In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth advises her husband to “Look like the innocent flower, / But be the serpent under it” (I.V.66-67). Write a paragraph about things in the play that present themselves as "innocent flowers" even though they are really "serpents.”
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This powerful quote summarises an important theme in this tragedy: appearances vs. reality, and how characters are often taken in by appearances and therefore ignore the true reality of other characters and situations. Consider for example Act I scene 6, when Duncan arrives at the Macbeth's castle and makes the following comment:
This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.
This comment is deliberately ironic for a number of reasons. Firstly, Shakespeare juxtaposes Duncan's comments with the end of Act I scene 5, when Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are discussing how to kill Duncan. That Duncan describes the place where he will be eventually killed as "pleasant" is a perfect example of how the castle of the Macbeths appears like the "innocent flower" whilst in reality being the serpent that will end in Duncan's death. This remark of Duncan's is further ironic because of the way in which he has shown himself to be such a bad judge of character. Note the following comment Duncan makes in Act I scene 4 about the former Thane of Cawdor who betrayed him and has now been executed:
There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face:
He was a gentleman on whom I built
An absolute trust.
Duncan's failing is his willingness to trust characters, such as Macbeth, who then later go on to betray him. Duncan's own failings and the way in which both the Macbeth's play the role of benificent loyal hosts whilst secretly plotting to kill him are therefore a major example of the quote Lady Macbeth says.
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