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In Act one, Scene one, one of the most famous quotes in all of literature is spoken: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair/ Hover through the fog and filth air.” While if interpreted literally, it makes no sense because the words fair and foul are antonyms, the reader (or viewer if the play is being seen) must recognize that this really implies that the appearance of something may not be the actuality.
In Act one, Scene two the Captain speaks the following words: “And Fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling, / Showed like a rebel’s whore. But all’s too weak; For brave Macbeth-well he deserves that name-/ Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished steel, / Which smoked with bloody execution, / like Valor’s minion carved out his passage till he faced the slave.” There are two examples of disparity between appearance and reality here. First, Macdonwald seemed to be favored by fate in his rebellion, but was slain by Macbeth. The second is where Macbeth is described as “Valor’s minion.” Though his actions in defense of Duncan are righteous, his later assassination of Duncan show than Macbeth is not the valorous servant everyone thought he was.
In the next scene, when Macbeth has his first encounter with the witches, he says, “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” He utters these words in reference to the victory he has just achieved over the revolting Macdonwald. The triumph, while beautiful, or fair, was also bloody, or foul. This also marks the beginning of his ascendancy to kingship, which is fair, while it is also the genesis of his fall to the powers of evil.
Later in Act two, Scene three, The first and second witch, respectively, say the following two lines in reference to Banquo: “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.” “Not so happy, yet much happier.” While Banqou is a lower rank than Macbeth, he is the better human, and while Banquo may not be as ecstatic to hear his future, he is the most content with his life.
Maceth then offers these words
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Duncan verbalizes his distress with the duplicity of one of his most trusted thanes by voicing the following words in Act one, Scene four: “There’s no art / to find the mind’s construction in the face. / He was a gentleman on whom I built / An absolute trust.”
This is very ironic, because Duncan is telling this to Macbeth, a person he is making the same mistake with. This shows how even the most trusted, seemingly loyal person, can turn against someone.
Macbeth then furthers Duncans misguided trust by replying “The service and the loyalty I owe, / In doing it, pays itself. Your Highness’ part / Is to receive our duties; and our duties / Are to your throne and state, children and servants, Which do but what they should, by doing every thing / Safe toward your love and honor.” These lines muttered by Macbeth are completely incongruous with Macbeth, as he secretly lusts for the throne that Duncan holds.
In contrast with Macbeth’s above lines, Lady Macbeth offers a more accurate portrayal of Macbeth in Act one, Scene Five: “your face, my thane, is as a book where men / May read strange matters. To beguile the time, / Look like the time; Bear welcome in you’re eye, / Your hand, your tongue. Look like the innocent flower, / But be the serpent under’t.” Here, Macbeth’s dubious loyalty is correctly described. Macbeth uses Duncan’s trust to get close to the king, so he may be murdered.
Duncan’s description of Macbeth’s, found in Act one, Scene six, is also very ironic. Duncan says of it, “This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air / Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself / Unto our gentle senses.” This castle will be the place of Duncan’s untimely death, yet in his ignorance he describes it as “pleasant.”
Duncan goes on to describe Lady Macbeth as his “Fair and noble hostess.” This drips of irony, since it is Lady Macbeth who fully convinces her husband Macbeth to murder Duncan. This is yet another example of contrast between appearance and reality.
Macbeth offers some words about his wife in Act one, Scene seven that more candidly illustrate the type of woman that Lady Macbeth is. “Bring forth men-children only / For thy undaunted mettle should compose / nothing but males.” Although Lady Macbeth is a supposedly gentle, loving, and nurturing girl, this stereotype does not suite her. She, as Macbeth states, could not bear any daughters because of her masculine, cutthroat disposition.
In Act two, Scene one Banquo makes the same error as Duncan in his ascertain of Lady Macbeth. He refers to Lady Macbeth as a “most kind hostess.” This façade is kept by Lady Macbeth only so she may more easily help to slay Dancan.
Later, when Macbeth is asked by Banquo if he still ponders the witches prophecy, Macbeth replies: “I think not of them; / Yet, when we can entreat an hour to serve, / We would spend it in some words upon that business, / If you would grant the time.” This is an outright lie told by Macbeth. Macbeth is infatuated with the thought of becoming king, and dwells on the notion of becoming king. Macbeth only says this so that when Duncan is murdered, Banquo’s suspicion will not fall on his shoulders.
During Macbeth’s dagger soliloquy, he is overcome with a false vision, as the fallowing quotation supports: “Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. / I have thee or, and yet I see the still. / Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible / to feeling as to sight? Or art though but / A dagger of the mind, a false creation, / Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?” The dagger is a hallucination, seen only by Macbeth, and demonstrates the difference in appearance to reality in the play, because Macbeth is seeing only a figment of his imagination due to his conscious.
