Macbeth- Appearance vs Reality
‘How does Shakespeare utilize the idea of deception in his play, Macbeth?
Talk about the subject by referring to character, supernatural components, locations and things not being what they appear
William Shakespeare was an extremely famous playwright and actor who lived over 100 years ago and wrote the lots of plays including Macbeth. The play Macbeth is a catastrophe, which was composed in the 16th century by Shakespeare. In this play the main character, called Macbeth is an extremely brave and courageous male whose growing ambition and bad luck takes over his life and leads him to become very evil and threatening.
In Macbeth, Shakespeare has utilized the concept of deceptiveness to establish his style of play writing and to make it more intriguing to the audience. There are a number of methods which he has done this, and I will be concentrating on these to explain how he has done this and what sort of an affect it has on people.
Throughout the play there is a tense atmosphere that builds on as it goes along and makes the audience more attracted to it.
Shakespeare uses the concept of deception to produce a lot of unusual and superstitious results in order to improve the quality of the play and to make it more remarkable. For example, the play begins with three witches likewise the setting is very eerie so the audience’s attention is automatically grabbed and they wish to bring on further to find out what will occur. Not just does he include witches, the play likewise includes cauldrons, spells, ghosts and illusions. Even though it is uncommon to see such things today it was really substantial in that period. Characters, acting, stagecraft and language are different manner ins which Shakespeare has used to exemplify the concept of deception in his play. There are different kinds of deceptiveness, such as, people who are not what they appear, supernatural deceptions and things/places not being what they seem.
Macbeth is a play about catastrophes and bad luck. There are many ideas or themes, which are represented in this drama but the main one that I will be focussing on is look and reality. This basically implies the general idea of things not being what they appear.
This play has a very strong moral, philosophical and social significance, which is displayed throughout the play and is revealed throughout the drama. Because this play was written before the 1914’s we can see that the language, stagecraft and settings used are from the time period the play was written in. It looks at the historical and social significance of the play, and deals with things that were morally and philosophically significant to the people at that time. For example, the people at that time were strong believers of strange and supernatural elements such as witches and ghosts. These are less believable these days because of all the latest science and technology, which Shakespeare may not have had at his time.
This tragedy looks at the way people see things and are mislead into thinking their own way. Essentially we understand from the play that ambition is good but if you become way too ambitious and are blinded by it then that can lead to harm. This is what happened to the character of Macbeth. The significance, which is shown in the play, could be that dreams or illusions are not always what they seem, and can often lead you astray. The play is based on the fact that Macbeth changes from a highly valued and respected man to someone who is disliked by the people in his society. The reasons being that he was very fortunate but could not see it, therefore he went ahead and thought he could make his dreams come true.
What happens in Shakespeare’s play is ironic and is related to the time period as well which also influences the genre of the play. The play also implicates the historical happenings at the time period it was written because during that time Shakespeare had written a lot of tragedy and bitter plays. Around the same time Shakespeare’s twins died therefore there may be a significant reason as to why he wrote these tragedies. Nevertheless he has used ideas of deception in such ways to deceive the audience and characters throughout.
Macbeth is a very interesting character created by Shakespeare because he is very diverse throughout the play. In other words he was known as a very loyal and brave warrior at the beginning of the play, as the King gave him the title of the ‘Thane of Glamis’. We can immediately see that he is liked and respected by the King and the people, because of his position in the King’s army. However, during the play the character of Macbeth changes and he becomes very ambitious which leads him to become evil, which eventually leads to his death.
This play battles with the concepts of evil and good, which are shown through acts of deceit and honesty. Mainly it is about deceit, of the audiences as well as the characters. There are also things that Macbeth encounters throughout this play, such as witches, apparitions and illusions that are not what they seem to Macbeth, but he does not know this and in the end he ruins his life and the lives of many others whilst trying to make his dreams come true. He does not understand the concept of reality, which means that you can’t judge by appearances, there is something behind the appearance that you have to look for rather than just looking at the surface of things.
Shakespeare uses a variety of different ways to illustrate the deceptions in the play, some of which are, language (e.g. linguistic devices), stagecraft (e.g. settings and special effects), and characters (e.g. the role of Macbeth, or the three witches).
