Could someone list some equivocations in Macbeth?

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scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In addition to the excellent examples above, as you look for equivocation throughout Macbeth, focus on the witches' speech. They use the fallacy most frequently because they know that Macbeth will interpret their prophecies simply and that he will not catch the underlying meaning. Equivocation especially relies on redefining words and phrases without informing one's audience or readers. Below is one of the most signifcant examples of equivocation from the play.

"Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn / The power of man, for none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth" (4.1.88-90).

The second witch intentionally makes Macbeth think that he is safe because everyone is born of a woman; thus, no one will hurt him. However, the audience later discovers what the witch really means by her prophecy.

I don't know what your essay discusses specifically about equivocation, but when you list examples of the technique, try to focus on the purpose of the speaker's using it. Overall, the characters' using equivocation--whether it be through speech or through trying to justify their actions--relates to one of the play's themes of illusion versus reality.

mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses equivocations to confuse Macbeth by appealing to his moral relativism.  Equivocation is the language of confusion; ambiguity; double meanings; half-truths; paradoxes; riddles.

The witches speak it:

“Foul is fair and fair is foul”

“Lesser than Macbeth and greater.”

Macbeth uses it:

“Nothing is but what is not.”

On a broader, philosophical level, equivocal morality highlights the gray area between traditional good (white) and evil (black).  It begs the question how do you know what’s good, or who’s good, if there’s overlap between good and evil?

“These solicitings cannot be evil, cannot be good…”

Human beings are endowed with an imagination that can be wonderful but also terrible too (equivocation!).  Critic Harold Bloom has calls Macbeth “a tragedy of the imagination.”  Partly what makes Macbeth so disturbing, Bloom argues, is that “we identify with him, or at least with his imagination.”  And if we can think it, might not we too be capable of similar acts?

suvini's profile pic

suvini | Student | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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one of the main examples i know is that when the portor talks about a farmer who got killed but hes actually addressing macbeth killing dunacan

i think this is ryt!

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