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Ambiguity and Equivocation in Macbeth

Satisfactory Essays
Ambiguity and Equivocation in Macbeth

Macbeth's voluntary misinterpretation of the ambiguity and

equivocation of the witches relates to the play's theme, which states that

uncontrolled desire for power often leads to irregular or violent actions,

resulting in death and or destruction. After the first of the witches'

prophecies comes true, Macbeth begins to believe in their truth. However,

he also believes that the prophecies must all lead to his enrichment and

empowerment. To that end, he twists the witches' words to fit his own

purposes, ignoring the possibility that the prophecies might have other,

less fortunate meanings. This voluntary misinterpretation, committed in

pursuit of power, leads Macbeth to perform certain actions which result in

the death of the king, Macbeth's friends, and eventually his own death.

From the beginning of the play, Macbeth desires great power. Lady

Macbeth's statement to Macbeth that "When you durst do it, then you were a

man;" (I.vii.55) suggests that she and Macbeth have contemplated and

possibly committed murder for the sake of advancement before. Macbeth

provides further support for this in his reaction to the witches' prophecy

that he will be king. After Macbeth is made Thane of Cawdor, he realizes

that the witches were right, and immediately begins to ponder the other

part of their prophecy. "My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,"

(I.iii.153) he thinks, bringing murder to the front of his mind almost as

soon as the witches are proven right. Later in the play, Macbeth's desire

for power, encouraged by the witches, leads him to kill the king and assume

the throne.

Macbeth and his wife use ambiguity and equivocation themselves in

pursuit of power.

All our service / In every point twice done, and then done

double, / Were poor and single business to contend / Against

those honors deep and broad wherewith / Your Majesty loads

our house. (I.vi.17-21)

With this announcement, Lady Macbeth states that if all she could do in his

service had been done four times over, it still would not do honor to the

king. The ambiguous nature of this statement is that it is true even though

she has not done everything she could. It is true, and so she gains the

king's trust and goodwill through ambiguous honesty even though she plans

to help Macbeth murder him. Macbeth issues a similar statement in the

king's presence; he tells him "I'll be myself the harbinger, and make

joyful the hearing of my wife with your approach;" his statement, like Lady

Macbeth's, is technically true, but bears murderous intent. He will tell
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