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Deceptive Appearances in Macbeth Essay

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In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a selfish Scottish thane becomes over-ambitious and commits several murders in order to gain and stay in power. After the murders, Macbeth evades suspicion by hiding his guilt and intentions, therefore deceiving others into thinking that he is innocent. Other characters including Lady Macbeth, the witches and the Scottish thanes also use their appearances to hide the truth and deceive others. With these examples, Shakespeare shows that appearances can be deceiving.

Macbeth uses his appearance to deceive others on several occasions throughout the play. For example, in Act 3, Scene 1, after hearing the witches’ prophecies and becoming the Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth begins to consider murdering the current king of Scotland, Duncan. He says:
My thought, whose murder is but fantastical,
Shakes so my single state of man that function
Is smother’d in surmise, and nothing is,
But what is not (1.3.138-141)

Though he is still with Banquo and the other thanes, this quote shows that Macbeth is already thinking about murdering Duncan. He uses his appearance to cover up his thoughts about killing the king from Banquo, even though he is clearly shaken by the idea. Another example is when Macbeth hides his plan to murder Duncan from the guests at his castle. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth know that Duncan is going to be murdered; however, they both act and appear normal amongst their guests. Macbeth describes how he must behave when he says, “False face hide what the false heart doth know.” (1.7.82). He has to hide his intentions behind a façade in order to appear innocent. He misleads Duncan and his guests into believing that he is still a trustworthy and loyal soldier before he murders the king. After the murd...


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...he king and hide their intentions and guilt from others in order to appear innocent. The witches use their appearances to trick Macbeth by telling him prophecies that appear good, but actually lead to his downfall. Lastly, the Thane of Cawdor, Malcolm and Donaldbain’s appearances hide the truth from others, including Macduff and Duncan. The witches’ statement, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” best describes the idea that appearances can be deceiving (1.1.12). Each character tricks others for different reasons, whether they purposely mislead them or not. Through different characters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, including Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, the witches and the Scottish Thanes; it clearly shows that appearances can be deceiving.


Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1915. Google Books. Web. 3 Sept. 2015.


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