Antithesis In Macbeth

In Macbeth, what are some examples of antithesis in the first three acts other than the witches in the first scene?

I have looked and the only ones I found are by the witches in the first scene.

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Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Antithesis is a figure of speech created by the expression of contrasting ideas or opposites in a grammatically parallel way. Thus, "fair is foul and foul is fair" is a good example of this definition of antithesis. In Act 2, scene 1, Macbeth hallucinates a dagger just ahead of him as he makes his way toward Duncan's bedroom. He attempts to snatch it from the air, but he is unable to touch it because it is only a vision. He says, "I have thee not, and yet I see thee still" (2.1.47). The two ideas presented in this quotation are I have thee not, and I see thee still. Both begin with "I" followed by a verb—"have" or "see"—and end with a word describing the dagger's presence or lack of it. Macbeth tries to grasp the knife, which he can see, but he cannot touch it, and it is this contrast that allows him to realize that the dagger he sees is illusory only and seems to betray how overtaxed his mind is by the knowledge of what he's about to do.

Antithesis, however, can also refer, more simply, to a contrast between two things in close proximity to one another. After she's returned the bloody daggers to Duncan's chambers, having scolded Macbeth for his cowardice and thoughtlessness, Lady Macbeth says, "My hands are of your color, but I shame / To wear a heart so white" (2.2.82-83). She contrasts the literal color on her own and Macbeth's hands, the red from Duncan's blood, to the figurative color of Macbeth's heart, suggesting his fearfulness and weakness.

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Macbeth is a play of contrasts and conflict, especially between good and evil and appearance and reality. The witches comments of

fair is foul

are cemented by Macbeth himself

So foul and fair a day I have not seen (I iii 39)

There is a struggle by Macbeth between achieving his ambition and behaving in a good and moral manner. Macbeth is considered a tragic hero by most and antithesis is needed to create that balanced contrast.

and nothing is
But what is not. ( I iii 41)

He is uncertain about the witches' words and has an opportunity to discount them 

This supernatural soliciting

Cannot be ill, cannot be good (I iii 141-142)

but it does not take long for Lady Macbeth to convince him of his purpose. 

Lady Macbeth is the epitome of antithesis. She and Macbeth have a  

genuine, if distorted, bond of love holding the two together

The reversal of roles and values - Lady Macbeth 'desexing' herself and being the driving force behind Macbeth to the point where she will completely remove any maternal instinct as she

..dashed out its brains..

The execution of the Thane of Cawdor, an acceptable occurrence in the day for acts of treason, reinforces the common thread that this play is a contradiction: 

Nothing in his life
became him like the leaving of it.(I.iv.7-8)

Refer to the eNotes study guide and pages to see examples of the ambivalence and themes of Macbeth which reinforce the use of antithesis.

 

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