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The Two Faced King and Queen: Appearance vs Reality in Macbeth

1559 words (6 pages) Essay in English Literature

08/02/20 English Literature Reference this

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As Sanal Edamaruku once said, “For those in love with an illusion often refuse to accept their reality’s consequences.”  In other words, one is quicker to believe something positive to be true about a situation, rather than facing and accepting the harsh reality.  Similarly, one may make the mistake of coming to conclusions about cunning individuals who put on a mask.  In William Shakespeare’s wholesome, but in reality are hiding a dark side underneath.  They play themselves off as good people who could do no wrong, when this is not the case. Other individuals fall for this illusion, as it is easy to do, and horrible consequences come to pass. The play focuses on these characters and the tragic consequences that follow their false understandings of individuals who are not as they seem. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, he reveals how an individual can identify as one thing, but be very different underneath.  He shows how these individuals hide their true identities and the tragic consequences that ensue because of others’ misconceptions upon them.

At the beginning of the play in act 1, the theme of appearance versus reality is illustrated when Macbeth talks to the King and becomes a Thane. Macbeth says “Let light not see my dark and deep desires”(1 .4.59). Macbeth reveals, that in this case, he desires to murder King Duncan and take the Scottish throne. He also uses a metaphor of light as a symbol of goodness, while the black symbolizes the evil he is about to commit. He wants everyone to continue thinking he is  a good person. This theme is also revealed later in the scene when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth begin to plot the murder of King Duncan. Lady Macbeth says, “Look like an innocent flower but be a serpent under it”(1.5.72). Lady Macbeth is telling Macbeth on how to go and kill King Duncan. She encourages him to appear innocent and play the welcoming host to the king so no one will suspect his true intentions, and then he will become a serpent by killing Duncan without anyone knowing it was him. Finally, near the end of the scene when Lady Macbeth tells him that he shouldn’t worry about the killing of Duncan, but he still continues to worry. Macbeth says, “False face must hide what the false heart doth know”(1.7.91). Macbeth is saying that he will put on a false front and act as if everything is normal, even though he is plotting to kill Duncan. This betrayal of his king is what he is talking about when he speaks of a “false heart”, which perfectly falls into the theme of appearance vs reality. We know that Macbeth is easy to read for Lady Macbeth, so he must work extra hard to change his appearance and hide the reality or under his “false face ” to others  because of his murderous plot. Overall, the state of Macbeth is feeling is going to fulfill Macbeth with regret after.

At the beginning of Act 2, the theme of appearance versus reality is portrayed when  Lady Macbeth encourages her husband, to show himself as a good and humble man but actually be evil and spiteful underneath.  In the play it states, “There’s a dagger in men’s smiles” (2.3.120). This quotation shows how even though individuals may put a smile on their face, they could truly be planning on doing something evil, covering it with a false smile. It was not only Macbeth who portrayed himself as an individual who is fake, but his beloved wife as well.  In the play it states,“Oh, gentle lady ‘Tis not for you to hear what I can speak. The repetition in a woman’s ear would murder as it fell.” (2.3.59-60). This quotation shows how Lady Macbeth acts as if she were not the one who planned the murder of King Duncan. Her husband, Macbeth says this to her meaning that a woman is too gentle to hear about a murder, but in reality, the murder was all the lady’s idea. This shows how individuals can appear as one thing, but be something different underneath.Lady Macbeth wants to make herself appear as a sweet, innocent, and gentle lady who knows no such thing as murder. However, in reality, she was the one who planned it. Furthermore, Act 2 is an excellent example of “appearance versus reality because it truly portrays how individuals can be fake. They set up an image for people to  see, but be the complete opposite underneath

In Act 3, the theme of appearance versus reality is demonstrated when Macbeth invites Banquo over for a pleasant dinner with him and Macbeth’s family. Lady Macbeth says, “Sleek o’er your rugged looks. Be bright and jovial, among your guests tonight” (3.2.30). When Lady Macbeth says that she is telling Macbeth to appear warm and be a good host when in reality, it is known that Macbeth is planning to kill King Duncan. This theme is also illustrated when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have to go talk to Banquo, but they have to hide their true identities and their guilt. Macbeth says, “Must lave our honors in these flattering streams, and make our faces vizards to our hearts, disguising what they are”(3.2.35-36). Macbeth and Lady Macbeth will appear happy to others, but it is known that they are all making a show to hide all the guilt from the murder. Finally, this theme is shown when Macbeth is at the dinner giving condolences about Banquo’s death. Macbeth says, “I drink to the general joy o’th’ whole table/ And to our dear friend Banquo, whom we miss; Would he was here! To all and him we thirst, And all to all” (3.5.89-92).  Macbeth reveals that he is sorry for his friend Banquo when in reality, he killed Banquo. Overall, Macbeth knows that this appearance of being fake will get him into trouble.

In Act four and five, the theme of appearance versus reality is first emphasized through the external and internal actions displayed by Macbeth.  In Act 4, when Macbeth meets with the witches, one of the witches states, “Something wicked this way comes” (4:1: 44-45). They say that Macbeth is a wicked, mean, and cruel man. This compares with the shiny surface that Macbeth displays to the world that glistens with bravery, loyalty, and greatness. The theme is further revealed when  Macbeth realizes that the witches will know his future, so he goes and visits them. The witch says “Double, double, toil and trouble;/Fire burn and cauldron bubble” (4:1:10-11). Sensing that Macbeth is near, the witches show that they understand his true nature.. In Act 5, Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking and keeps talking about there being blood on her hands, she states, “Here’s the smell of the blood still” (5:1:43). This proves the theme by her actions. Lady Macbeth is washing her hands and continues to say there is still a bit of blood, but really there is no single drop of blood is on her hands. Further in this act Lady Macbeth reveals again that Macbeth shouldn’t worry about Banquo because he isn’t really alive. Lady Macbeth says  “I tell you yet again, Banquo’s buried; he cannot come out on ’s grave” (5:1:40). The old man in Lady Macbeth’s words is Duncan, she is talking about how Macbeth and herself killed Duncan, also she is telling Banquo is dead. The appearance versus reality shows on the doctor stand beside, what Lady Macbeth said is an astonishment to her, obviously, she doesn’t know Macbeth’s nature, she is query and doubt about it. To the doctor, this news provided a different side of Macbeth’s usual . Macbeth and Lady Macbeth learn that  their actions led them down a rough path that eventually ends with their deaths.  They attempted to do something that would eventually overpower them and it did.

In conclusion, throughout Macbeth, many things appear to be good, but in reality, they are really bad. As Shakespeare reveals, one will do anything to keep their real identity hidden from others and even  kill to do so. During all five acts, on numerous occasions, the characters acted as though they were two different people. Just as Macbeth was seen to be a good, kind person during act one, but between acts two to four he becomes a different person but near acts five people revealed his true identity of being a cold-blooded murderer and wanting to get what he wants no matter what.  As for Lady Macbeth, she was seen as a kind and caring wife during act one but as one can see in acts two through five, her true self is revealed, she becomes this ruthless person who only wants power. Rather if a person tries to be a person who they really are it will really affect their life or even end them in their death.

Works Cited

  • Edamaruku, Sanal. “Sanal Edamaruku Quote.” Az Quotes, www.azquotes.com/quote/735670
  • Shakespeare, William, and D. R. Elloway. Macbeth. Nelson, 1992.
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