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

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

Deception is a prominent motif in Macbeth, and it ties into the theme of appearance vs. reality. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are the most obvious deceivers in the play: they convince Duncan that they are his hospitable hosts and, later, that Macbeth is the rightful king of Scotland after King Duncan's mysterious murder. One could also argue that the witches are intentionally deceiving Macbeth with their prophecies. Because Macbeth meets a very tragic end, the text might be implying that people who are intentionally deceptive never end up doing very well.

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The theme of deception is continually explored in Macbeth. Duncan says with profound irony at the end of act 1, scene 2:

No more that thane of Cawdor shall deceive
Our bosom interest

He does not realize that the next time he is deceived by a thane of Cawdor, the results will be fatal. Lady Macbeth counsels her husband in duplicity:

Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under't.

This lesson, however, seems superfluous, since Macbeth is already inclined to conceal his thoughts:

Let not light see my black and deep desires:
The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be,
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.

And again, immediately before he murders Duncan, Macbeth tells himself:

Away, and mock the time with fairest show:
False face must hide what the false heart doth know.

The witches deceive Macbeth by twisting the truth, as he finally understands only just before his death when he realizes that Macduff is going to kill him:


(The entire section contains 4 answers and 833 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 22, 2019