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Macbeth Essay Appearance Versus Reality

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, appearance vs reality is a theme that is seen throughout the play.

Macbeth is respected by everyone, but Macbeth only seems honorable; at heart he is a man who will do anything to be king. He hides his intent from Duncan with fine words, while he is planning his murder. Macbeth says:

False face must hide what the false heart doth know. (I.vii.93)

Appearance vs reality is also seen in the beginning of the play when the witches introduce the quotation, "fair is foul, and foul is fair," or what seems good is really bad—Macbeth; and what seems bad is really good—Malcolm flees Scotland when his father dies and looks guilty, but he is only trying to protect himself.

When the witches deliver their predictions to Macbeth, he sees only the possibility of being king, and loses sight of the true nature of the witches: they are evil, even if they seem to bring good tidings. Lady Macbeth welcomes Duncan with all due respect, but she, too, is hoping to kill him so she can be queen.

Macbeth reminds Banquo about the banquet—"hoping" he'll come, but he is already planning not only Banquo's death, but that of his son, Fleance, as well. Macbeth convinces the murderers that Banquo is to blame for the bad fortune they have recently experienced—that it wasn't Macbeth as they men had believed. He says:

That it was [Banquo], in the times past, which held you
So under fortune, which you thought had been
Our innocent self? (III.i.81-84)

Banquo is not the cause; Macbeth says it to turn the men against Banquo.

The witches' second set of predictions promise Macbeth a long reign. They tell half-truths to give him a "false sense of security." Though the first prediction is true ("Beware Macduff"), the other two predictions make Macbeth believe he can't be killed. The appearance of the predictions lures him, and the reality behind them destroys Macbeth.

When Macduff meets with Malcolm in England, Malcolm believes that Macduff is working for Macbeth; in that Macduff has left his family alone, and they have been safe from Macbeth, causes Malcolm to be suspicious of Macduff. The truth is that Macduff has come to ask for for Malcolm's help to defeat Macbeth.

During this same scene, Malcolm tests Macduff by saying that if Malcolm ever becomes king, he will bring more evil to Scotland than Macbeth. He says he is lustful and greedy, but Macduff believes there are more than enough women to satisfy Malcolm, and enough wealth as well. However, when Malcolm says that all he wants to do is destroy Scotland, causing war and discord, Macduff starts to mourn Scotland's imminent destruction.

These evils thou repeat'st upon thyself
Have banish'd me from Scotland. (IV.iii.126-127)

In reality, none of this is true. When Malcolm knows that Macduff cares so much for Scotland, he is sure he can trust Macduff.

At the play's end, appearance vs reality is found in what the witches have told Macbeth regarding his future success, and the actual manner in which the predictions come to pass. Because all men have mothers, Macbeth is sure he is in no danger—but Macduff was a C-section baby; and Birnam wood cannot actually move to Dunsinane hill, but it appears that way. He knows the witches have lied:

And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense,
That keep the word of promise to our ear,
And break it to our hope. The predictions which bring Macbeth great comfort actually lead him to his death. (V.viii.23-26)

Macbeth: Appearance vs Reality

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Macbeth: Appearance vs Reality




        The way people act on the outside and who they really are on the inside

may be two totally different things.  Some may change because they feel they

don't fit in. Others pretend to be something they truly aren't.  No matter which

way you look at it, if you try to act like someone your not, the truth will

always appear in the end.  That is exactly what happened in William

Shakespeare's play, MacBeth.  Banquo, MacBeth, and Lady MacBeth each project an

image, but as time passes. The realities of their true personalities begin to



        As an honorable man, Banqou tends to hold back his true feelings in

order not to offend others around him.  At one point in the play, Banqou and

MacBeth find themselves in the presence of three weird sisters who make three

absurd predictions.  MacBeth leans toward believing them while Banqou says, "And

oftentimes, to win us to do our harm, the instruments of darkness tells us

truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray's in deepest consequence". (Act I,

Scene 3)  A thoughtful yet skeptical Banquo speaks his words here very carefully

to MacBeth in order to remain honorable.  He doesn't want to come right out and

tell MacBeth to be cautious in his actions, so he tries to soften his words so

that MacBeth might contemplate his future movements.  However, MacBeth does not

take heed of Banquo's warnings. Because of the witch's predictions and his

impatience, MacBeth kills in order to get what he expects is coming to him.

