Discuss the theme of Equivocation in the play Macbeth?

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teachjodyt eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Equivocation is an important theme in the play Macbeth.  Banquo already warns Macbeth that the witches predictions, while they seem positive, could result in something else entirely.  He says "And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray us In deepest consquence."  (Act I Scene 3)  The witches give Macbeth a false sense of security when they tell him that he will not be defeated by a man born of a women and that he will not be defeated until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane (his castle.)  Because of these predictions, Macbeth does not believe that he can be defeated.  However, Macduff was "untimely ripped" out of his mother's womb; thus, technically he was not "born."  Siward, Malcolm and Macduff approach Dunsinane Castle buy using branches of the tree from Birnam wood as camouflage.  Thus, technically, the witches predictions come true, but not the way that Macbeth would interpret them.  Macbeth finally realizes how, through equivocation, the witches have mislead him when he says, "Now be these juggling fiends no more believed that palter with us in a double sense; That keep the word of promise to our ear, And break it to our hope."