Highlight TWO themes in Macbeth, and discuss how Shakespeare has displayed them throughout his play.
The themes of appearance versus reality and gender roles are central to the Shakespearean play The Tragedy of Macbeth. Shakespeare's iconic play is full of the struggles of seeing what is real and what is not, as well as the manipulation of gender roles. Throughout Macbeth, Shakespeare manipulates different characters through their words, thoughts and actions to depict the themes of appearance versus reality and the conflicting roles of women and men in Shakespearean London.
Shakespeare's ability to manipulate even minor characters in Macbeth allows him to display elements of appearance vs. reality. Although King Duncan dies in the first act of the play, one of his lines underscores the theme of appearance versus reality perfectly. He states, "There's no art to finding the mind's construction in the face" (Shakespeare, 1. 4. 12-13). Duncan says this line about the traitorous Thane of Cawdor, who betrayed Scotland to Norway. He means that a person's face can hide anything, and it is impossible to tell what someone is thinking. Ironically, as a reward for his bravery and loyalty, Duncan gives the Thane of Cawdor's title to Macbeth, who kills him to obtain his throne. Duncan recognizes that people can hide what they are truly thinking, but he still trusts Macbeth completely. When Duncan goes to Macbeth's castle Inverness, he states "This castle hath a pleasant seat" (1. 6. 1), but this statement is again ironic because Inverness is the place where Macbeth murders him. The castle's agreeable appearance fools Duncan, and he is murdered in his sleep that very night.
The three witches who gave these misleading prophecies also stated one of the most prominent examples of appearance differing from reality. The words "Fair is foul and foul is fair" (1. 1. 11) are uttered by the three witches before the audience is introduced to the title character Macbeth. This oxymoron immediately sets the stage for the idea that not everything is as it seems. Macbeth receives a second prophecy from the witches that says, "Macbeth shall never be vanquished until Great Birnam Wood to Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him" (4. 1. 91-93). This example of equivocation, displayed by the witches throughout the play, highlights appearance versus reality as well as Macbeth's overwhelming ambition. While to Macbeth, this may seem all but impossible, the reality is that his ambition clouded his vision, as he 'judged this book by its cover,' not looking into the deeper possibilities of this prophecy. Once Malcom and his men get close enough to Macbeth's army, he says, "Now near enough. Your leafy screens throw down/And show like those you are" (5. 6. 1-2). Malcom and his men hid their true appearance in order to defeat Macbeth. By doing so, they are also causing the prophecy the witches gave Macbeth to come true, but not in a literal fashion....