In the time period in which this play was written, I expect that there wasn’t much technology because it was in the early sixteenth century when not all the new technology that we have today, had existed. However, there was some technology such as the trapdoors that were built into the stage. This allowed people to appear and disappear in the eyes of the audience.
Nevertheless, instead of cinemas, there were theatres where dramas and plays such as Macbeth were performed. This was a major entertainment for people at that time as there weren’t things like computers, Television, games, etc. so people would go to the theatre to watch these plays and they would really enjoy it. People also went to places to see bear beating, this is an event where bears were tied up and beaten by loose packs of dogs. People at that time enjoyed these horrifying scenes and it was a means of entertainment. This shows what the people were like in pre-1914, which links to why Macbeth was written and to whom it was targeted. Shakespeare has written this play in order to entertain and amuse the people at that time therefore he has used ideas of deception to make it more appealing and interesting.
Macbeth is also a horrifying play where terrifying scenes like murder takes place. The audience, I should imagine would have been very fascinated and horrified by this play, which would mean that more people would want to watch it. At that time period people were also very superstitious and believed in things like witches because there wasn’t much advanced technology to prove otherwise.
Social class divided the people’s status in society, e.g. the lower class people could not wear the same colours as the rich as this was not accepted in society. The rich and poor wore different colours to represent which class they were from. Witchcraft was a major issue at the time and anyone who was suspected would be tortured and executed. Due to this hundreds and thousands of women were executed for being caught doing suspicious acts of witchcraft. This is one of the many ideas Shakespeare has used in his play to deceive the audience and characters. It provides an interesting twist in the beginning of the play when the three witches are doing spells and things.
The first ever Macbeth play to be performed was in Hampton’s Court in 1605. There were many superstitions that people believed in such as, in the theatres audience were not allowed to say ‘Macbeth’ or something might happen to the characters on stage.
I will now identify and explain the general theme of appearance and reality, which is portrayed throughout the play, Macbeth.
There are many people who are not what they seem in reality and can trick the audience into thinking a different way.
This deception is shown in the first Act where the former Thane of Cawdor becomes a treacherous man because he has betrayed King Duncan and the army of Scotland when he joins the Norwegian army in the battle. In this act Scots and Norwegians are enemies and there is a battle going on, where Macbeth is a triumph for killing the traitor and then he puts the head on his sword.
This is significant because at that time it is seen as brave and courageous to place the head of the victim on the sword, in that way people would know you’ve won and will praise you. We can tell that Macbeth has just been honoured for doing this because in this scene the captain says ”For brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name – disdaining fortune with hiss brandish’d steel…till he unseam’d him from the nave to th’ chaps and fix’d his head upon our battlements.” In this passage the captain is explaining what happened at the battlefields to the King and he is glorifying what Macbeth did, which was to murder a traitor and put the head on the sword.
The deception in this scene is that of when the character of the traitor deceives the other characters and betrays his army by fighting against them. The King is just one character who is deceived by this man from the battle. He was just one of the men in the battle was not what he seemed because he was a traitor all along and he betrayed King Duncan, thus was killed later on. This is an example of when deception is illustrated in the play.
Macbeth does not realise that the former Thane of Cawdor has been killed, he then goes and has an encounter with the witches, who tell him that he is going to be Thane of Cawdor. This is mentioned in as one of the prophecies. (Scene 3; line 48). ”All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor”, this is said by one of the witches and is deceiving to the character Macbeth because he doesn’t know that the former Thane of Cawdor has died.
The witches give him the following three prophecies in scene 3:
”All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis,”
”All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor,”
”All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, that shalt be king hereafter.”
After that Macbeth is very shocked and confused because at this moment he or the audience are not aware that the Thane of Cawdor has been killed or the fact that he will kill the King in the future to become one. This is deceiving to the characters that are told this (Banquo and Macbeth) because they did not know that the Thane had died. The language shows that Macbeth does not know that he is now the Thane of Cawdor as he sounds very confused in scene 3, ”…By finel’s death I know I am the Thane of Glamis, But how of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives A prosperous gentleman…” the idea of the Thane being dead and Macbeth being the new Thane is something that is not what it seems because the audience do not know this and also because they are being told by strange women. This is a deceiving matter because strange women, also known as the three witches, are telling them these prophecies that have never been heard of before. However, when it does come true then it is like another thing that is not what it seemed because no one really expected the prophecies to come true.
