Both Macbeth (from Shakespeare's Macbeth) and Winston (from George Orwell's 1984) live in a world where things are not what they seem.  How would you compare Macbeth and Winston Smith in terms of...

Both Macbeth (from Shakespeare's Macbeth) and Winston (from George Orwell's 1984) live in a world where things are not what they seem.  How would you compare Macbeth and Winston Smith in terms of how deception leads each to destruction in such a world?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both William Shakespeare's play Macbeth and George Orwell's novel 1984 demonstrate how deception can be used to exercise power over others.

Shakespeare's character of Macbeth isn't much of a deceiver himself. He relies on brute power and the bold willingness to use it ruthlessly. He isn't above killing children and women to achieve his goals. By the end of the story he doesn't even care much for his own survival. The deception in the story is actually used by others to motivate Macbeth. First, the three weird sisters, the witches, pronounce to him a prophecy that predicts his rise to the throne. The prophecy is enticing and it gets Macbeth interested. Later, when his ambition starts to wane (as he actually shows a bit of a conscience), the witches show him a series of prophetic images. These prophecies goad him on to a bloody course that will lead to his own destruction. The deception lies in the fact that the witches find a way to tell the basic truth while tricking Macbeth into believing that he will easily take the throne, when in fact the witches know Macbeth will drive himself mad with paranoia and the desire for power. The most famous of these prophecies is the line:

For none of woman born

Shall harm Macbeth

This tricks Macbeth into thinking that he cannot be defeated in battle. However, the sneaky witches withhold the information that Macbeth's eventual enemy, Macduff, was born via a c-section.

 

In 1984, the deception is not supernatural. It is perpetrated by an omnipresent, tyrannical government. People are under constant surveillance and information bombardment by a government that actually has a secret force called the “thought police.” People are deceived in Oceania by the never-ending stream of misinformation flowing from the government. This inundation of behavior-altering information accomplishes the job of brainwashing citizens into believing, or at least pretending to believe, whatever suits the government in their desire to control the people. The most interesting form of deception occurs as history is continually re-written to suit the government's purposes.