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Module 1: Macbeth Themes

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Deceptiveness - appearances and reality

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English - Deceptiveness, appearances and reality

Deceptiveness, appearances and reality

This theme is introduced very early in the play with the chant of the
witches 'FAIR IS FOUL AND FOUL IS FAIR' in Scene One. Macbeth also uses
these words in 1,3, line 37.

Duncan had been deceived by the first Thane of Cawdor:

'There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face:
HE WAS A GENTLEMAN ON WHOM I BUILT
ABSOLUTE TRUST.' (1,4, line 12)

and is then deceived by Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth advises her husband to 'LOOK LIKE THE INNOCENT FLOWER/ BUT
BE THE SERPENT UNDER IT.' (1,5,64) before the murder and says many things
in a similar vein to convince her husband to hide his guilt. Macbeth
himself says 'FALSE FACE MUST HIDE WHAT THE FALSE HEART DOTH KNOW'
(1,7,38).

Macbeth and his wife are not the only characters for whom appearances can
be deceptive.

Malcolm, for instance, lies to Macduff about himself in order to test his
loyalty and much is made about the equivocation of the witches who
deliberately mislead Macbeth.

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