Macbeth is a character who is deceiving to the audience, because in the beginning of the play we see him as a brave, courageous and good-willed man. However, this changes throughout the play and we find out that Macbeth is not what he seems and is actually a very evil and wicked man. We know this as a fact because he kills King Duncan to fulfil his dreams and ambition. Nevertheless, he was not that keen at first until his wife, Lady Macbeth, encouraged him to do so. She says to him that she is an even better man than he is because he was cowering not to do the murder. She then makes him believe it is the right thing to do so Macbeth thinks that he has got no other chance and this can’t be as bad as long as he hides it well. He says at the end of act 1 scene 7, ”I am settled and bend up…to this terrible feat.
Away, and mock the time with fairest show, false face must hide what the false heart doth know” from this extract we can see that Macbeth has chosen to ‘mock’ the people which means to deceive them and the King by going ahead with this ‘terrible’ plan. It is easy to see how the character of Macbeth is transformed from trustworthy and good-willed to become disloyal and treacherous. We know he was a trustworthy and honourable man because he helped the King’s army in the battle; therefore it was very shocking to find out he committed a murder. Even though he prevails in making his dreams and ambitions come true, at the same time he is deceiving the people for a long while. Shakespeare makes it deceiving to the other characters as well as the audience when he makes out that everybody sees Macbeth as a godlike figure who is respected by many. Conversely Macbeth is not at all like that and we can see how cruel and evil he becomes throughout the play.
Shakespeare uses soliloquies in the beginning of act 1 scene 7 to represent how Macbeth is feeling, which is uncomfortable with this plan. It is not like him to do such evil acts so he is very worried about what will happen. ” If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly. If th’ assassination could trammel up the consequence and catch with his surcease, success, that but this blow might be the be-all and the end-all-here…but only vaulting ambition which o’erlaps itself and falls on th’ other-‘ from this long and interesting soliloquy we can tell that Macbeth is discussing how hard this task is and how his ambition is urging him to go on.
It seems as though he has second thoughts which deceive the audience because we think that he will forget doing the murder from act 1 scene 7 where he mentions how respected and praised he is at the moment, ”We will proceed no further in this business. He hath honour’d me of late, and have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people, which will be worn now in the newest gloss, not cast aside so soon.” Macbeth wants to enjoy the praises he has earned (”bought”) as though they were new clothes. Shakespeare uses metaphors here to describe the praises given to Macbeth and to make an impact on what he is saying. We, as in the audiences are deceived by this because it makes us think that he will back out but in the end he does not due to his weakness and he continues with the murder.
Lady Macbeth as a hostess at the castle is very misleading because she is not what she seems to be. In the beginning of Act 1 scene 6, when King Duncan is welcomed to Macbeth’s castle he meets with Lady Macbeth. In the eyes of Duncan, Lady Macbeth is seen as the ‘honour’d hostess’ because of her appearance and false talk. He does not know what Lady Macbeth is really like and instantly judges her according to her appearance and how she presents herself to him. ”See, see our honour’d hostess – the love that follows us sometimes is our trouble, which still we think as love. Herein I teach you how you shall bid god yield us for your pains and thank us for your trouble.”
Duncan is being deceived yet again because he thinks that Lady Macbeth is offering kindness, but in reality she is just putting on a show. He says how grateful he is even though it can sometimes be a nuisance to have people offering kindness to him. He also says that this is his way of teaching her to ask God to reward him for the trouble she has to take, and also to thank him for providing the occasion for that trouble. Basically King Duncan is trying to say how grateful he is to be here and is thankful to her, however, in reality he is saying this to the wrong person because she is hiding her true appearance with a false one. Therefore she is tricking him.
