Donalbain says in Act 2 Sc III L57 "There’s daggers in men’s smiles." Shakespeare uses different characters to explore the notion of deception at different points in the play, in different...

Donalbain says in Act 2 Sc III L57 "There’s daggers in men’s smiles." Shakespeare uses different characters to explore the notion of deception at different points in the play, in different contexts and for different reasons.

Evaluate the extent to which at least two characters practice deception.

I chose to do the three witches, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. But am very stuck with it.

Asked on by jemma1999

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

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The witches obviously practice deception from the outset. Being creatures of evil, this is their purpose. It is practically their duty to sow chaos and destruction and overturn the natural order by using double entendre, equivocation and making paradoxical statements. Their intent is to confuse their listeners but to paradoxically sound convincing at the same time, to such an extent that their audience is driven to act on their words. However, their deception would only work if their listener possesses the innate evil that would drive him/her into making a commitment to act.

Macbeth, since he is driven by ambition and wishes to succeed to the Scottish throne by the shortest route, therefore becomes an easy target for the weird sisters. They predict Macbeth's successes and make him feel invincible. This drives Macbeth into committing the foulest of deeds, the murder of his king and kin.

When Macbeth goes to consult the witches, they inform him through apparitions:

 "... none of woman born
  Shall harm Macbeth." 

Macbeth is convinced that the prophecy means that no man will be able to vanquish him, since all men are born of women. He however, does not realize that this is part of the witches' trickery, for when he is later confronted by Macduff and tells him that he bears

"a charmed life, which must not yield,
To one of woman born,"

Macduff retorts:

"Despair thy charm;
And let the angel whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb
Untimely ripp'd."

Macbeth realizes that he had been deceived, but it is too late to:

"these juggling fiends no more believe."

The third apparition predicted that:

"Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
Shall come against him."

A messenger later informs Macbeth that he saw a grove moving towards Dunsinane Castle. These were the troops led by Malcolm who each carried a bough in front of him, hiding his identity. The camouflage would hide their number. Macbeth is in disbelief.

In his final moments, Macbeth acknowledges the witches' deception:

"Accursed be that tongue that tells me so,
For it hath cow'd my better part of man!
And 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."

Lady Macbeth also practices deception and even demands her husband do the same.

When she learns of King Duncan's impending visit to their castle, she tells Macbeth:

"Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under't."

The intentional deception is obvious.

 When Duncan arrives at the castle she offers him:

"All our service
In every point twice done and then done double."

She knows full well that the only "service" they will render Duncan would be to assassinate him. 

After she and Macbeth have plotted Duncan's murder, she mentions:

"we shall make our griefs and clamour roar
 Upon his death?"

In this she suggests that they would put on an act as if they were overcome with grief at Duncan's murder.

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