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Betrayal and False Appearances in 'Macbeth'

  • Date Submitted: 04/23/2012 02:53 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 51.9 
  • Words: 640
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William Shakespeare’s, Macbeth widely explores the theme of betrayal, the fear of its occurrence and the effect paranoia has on an individual. The play harbors many mistrusting and deceitful characters, who prove that care should be taken when considering someone’s outward appearance. However, Shakespeare demonstrates that a life of mistrust and paranoia will lead to ones demise, just as much as a life of foolish trust will and that only those who live with a careful balance of both trust and vigilance together will thrive.

From the beginning of the play, Shakespeare demonstrates just how much appearances can deceive. Macbeth is described as a “brave” and “worthy gentlemen”. Even Macbeth initially sees himself as “good” and questions why he would kill Duncan, given his own character. Although his true colors show in the end, Macbeth is known thought of all around Scotland as a good and honest man. It is only when Lady Macbeth encourages him to “act like the innocent flower but be the serpent underneath” that he agrees to put on a “false face”.   Given that Duncan had so recently been betrayed by the Thane of Cawdor, a man that he had “absolute trust” in, one could argue that he was foolish in not being more wary to Macbeth. Both he and his wife offer the most obvious demonstrations of betrayal under a false appearance, and proof to the audience that to blatantly trust an appearance is unwise and irrational.

Although living a wary existence is suggested by Shakespeare, Macbeth also demonstrates how damaging a life consumed by paranoia and fear can be. After the murder of King Duncan, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are both almost immediately struck by fear and an obsession with mistrust, and the audience can see the toll it takes on them psychologically and mentally. Macbeth states that his mind is “full of scorpions” because he fears that Banquo and Fleance will steal his crown, and like Lady Macbeth, is unable to sleep due to “terrible dreams that shake [them]...

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