Discussion Topic

The theme of suspicion in Macbeth

Summary:

The theme of suspicion in Macbeth is pervasive, driving the plot and characters' actions. Macbeth's suspicion of others, fueled by his ambition and paranoia, leads to a cycle of mistrust and violence. Lady Macbeth's initial suspicion of Macbeth's resolve also propels their descent into treachery. Ultimately, suspicion corrodes relationships and contributes to the tragedy's catastrophic outcomes.

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What instances in Macbeth involve suspicion or being suspected?

There is definitely a lot of suspicion abound in Macbeth.

First of all, Macbeth is suspicious of Banquo and Banquo is suspicious of Macbeth.  Both have heard the prophecy.  Banquo wonders why Macbeth seems interested in it, and tries to warn him not to listen. 

Thou hast it now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all,

As the weird women promised, and I fear

Thou play'dst most foully for't: (Act 3, Scene 1, p. 40)

Yet Macbeth also wonders about Banquo, since he is not pleased with the “fruitless crown” since Banquo’s sons are supposed to be king, not Macbeth’s.

Macbeth is also very suspicious of Banquo after he kills Duncan.  Duncan, who should have been suspicious of Macbeth, was not.

To be thus is nothing,

But to be safely thus. Our fears in Banquo

Stick deep, and in his royalty of nature

Reigns that which would be fear'd. (Act 3, Scene 1, p. 42)

Suspicion runs deep.  Malcolm is also suspicious of Macduff, and tests his loyalty before allowing him to assist in taking back the crown.  He tries to tempt Macduff into agreeing with him that he is unfit to rule, but Macduff passes the test.

Macduff, this noble passion,

Child of integrity, hath from my soul(130)

Wiped the black scruples, reconciled my thoughts

To thy good truth and honor. (Act 4, Scene 3, p. 70)

In the end, Macbeth begins to worry.  He refuses to hear reports of desertion or soldiers coming for him.  He is right to be suspicious though—they are coming!

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Elaborate on the theme of suspicion among characters in Macbeth.

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, fair is foul and foul is fair, as the witches declare and Macbeth echoes.  This theme is prevalent throughout the play. 

Duncan thought the original Thane of Cawdor was a man he could trust absolutely, but he was a traitor.  Lady Macbeth should be a caretaker and mother and hostess, but she wants to be aggressive and bloodthirsty like a male warrior.  Macbeth should be a loyal thane, but he's a traitor, too. 

With oppositions dominating the play, it is no wonder suspicions are aroused.  Banquo is beyond reproach, but Macbeth has no trouble convincing the two murderers that it was Banquo that wronged them, not Macbeth.  Macduff, too, is beyond reproach, yet Malcolm suspects him of being a collaborator with Macbeth against the well-being of Scotland. 

Ironically, however, it is the lack of suspicion that leads to the crisis in Scotland in the first place.  If King Duncan was less gullible and a little more suspicious, he'd have protected himself better, or not stayed at Macbeth's castle in the first place.  Unfortunately, he didn't learn his lesson after the original Cawdor's betrayal.

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Elaborate on the theme of suspicion among characters in Macbeth.

Throughout the play, characters have their suspicions about other characters and the roles that they have played in ill acts.  For example, during his conversation with the old man, Macduff reveals that he thinks Macbeth has had a hand in the death of King Duncan.  As a result, Macduff refuses to attend Macbeth's coronation.  Similarly, Banquo suspects that Macbeth has done evil things to become king.  Macbeth, on the other hand, suspects that there are men in Scotland who are out to overthrow him, hence the string of murders that he commits.  Just as Macduff and Banquo suspect Macbeth, he suspects them. 

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What examples in Macbeth further the theme of suspicion?

In the play Macbeth there is a great deal of suspicion and fear that occurs throughout the story.  Shakespeare largely wrote the play in order to examine the contrast between a good/noble monarch and a tyrannical monarch so it is to be expected that royals often faced suspicion in some ways and had to be suspicious of those out to usurp their power.  The theme of suspicion in Macbeth runs very deep as almost all of the major characters face suspicion in some way.  Moreover, Macbeth himself is driven mad trying to escape those who he fears and remain in power after killing Duncan.  First, Banquo exhibits suspicion when hearing the prophecy from the weird sisters in the woods- he does not initially believe the prophecy and even understands that the witches are attempting to lure them into an evil trap.  Second, Banquo becomes suspicious of Macbeth for his role in Duncan's murder.  Next, Macbeth becomes suspicious of Banquo and what he might do in order to make his sons into kings and this leads to Banquo's death.  Macebth becomes further suspicious of MacDuff when the witches tell him "Beware MacDuff" which leads to Macbeth slaughtering MacDuff's family.  And finally, when MacDuff flees and meets with Malcolm, Malcolm is ultimately suspicious of MacDuff that he might be luring him to his demise by having him return to Scotland.  As you can see, there are many individuals who are all extremely fearful throughout the play.  This suspicion often leads people to act irrationally and behave in ways that are outside of their character.

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