How is the theme of betrayal present in Macbeth?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The theme of betrayal arises early in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Act 1, scene 2 opens in King Duncan's camp. A wounded sergeant is brought in who reports on the rebel uprising being led by Macdonwald, "worthy to be a rebel" (1.2.12), who betrayed Scotland and went over to the side of the Norwegian king.

Ross and Angus soon arrive, and they tell Duncan about the Thane of Cawdor, "that most disloyal traitor" (1.2.61), who also went over to the Norwegian king against Duncan and Scotland.

Duncan orders the execution of the Thane of Cawdor for treason and orders that Macbeth be given the title of Thane of Cawdor as a reward for his victories in battle against Macdonwald and the Norwegian king.

In act 1, scene 4, Duncan remarks that he was deceived by Cawdor, who was "a gentleman on whom [he] built / An absolute trust" (1.4.15-16).

At that moment, Macbeth enters. Macbeth also has Duncan's "absolute trust," and now, ironically, Macbeth has the same title of the man whom Duncan just executed for treason....

(The entire section contains 519 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on