What is the significance of appearance vs. reality in Shakespeare's Macbeth? 

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The audience learns that things will not always be what they seem in Macbeth in the first scene, when the witches chant "Fair is foul, Foul is fair" as they go off to meet Macbeth. The title character himself refers to the day's action, followed by the encounter with the witches, as a "fair and foul" day. Once he learns the prophecy, he is not certain whether it will be good or bad for him. Clearly, he is pleased that he will become king. This is apparently a good thing. Yet the audience is always aware (as indeed is Macbeth, early on) that bad things will happen as the prophecy is fulfilled. Another instance of appearance and reality has to do with meaning. Macbeth is reassured by the witches that he cannot be killed except by someone not "of woman born," and is remarkably overconfident as a result of this conviction. Yet in his climactic duel with Macduff, we discover that Macbeth misconstrued the meaning of the prophecy. Macduff was born by caesarian section, not, strictly speaking, "of woman born." Shakespeare also juxtaposes appearance and reality to great effect in the person of Lady Macbeth, whose hearty and warm greeting of Duncan is positively revolting in view of the fact that she is already beginning to plot against him:

All our service 
In every point twice done, and then done double, 
Were poor and single business to contend 
Against those honors deep and broad wherewith 
Your Majesty loads our house. For those of old, 
And the late dignities heap'd up to them, 
We rest your hermits.


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usman12's profile pic

usman12 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

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in shakespeare play there are numerous occations where this phrase "appearence v/s reality" can be applied. this phrase means that by look and appearence of face we cannot tell the true reality present in one's mind. when duncan came to know about the treachery of the thane of cawdor he says

there's no art to find man's ingratitude by looking at his face.

another occassion is scene iv when duncan declares malcolm as his successor and the prince of cumberland. macbeth says aside 

stars hide your fires. let not see my black and deep desires.

 

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