In Act 4, explain the paradox of the apparitions.

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The paradox of the apparitions occurs in how Macbeth views what they show him and how the audience views their predictions. Macbeth needs to quell his fears that doom is upon him, so he takes the visions at face value. To the audience, the apparitions are symbols that foreshadow how the prophecies will be fulfilled. The armored head suggests war or rebellion, while the bloody child obscurely refers to Macduff's cesarean birth. Macbeth takes the comment at face value, and therein lies the irony. The crowned child is Malcolm and refers to the tree branches his soldiers will carry from Birnam Wood. The procession of kings reveals the future line of kings, all descended from Banquo.

Macbeth believes only what he feels will benefit him. He can no longer make rational judgments, and Hecate knows this. The contradictory nature of the apparitions will go right over Macbeth's head, and he will take from the apparitions only what he wants.


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