In Macbeth, what are some examples of paradox in Act 3?
A paradox can be a situation or a statement that seems contradictory but is nevertheless true or real. One example of a paradoxical statement occurs when Lady Macbeth, alone on stage, says to herself, "'Tis safer to be that which we destroy / Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy" (3.2.8-9). How can it be "safer" to be "destroy[ed]"? This is the contradiction that creates the paradox. What she means is that it would be better to be the dead victim than to be the murderer and live in anxiety, unable to be happy. She and Macbeth have achieved what they set out to when they murdered Duncan: they are now king and queen of Scotland. However, they are not happy, and Lady Macbeth sounds as though she is beginning to regret their crime because she cannot be content feeling all this anxiety and guilt.
Macbeth shares a similar sentiment when he says, "Better be with the dead, / Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace, / Than on the torture of the mind to lie / In restless ecstasy" (3.2.22-25). How can it be better to be dead? How can one feel "restless ecstasy"? Herein lies the paradox. Macbeth means that it would be better to be dead, like Duncan, because he is truly at peace; the Macbeths killed Duncan in order to find peace, what they believed would make them happy, and now they are made miserable by their tortured happiness: they aren't at peace or truly happy.