Macduff says to Lady Macbeth, “O gentle lady, / 'Tis not for you to hear what I can speak; / the repetition, in a woman's ear, / would murder as it fell.” Macduff treats Lady Macbeth as if she is an innocent, naive woman, who can not bear the thought that Duncan has been murdered. As the audience knows, however, she is far from innocent, having been part of the devious plot to murder Duncan.
Later in Act two, Scene three Macbeth offers the following justification for killing the king’s guards: “Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, / Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man. / The expedition on my violent love / Outrun the pauser, reason…Who could refrain, That had a heart to love, and in that heart / courage to make’s love known?” This charade put on by Macbeth is a poor attempt to explain his unreasonable execution of the guards. In actuality, Macbeth killed them so they could not incriminate him. Lady Macbeth, realizing that she must draw attention from Macbeth and his feeble excuse, fakes passing out from hearing the men speak of the stuation. She is no more innocent than Macbeth is, yet leads the other characters in the play to believe that she is shocked.
In Act three, Scene one, as Banquo is about to leave Macbeth says to him, “I wish you’re horses swift and sure of foot; / And so I do commend you to ther backs. / Farewell.” This offering of a safe trip is not meant at all. In fact, he has planned to have Banquo assassinated. The only motivation Macbeth has for saying this to Banquo is to keep the false impression that he is not the one behind Duncan’s murder.
When Macbeth speaks to the murderers who will take Banquo’s life, and convinces them that Banquo is to blame for their imprisonment. He says to them, “In our last conference, passed in probation with you, / How you were borne in hand, how crossed, the instruments, who wrought with them, and all things else that might / to half a soul and to a notion crazed / Say, ‘Thus did Banquo.’” Here, Macbeth deceives the murderers, and tricks them into killing banquo for him, though Banquo was not responsible for anything that Macbeth spoke of.
In Act three, Scene two Lady Macbeth begs of Macbeth, “Come on, / Gentle my lord, sleek o’er your rugged looks; / Be bright and jovial among your guests tonight.” He later would say, “Oh, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!” During the banquet in honor of Banquo, Macbeth tells everyone, “You know your own degrees; sit down.” In doing this, Macbeth tries to act as if he has control over the throne, and ultimately, his life. He makes an attempt, in vain, to mask his plight, but shocks his subjects at a dinner by hallucinating that the ghost of Banquo is present at a feast. Macbeth tried to act “jovial”, but could not, because of the torment his mind was subject to due to the murders.
In Act three, Scene six Lennox speaks to an unspecified Lord. He tries to present himself as a supporter of Macbeth, but also probes the Lord to see if perhaps he is against Macbeth. Lennox does this with suggestive words, and near sarcasm in the following, “It was for Malcom and for Donalbain / To kill their gracious father? Damned fact! / How it did grieve Macbeth! Did he not straight / in pious rage the two delinquents tear, That were the slaves of drink and thralls of sleep? / Was not that nobly done? Aye, and wisely too; / For ‘twould have angered any heart alive / To hear the men deny’t.” Lennox appears to be a Macbeth supporter, but this could also be interpreted sarcastically, which is his intention.
During Macbeths encounter with the witches in Act four, Scene one Macbeth is shown three apparitions, the third of which says, “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until / Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill / Shall come against him.” While Macbeth is led to believe that a forest will attack him, the apparition really speaks of how Macbeths enemies will hide behind cut down trees.
In Act four, Scene two Sirrah asks Lady Macbeth what a traitor is. She responds, “Why, one that swears and lies.” When he asks who should hang them, Lady Macbeth replies, “Why, the honest men.” This is a conflict, because Lady Macbeth is a traitor her self, and hung an honest man.
Lady Macbeth’s conscious takes control over her life in Act five, Scene one. She begins to sleep walk, and the gentlewoman and doctor observe her. The doctor makes the observation, “You see, her eyes are open”, and the gentlewoman replies, “Aye, but their sense is shut.” It seems as though Lady Macbeth has gone completely mad, but in actuality, she is only partially insane. She is being tormented by the burden of having taken a life.
During the last scene in the play, Macbeth faces Macduff in a dual. Macbeth, who has been told that no man born of woman could hurt him, is confident until Macduff offers him these words, “Despair thy charm; / And let the angel whom thou still hast served / tell thee Macduff was from his mother’s womb / Untimely ripped.” Since Macduff was removed from his mother early, he was technically not “born” of a woman. This realization obliterates Macbeth’s spirit, and so he is slain by Macduff.
As it has been shown, there is a tremendously consistent pattern of differences in appearance and reality. These provide the story with twists that could not otherwise have been used, and add a dimension that make Macbeth both unique and brilliant.