What are some quotes in Shakespeare's Macbeth that show betrayal?

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booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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There are a number of quotations in Shakespeare's Macbeth that refer to betrayal.

In Act Two, Macduff arrives to collect Duncan as the King had previously ordered. Macduff is the one that discovers the murder and he suspects that Duncan's murder is an act of betrayal ("treason").


Ring the alarum bell. Murder and treason!
Banquo and Donalbain! Malcolm, awake! (II.iii.79-80)

Macduff flees to England to persuade Malcolm to return to Scotland to save their homeland from the tyrant, Macbeth. However, Malcolm is not sure that Macduff isn't working for Macbeth, and he fears Macduff's betrayal.


This tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues,
Was once thought honest. You have loved him well;
He hath not touch'd you yet. I am young, but something
You may deserve of him through me, and wisdom
To offer up a weak, poor, innocent lamb
To appease an angry god. (IV.iii.14-19)

Malcolm suggests that Macduff may simply want to deliver Duncan's heir and the next in line to the Scottish throne to Macbeth, so Malcolm can be killed.

Macduff says: 

I am not treacherous. (20)

However, it takes a great deal of convincing until Malcolm believes he can trust Macduff.

Hecate is not interested in advancing Macbeth for his own personal gain, but instead wants to use his shortcomings to betray him so he will unwittingly give up his soul to the devil.


And that distill'd by magic sleights
Shall raise such artificial sprites
As by the strength of their illusion
Shall draw him on to his confusion.
He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear
His hopes ’bove wisdom, grace, and fear.
And you all know security
Is mortals’ chiefest enemy. (III.v.26-33)

Hecate plans to create visions that are so strong that Macbeth will lose all sense of caution. He will go as far as to believe that nothing in the world can stop him. Her betrayal will be complete because she knows that a man's worst danger to himself is a false sense of security: which she will bring to light by the her falsely prophetic illusions.

Finally, Macbeth realizes in Act Five that the witches have betrayed him:


I pull in resolution and begin
To doubt the equivocation of the fiend
That lies like truth. “Fear not, till Birnam Wood
Do come to Dunsinane,” and now a wood
Comes toward Dunsinane. (V.v.47-51)

The witches had told Macbeth (among other misleading things) that he could not be defeated unless the woods moved toward a nearby hill. The woods do not move, but soldiers that have camouflaged their numbers with tree branches give the appearance of the woods moving.

This final betrayal supports the theme of "evil leads to more evil." Macbeth loses his fear of breaking the laws of man and God when he murders Duncan. From that point on, Macbeth becomes so "steeped" in murder that he realizes there is no going back. He murders his best friend Banquo (and narrowly misses killing Banquo's son), and he then sends his men to wipe out Macduff and his entire family. Macduff is away in England and survives, but is also unable to protect his wife, children and servants. Macbeth's evil is revisited upon him first when Lady Macbeth takes her own life. Finally, he is betrayed by the witches and comes face to face with Macduff, who kills him. The evil Macbeth practiced upon Scotland is returned to him at the play's end.

amymc's profile pic

amymc | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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The capacity to betray based on greed and ambition is a central theme in the work, so quotes on this subject are plentiful.  Here are a few.

1. Macbeth considers killing the king, the ultimate form of betrayal, after the witches prophecies begin to come true.  He admits this desire when he says,

why do I yield to that suggestion                                             Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair                                         And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,                             Against the use of nature? (I, iii)

He understands that this betrayal is evil.

2. As the time for murder approaches, Macbeth runs through the reasons for not killing the king.  The king is his own kin who trusts Macbeth and has just rewarded his valor in battle.  Yet he decides to kill him anyway as evidenced by the line,

I am settled, and bend up                                                       Each corporal agent to this terrible feat (I,vii).

Macbeth has allowed his wife to convince him to commit the murder.

3.  Banquo, Macbeth's friend who also witnessed and received prophecies, begins to suspect the betrayal after the murder.  He notes to himself that

Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all,                                 As the weird women promised, and, I fear,                                 Thou play'dst most foully for't: ( III i).

However, this realization is too late.  Macbeth makes yet another betrayal and kills his own friend to secure the crown for himself.


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