King Duncan is quite a gullible man who trusts people very easily. He is glad to have come to Macbeth’s castle because he highly values him and has given him the titles, ‘Thane of Cawdor’ and the ‘Thane of Glamis’. As we can see from the Duncan’s speech, he is pleased to have come to this castle, but the one thing he does not realise is that he is actually being deceived by the appearance of the settings and the other characters, like Lady Macbeth. Duncan mentions how kind Lady Macbeth is as a hostess, but he is unaware of what she is really like in the inside, which is evil and cunning because she is plotting to murder him in the following scene.
After the murder has taken place, every one is in shock. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth put on false faces and they are not suspected of anything. Duncan’s two sons, Malcolm and Donaldbain also hear of the news and are not really shocked. In this scene it seems as if Malcolm is pretending to be evil, but in reality he is only concerned about saving his life. Even though they do not react that much, they are still worried and they think that they too may be in danger. Therefore they decide that that it would be best to leave the country and go separate ways. We know this from the conversation between Malcolm and Donaldbain in Act 2 scene 3. Malcolm is asking Donaldbain what they should do in order to save their own lives, this is deceiving because we did not expect them to get over their father’s death so easily and also it is deceiving to the other characters.
This is because Malcolm says, ” what will you do? Let’s not consort with them. To show an unfelt sorrow is an office, which the false man does easy. I’ll to England.” This shows he has already made up his mind and is waiting for Donaldbain’s reply, who then says he will go to Ireland. Malcolm also suggests that they should secretly leave, without letting anyone else know. ”And let us not be dainty of leave-taking, but shift away.” This shows that they feel no sorrow for their father and are willing to leave without trying to find out who the murderer is but only worried about they’re own lives. We, as audiences may know that they are not the killers but in the way Malcolm suggests leaving, as soon as he hears of the death seems as though he is evil and he is the murderer. It is deceiving to the other characters when he leaves because they see it as very suspicious that the King’s son’s have decided to secretly leave the country. This may lead to people thinking that they are the murderers, but in reality this is not what it seems like.
The play starts off with the witches appearing and disappearing and throughout the play they appear and disappear, which is a type of supernatural deception because it is not normal to have witches. This is a way of taking the attention of the audience, as they would find it fascinating to watch how the witches appear and disappear. In Shakespeare’s time, he did not have many special effects, so the supernatural deception effects would have had to be done on stage using the old fashioned way, the trapdoor.
The trapdoor is one way in which people in Shakespeare’s days, used to perform special acts of appearing and disappearing and it was a good type of special effect used to deceive the audience at the time. The reason being that they did not have as much technology as we have today and were not as advanced so they would not have been able use advanced technology to do any special effects or lighting in order to make it really attractive. If he lived today he would have used things such as lighting and other technological equipment to make this play interesting for people of today so they would enjoy it.
One of the special effects that could have been used on the character of Banquo’s ghost is a way of showing the idea of deception because Macbeth is the only one who can see the ghost and so the audience may also not be able to see anything. In the time of Shakespeare the ghost would have most probably been imagined or a pale face of someone with powder all over, who would have come and gone through the trapdoor. There was not as much technology as today and it wasn’t as advanced as today, so you wouldn’t have been able to do special affects like holograms and things on stage. These are ways in which people can see images and effects, which are not solidly there, they see it through computerised programmes.
The apparitions are another set of tools of deception that Shakespeare uses to improve the quality of the play. This dramatic irony like the ghost only come and go so they may have not been acted out so the other characters would have used imagination to pretend they were there. Also not all the characters can see the ghost, only Macbeth does.
This is shown from the passages in Act 3 Scene 4, when language is used to show that Macbeth can see something that other’s cannot. When Macbeth talks about Banquo’s ghost he is deceiving the other characters. We know this because they are confused therefore they think Macbeth is going mad. Ross is one of the men at the feast and he speaks up saying, “What sights, my lord?” from this phrase I know that the people there are very confused they do not know what is going on, this is when Lady Macbeth lies to them to cover up the truth. Therefore she is deceiving the other characters and making them think that Macbeth is really ill, “Good-night; and better health attend his majesty” they leave after Lady Macbeth tells them to do so.
