Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Macbeth, how does Shakespeare use equivocation and irony in order to execute Macbeth's demise?

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Equivocation is an important theme in Macbeth. The first time it's mentioned is in a humorous context in the Porter scene, where the Porter welcomes to his imagined hell "an equivocator who could swear in both the scales against either scale." In other words, an equivocator is able to avoid justice by speaking falsely, while seeming honest. Later in the same scene, scene 3 of act 2, we see Macbeth himself become an equivocator when he talks about his rage at Duncan's murderers. Macbeth also equivocates when he appears to miss Banquo so deeply at the feast, even though he's just had him killed. The tyrant, in turn, becomes the victim of equivocation when the Witches tell him that no man of woman born can kill him and he will not be vanquished until Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane. This is where irony comes in. These pronouncements are technically true, as MacDuff was born by Caesarean section and, before Macbeth dies, Birnam Wood does come toward Dunsinane in the form of branches carried by soldiers....

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