What instances have the characters in Macbeth worn metaphorical masks to hide their true nature? And what effect has it had on the outcome of events? Throughout the play, many characters put on...

What instances have the characters in Macbeth worn metaphorical masks to hide their true nature? And what effect has it had on the outcome of events?

Throughout the play, many characters put on metaphorical masks to hide their true nature, thoughts, or feelings.  Trace the instances where this occurs and the effect it has on the outcome of events.  (Consider the idea of appearance/illusion versus reality.)

Please include citations and quotes.

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coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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At the beginning of Macbeth, the murderer hides his true self for the first time in the play, from his friend and co-victor Banquo. This occurs just after the pair have met with the witches and are astounded to hear their prophecies. The witches have been waiting for them and plotting to aggravate a captain whose wife disrespected them. At last, they hear a drum signalling his imminent arrival. They begin to chant a charm in preparation. Eventually their greeting tells him their view of his future - not only to be the Thane of Cawdor but also King of Scotland. At this point Macbeth puts on a mask to hide his real feelings about this from his friend - who is meanwhile asking about his own future. Although horrified by the idea of the act, Macbeth is also interested! He lies to Banquo to mask his interest and pretends that what will be will be - it's fate:

'if chance will have me King, why chance may crown me without my stir.'

mstokes's profile pic

mstokes | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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The theme of nature, both in the sense of the natural world around us and the nature of self, is explored in the play Macbeth. One of the most frequently recurring themes in the play is that the notion of false appearance is inseparable from the notion of evil.

The idea of characters "seeming" to be something and really "being" something other, the central idea of deception finds expression in the play in a wide range of images and non-figurative statements.

Duncan discovering Cawdor's treachery moralises (1,iv,12) that "there's no art to find the mind's construction in the face"Malcolm, distrusting everyone after his father's murder knows the "to show an unfelt sorrow is an office, which the false man does easy (2,iii,135-6) the same notion is more concretely expressed by Dolalbain in "there's daggers in men's eyes". However, the most important images of disguise are used by and about Macbeth.

Meeting the witches Macbeth asks of them "Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?" this metaphor begins the train of clothing and deception imagery which forms such an integral part of the play, From this moment Macbeth acquires the habit of deception and maintains it over time. His career is built on it. We are repeatedly reminded of his need to maintain a false appearance if his schemes are to succeed; to "look like an innocent flower/ but be the serpant" (1,v,62) and "fase face must hide what false heart doth know"(1,vii,82). From this point in the play he maintains the appearance of an innocent until finally abandoning the charade in Act 4.

Lady Macbeth's speeches also can be examined to look for masking images.

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