In the play Macbeth how does "Deception" play a part. What are some examples?

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Deception is omnipresent in Macbeth - from the very opening lines. The three witches say:

Fair is foul, and foul is fair.
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

So, what appears to be foul is really fair, and what appears to be fair, is really foul. This foreshadows the rest of the plot where things are not always as they seem.

Two generals in the Scottish King's army (King Duncan), Macbeth and Banquo, come upon the three witches as they cross the moor after a successful battle in which they have defeated two armies. The witches prophesy that Macbeth will become the thane of Cawdor and  King of Scotland. They also prophesy that Banquo's descendants will become kings, but not Banquo himself. When Macbeth tells his wife about the prophesy, the evil and wildly ambitious Lady Macbeth convinces her husband to kill King Duncan so that Macbeth can become king right away. She advises him to act cool on the outside so nobody will suspect his guilt. She helps Macbeth to carry out the deed by getting the king's two servants drunk. The next morning, it appears as if they have killed the king, but this is another deception. Macbeth kills them to cover up the murder and so that they cannot defend themselves.

Macbeth does not rest easy, however, because the witches also predicted that Banquo's heirs would be kings. So he arranges to have Banquo killed, but Banquo's son escapes.

There is a great banquet, and Banquo's ghost appears. No one can see the ghost except Macbeth. It appears as if Macbeth is not well and his wife tries to pass it off as a temporary illness. Riddled with guilt, Lady Macbeth sleepwalks and it appears as if she, too, is mentally ill.

Macbeth goes back to the three witches and they make an additional prophesy: Macbeth must beware of Macduff (who has opposed Macbeth's taking over the throne); no man "born of woman" will be able to harm him; and he will be safe until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Castle. Macbeth breathes a sigh of relief because, he reasons, none of these things is possible. However, all is not as it seems, again.

Macduff has not been born of woman, because he was "ripped from his mother's womb" - a C-section birth. And, the English army marches on the castle shielding themselves with branches that they have cut from Birnam Wood, so it does seem as if "Birnam Wood is coming to Dunsinane Castle." In the end, Macduff kills Macbeth.

See if you can find some other examples yourself.

See a good analysis at the enotes link below. There is a modern English translation which will help you figure out what is happening.