Analyze the theme of lying as a necessary evil in Macbeth.

The theme of lying as a necessary evil in Macbeth is demonstrated through Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's deception in order to fulfill their own wicked plans. The play seems to indicate, however, that people who see lying as a "necessary evil" in order to further their own selfish ambitions will ultimately be destroyed.

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This is an interesting angle, because lying doesn't work out so well for the two main characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth encourages her husband to "look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under't," which means she wants him to lie about his motives in order to increase Duncan's trust in him and to then take advantage of that trust by murdering him. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are involved in various lies and acts of deceit throughout the play, but eventually, everything falls apart. Lady Macbeth seemingly commits suicide near the end of the play, no longer able to sleep or to think clearly because of her conscience. Macbeth becomes overconfident following the witches' final predictions, and he is killed by Macduff, who is a much more honest man and who is seeking revenge because of Macbeth's murderous actions.

The play seems to indicate that lying is a necessary evil for those who seek selfish ambition. Macbeth doesn't seek the kingship because he feels Duncan is a poor king; in fact, he believes that Duncan is wise and fair and knows that his subjects love him. Lady Macbeth encourages her husband's deceit because she is power hungry herself and doesn't want to patiently wait for her turn to become queen. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are "forced" to lie in order to secure the power they desire, because this quest is not based in a natural order, nor is it born out of noble aspirations.

In the end, Macbeth and his wife pay for their deception, and a more natural order is restored. Macbeth's need to lie as a "necessary evil" in order to further his own wicked plans ultimately leads to his destruction.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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