Duncan is invited to Macbeth’s castle, which he finds very nice and welcoming. He compliments on how they are all so nice and the castle I so welcoming when he does not even have a clue as to what his fate will bring in the future. In the beginning of Act 1 scene 6, Duncan says ”this castle hath a pleasant seat; the air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses.” Duncan is saying that the castle is very welcoming just by looking at it and smelling the air. This castle is deceiving to the king because it is not what it seems. It seems like it is a very ‘pleasant’ and wonderful place, however, in reality it is not at all a pleasant setting because this is the place where Duncan gets murdered. He does not know this; therefore he is being deceived by the place.
In act 2 scenes 1 Macbeth is preparing to kill King Duncan. Shakespeare uses objects that are like illusion to let the audience know what is going on and to make it more interesting. For example, he uses the image of a dagger, we know this from what Macbeth says, ”is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come let me clutch thee…” he uses this language to help the audience understand what is going on. This is not a real dagger, but only an ill-illusion telling him to carry on with this grim task. It may have been imaginary in Shakespeare’s stagecraft, because Macbeth only sees it as an imaginary object, which is deceiving him. Therefore it may not have been a real prop in the play when the people performed it.
Macbeth also hears voices before and after the murder, which are deceiving because he only hears them in his mind. This shows us that he is getting paranoid and these voices are just in his head, we also know that there were sounds of animals that give a chill of horror. This adds to the horrifying scene of the murder and builds up tension because there are owls and crickets being heard in the background. This is significant to the time period of the play because at that time many people believed in superstitions and strange events. They also believed that the noise of owls and crickets were linked with a bad event such as death.
When Macbeth becomes evil, after killing the King he decides it’s time to get rid of his friend, Banquo. In order to do this he has got to plan it first. He has told two murderers that Banquo is their enemy to make them want to kill Banquo in the first place. Shakespeare has included this part of the plot to show deception of the murderers; Macbeth is deceiving them to make them hate Banquo, in order to carry out this murder.
It is also deceiving when Lady Macbeth sees things in her sleep and becomes ill. She imagines that her hands were still bloody; from the night the King was murdered.
And last, but not least, there is another idea of deception in the play; it is when Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. This is deceiving in its own way because in reality the wood is not actually coming to Dunsinane, but the people are carrying the trees and making it seem like the wood is coming towards Macbeth, to fight him. This also relates to the prophecies told in the beginning of the play and it is significant to what happens in the end. This deceives Macbeth’s army as they think that the wood is coming towards them and tell Macbeth this news. As soon as Macbeth hears this, he is reminded of the prophecies, which deceive him yet again because it is not really the wood that is coming to fight him, instead his enemies.
Finally I can conclude that Shakespeare has done a great job of representing the theme of deception, appearance vs reality and this is very important when included in the plays. Especially when the play is performed because the main things that needs to be thought about is how the special affects are going to be shown, for e.g. the witches, apparitions and the ghost. These are things that attract people to watch the drama in the first place. I can conclude that the play is all about the battle between good and evil, which also relates to the theme of deception. Deception plays a major part in this play, and I think that it is trying to give the audience a message about deceiving and how things/people are not always what they seem to be.
As I have explained in my essay Shakespeare has used language, imagery and stagecraft to illustrate the theme of deception and to show the audience how Shakespeare has made things seem different to what they really are in order to mislead the audience and characters. The language such has as “fair is foul, and foul is fair” (1.1) is just an example of how Shakespeare uses language to trick people. How can fair be foul and foul be fair? It is not something that you would normally come across therefore the play is very well known and liked by many. The deceptions are just ways in which to get people thinking and to prove that everything is not what it looks like on the outside, there may be things hidden away in the inside.
For example, the character of Macbeth was not what he seemed like in the beginning of the play because his character has changed dramatically in the audience’s eyes. He went from being a brave and courageous soldier to an evil and wicked ruler. I think his ambition has deceived him and he was overwhelmed at the thought of becoming king that he didn’t think of the consequences. Overall I think Shakespeare has used the idea of deception very cleverly in the play, Macbeth to get the audience attention and to make it very appealing to the audience. He has done this by using characters, supernatural elements, places and objects, which are not what they seem. It is very similar to the saying, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, because you don’t know what’s inside the story unless you read it. Similarly Shakespeare is giving the impression that characters, stagecraft, and many other things are not exactly what they seem.
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