The theme of appearance versus reality is very important in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The characters of Duncan, Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth are unable to differentiate between appearance and reality, resulting in tragic consequences. Poor judgment is evidenced by Duncan, who trusts Macbeth too much; Lady Macbeth, who is fooled by the witches; and Macbeth, who is tricked repeatedly by others.
King Duncan trusts Macbeth too much. Macbeth appears as a superhero and faithful to King Duncan. He fights against the traitor Macdonwald, and he helps the king to solve a great problem that wins the war. Duncan trusts Macbeth very much because of Macbeth’s heroic efforts and he gives Macbeth the title “Thane of Cawdor”. In actuality, Macbeth is not as faithful to the king as he appears. He has the ambition to become king after hearing the prophecies from the three witches. After Macbeth returns to his castle, he makes plans with Lady Macbeth to kill Duncan when he comes to visit. As soon as Duncan arrives, he says something very important. Duncan says, “This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air/ Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself/ Unto our gentle senses” (I.vi.1-3). This quote shows that Duncan, like Macbeth, even feels that Macbeth’s place is comfortable for him. Duncan never suspects the trustworthiness of Macbeth and never does anything to guard himself. Macbeth kills Duncan easily. Therefore MacBeth’s appearance deceives Duncan.
Lady Macbeth is tricked by the three witches. When Macbeth gives Lady Macbeth the prophecies from the three witches, Lady Macbeth realizes how terrific it would be for her to be queen once Macbeth becomes the king. Lady Macbeth persuades Macb...
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...did, and she insists that if Macbeth is a man he should kill the king. Lady Macbeth seems to be telling him the right thing to do and Macbeth listens to her. The result is his first major crime, killing the king. Therefore, it appears that Macbeth judges people by their appearance and is led into a tragedy.
The three characters, Duncan, Lady Macbeth, and Macbeth exhibit error in judgment in that they cannot distinguish between appearances and reality. This error of judgment leads them to their respective downfalls. This theme is also very relevant in modern society as politicians and business and religious leaders present one face to the public and another to family and friends.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 1999.
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