstrates, "foul being fair", when he deceives Macduff. Macduff tried to

get Malcolm to stand with him against Macbeth and to take his rightful throne. Malcolm, fearing

Macduff may be trying to get him into a trap, lies to him telling him that he has an insatiable

lust for women, and would be a worse king than Macbeth. Once Malcolm realizes that Macduff's

intentions were just, he recants what he said about himself and proves to be a noble man by

rising against Macbeth and taking the throne.

Macbeth's last act of deception came after he was king. Having been tormented by the

witches prophesy of Banquo's sons being kings of Scotland, Macbeth plans to kill both Banquo,

and his son Fleance. Macbeth is having a dinner party and he asks Banquo to be there knowing

that Banquo would come and bring Fleance. He sets a trap for them, all the while he is being very

cordial to Banquo, and he speaks well of him to his guests. He tells Lady Macbeth to do the

same, though he did not let her in on the plans for the murder. Macbeth says, "And make our

faces vizards to our hearts, Disguising what they are"(3.2. 37-38). A vizard is a mask, so he was

telling Lady Macbeth to hide her inner feeling and fears by pretending to be happy and to care for


Macbeth was deceived with a false sense of security when he went to the witches to learn

the future. Macbeth knew a great army was being raised against him in England, but he had

absolutely no fear because the witches gave the prophesy, "Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him"(4.1. 101-103). This Page 3 made it sound as if his army was invincible. Since trees can not uproot and move, he thought

there was no way Birnam Wood could ever move to Dunsinane Hill. The prophesy proved

deceptive because Macduff's army cut branches from Birnam and marched them to Dunsinane

Hill, therefore moving the forest. Had Macbeth not been deceived he may have better prepared

himself and his...
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