Deception In Macbeth

What points can I make about the theme of deception in "Macbeth"?

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The theme of deception is explored in many ways throughout the play Macbeth, and is presented immediately in the first scene through the paradoxical statement, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" (Shakespeare, 1.1.12). Essentially, Shakespeare is informing the audience that appearances often contradict reality and nothing is what it seems in the play. The three witches continually deceive Macbeth by telling him enigmatic prophecies, which they know will propel him to act upon his ambitious motivation to become king. Macbeth and his wife then deceive the king and his court by acting as gracious hosts, while they plot in secret about killing him. Consequently, Macbeth commits regicide by murdering King Duncan, and Lady Macbeth does her best to cover up her husband's actions. After hearing the news of Duncan's murder, Lady Macbeth deceives everyone by fainting. Lady Macbeth continues to deceive the court by excusing Macbeth's madness as simply a common illness that he regularly suffers from. Macbeth then realizes that he must murder Banquo and his son and begins to plot against his close friend. Subsequently, Macbeth is once again deceived by the witches and believes that he cannot be harmed. However, Macbeth misinterprets the prophecy and loses his life in the final battle against Macduff. 

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Macbeth, the theme of deception is established from the very first scene. When the three witches meet, for example, they utter the line:

Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

This paradox creates the idea of deception by issuing a warning to the reader that what is presented in this play is not always as it seems. 

In addition, this paradox foreshadows another important point about deception. Specifically, that it is deception (among other factors) which enables Macbeth to seize the throne. On the surface, for instance, Macbeth is a brave and loyal warrior, ready to fight to the death in the name of King Duncan. Despite murdering Duncan while he sleeps, nobody suspects Macbeth of such a crime since his loyalty has never been in question. Deception, therefore, helps to propel Macbeth to become king. 

On becoming king, however, Macbeth can no longer deceive those around him. Violence and tyranny become the hallmarks of his reign and lead directly to his downfall.

eabettencourt eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major theme of the play is appearance vs. reality, which involves quite a lot of deception.  Lady Macbeth gives her husband the advice to look like an innocent flower, but be a serpent underneath.  Macbeth himself appears to be a loyal thane, but we all know that does not end up being the case!  All of Scotland was initially deceived by this.  Macbeth is deceived by the witches in the end, when they trick him into believing he is "above death."  These are just some examples; the play is full of them!

fieryangel | Student

"Deception" is one of the themes Shakespeare has portrayed in Macbeth.

Macbeth was supposed to be a loyal subject to the king. However, he betrayed this loyalty by murdering him. Macbeth himself said, initially, "as his host, who should against his murder shut the door, not bear the knife myself". However, he deceived his ruler and assassinated him.

Macbeth also deceived his best friend Banquo. Macbeth was so possessive about his kingship that he even betrayed his best friend by killing him. He would not let friendship stand in the way of his throne. To protect his crown, he betrayed his friend.

When he meets the witches for a second time, they trick Macbeth by showing him prophecies which he deciphers in another way. He thought it was impossible for a man to be produced in any other way but from a woman. He thought is was not possible for a forest to move on its own. The witches presented to him the prophecies in a way such that he could be tricked, probably to teach him a lesson to not be blinded by ambition. The witches taught deceived Macbeth.