When Banquo takes time to contemplate what has been going on, he turns his

thoughts to MacBeth.  He expresses his feelings about the situation in Act II,

Scene 1.  Banqou feels that MacBeth might have something to do with the murders,

but he never stands up for his thoughts or listens to his conscience until

MacBeth comes to him one day.  When MacBeth asks to talk privately to Banquo,

Banquo states; " So I lose none in seeking to augment it, but still keep my

bosom franchised and allegiances clear, I shall be counseled."  (Act III, Scene

1)  Banquo means that he will talk to MacBeth, just as long as MacBeth knows

that he is loyal to the King.  This is the only time that Banquo sets his foot

down against others to stand up for his morals.


        Just like Banquo, MacBeth's appearance differs from his true self.

MacBeth portrays himself to be strong and wise, but inside he is truly weak.

When he first faces the witch's predictions, he says; " Come what come may, time

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Appearance Vs Reality         Macbeth         Way People         Honorable Man         True Feelings         Weird Sisters         Predictions         Banquo        

and the hour runs through the roughest day."  (Act I, Scene 3)  Basically he

says that any good fortune that may come to him in the future, will come on it's

own.  He wants to appear collected, strong, and noble, but in the end, he

completely contradicts his statement by greedily killing men to get what he

expects is his for the taking.  This shows his extreme weakness because he

believes what three weird strangers tell him.  Not only is he weak with the

three weird sisters, but he is also weak with his wife.  MacBeth goes to his

wife right after he planned to kill Duncan, and proclaims; "If we should fail?"

in order to receive some reassurance from his beloved wife.  He turned to his

wife for strength and she replies; "We, Fail!"  Even though his actions appear

strong, his reasons are very weak.  The largest portrayal of MacBeth's

feebleness comes when Banquo's ghost appears before MacBeth's eyes.  "Hence,

horrible shadow!  Unreal mockery, hence!", MacBeth exclaims as he sees Banquo's

ghost.  Why would a King be afraid of shadows?  A very weak man, MacBeth

crumbles under pressure and guilt.


        Just like her husband, Lady MacBeth paints herself as a very potent

woman. But the murders and guilt beat at her conscience until she too crumbles.

At one point in the play, Lady MacBeth says, I have given suck and no how

tender tis to love the babe that milks me; I would, while it was smiling in my

face, have plucked the nipple from his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out,

had I so sworn as you have done to this. (Act I, Scene 7) The latter shows

that Lady MacBeth appears strong and heartless in her actions toward others.

Even when her husband stands before her having a nervous breakdown in the

banquet scene, instead of trying to help, she orders her poor delirious husband

to bed so that he won't create a scene.  In both of the above cases, her husband

turns to her for help, but she speaks harsh words to him to keep her appearance

strong.  However, she is not strong at all.  The whole time she was acting

strong, her insides were tearing apart at the seams.  One night a gentlewoman

comes to a good doctor for help about her mistress.  Lady MacBeth had been sleep

walking for the last few nights; mumbling words and pretending to wash her hands

from a translucent blood that she feels is lingering on her hands.  The good

doctor says she is not physically ill, but mentally ill.  The whole time Lady

MacBeth had put up a defense to appear potent, but in reality, she is just as

weak as her husband is.


        Banquo, MacBeth, and Lady MacBeth all paint a vivid picture of their

personalities on the outside; but as proven, they are totally different people

on the inside.  No matter what, reality will conquer appearance.  Whether it is

slow like MacBeth and Banquo's change; or whether it is abrupt like Lady

MacBeth's, the truth will emerge in the end.



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