Due to recent legislative introductions, the website is currently unavailable in Australia. We need some time to make sure our experts are fully compliant. We are doing our best to get back to you the shortest. Stay tuned!

Last Updated 17 Aug 2022

Appearance vs. Reality: Macbeth

Category Macbeth
Words 3378 (13 pages)
Table of contents

‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’, a phrase that has become synonym with Macbeth. It is also the introduction to one of the most important themes of this tragedy: appearance and reality. Shakespeare uses various characters and situations to emphasize this confusion between the real and the surreal, the authentic and the fake, the act and the sincere. In order to discuss this theme, different characters will be looked at: in the first paragraph, the Witches, in the second, Duncan and in the third, Lady Macbeth.

Appearance vs. reality is also seen in the beginning of the play when the witches introduce the quotation, "fair is foul, and foul is fair," or what seems good is really bad—Macbeth; and what seems bad is really good—Malcolm flees Scotland when his father dies and looks guilty, but he is only trying to protect himself. The witches' second set of predictions promise Macbeth a long reign. They tell half-truths to give him a "false sense of security. " Though the first prediction is true ("Beware Macduff"), the other two predictions make Macbeth believe he can't be killed.

The appearance of the predictions lures him, and the reality behind them destroys Macbeth. The Witches introduce the theme with the infamous phrase “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” in the first scene. It’s functional for the Witches to say this in the beginning of the book, as they are the start of all the perplexity. They become the core of confusion when they awaken Macbeth’s ambition and transform his perspective of good and evil, making bad things look good and good things look bad. Ironically in connection with this, Banquo warns Macbeth, “Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s In deepest consequence”.

Order custom essay Appearance vs. Reality: Macbeth with free plagiarism report


The Witches continue to speak in contradicting language, such as “lesser than Macbeth, and greater” and “Not so happy, yet much happier” that adds to the sense of moral confusion, by implying that nothing is quite what it seems. Banquo’s warning is fulfilled at the end of the play when the Witches had won Macbeth’s trust with prophecies that became true –‘honest trifles’- and then betray him in the things that really mattered, his life and his country -‘deepest consequence’- to win his spirit for hell.

Until his death, King Duncan was misled by Macbeth’s false loyalty. When the Thane of Cawdor had been found guilty of being a traitor and was hanged, King Duncan thought so highly of Macbeth, that he gave the title to him. The Thane then ironically dies with pride while Macbeth dies a foe of Scotland. The King was under the impression that Macbeth was a loyal and brave soldier, calling him “O worthiest cousin”, but Macbeth was actually already planning to kill the King, “whose murder yet is but fantastical”.

Even when Duncan goes to visit Macbeth, he praises the castle’s pleasant environment and hospitality, “This castle hath a pleasant seat”, but is totally unaware of Macbeth’s plans to murder him. From the first time we meet Lady Macbeth, we get the impression of a strong-willed and bold person, an ideal wife. As the play evolves, Macbeth grows stronger and Lady Macbeth begins to despair, commits suicide and proves to be the antithesis of an ideal wife.

She seems to lack conscience, saying “A little water clears us of this deed”, but towards the end her conscience drives her mad and she sleepwalks, washing her hands and saying “Out, damned spot! ” refering to the blood she imagines to see on her hands as a result of her plaguy conscience. In conclusion, interestingly Macbeth’s first line in the play is “So foul and fair a day I have not seen”, suggesting Macbeth as the focus of the play’s moral confusion.

Within him the conflict between good and evil continue, in the end driving him to his death. It’s clear to see that Shakespeare identified in life what he saw as the world’s fatal flaw, the inability to distinguish between appearance and reality, using Macbeth as a tool to communicate this. Throughout the play appearances, which are often deceitful, influence the whole plot of the play. It comes out mainly through the way Macbeth saw Kingship as a form of security and prestige but was then faced with even stronger feelings of insecurity and fear.

Hamlet Appearance vs Reality

When Hamlet’s mother chastises him for his overly intense grief, she asks him why, if death is universal, “Why seems it then so particular with thee”? (1. 2. 78) He responds, “ ‘Seems,” madam? Nay, it is. I know not ‘seems’ ”(1. 2. 79).

With those words, Hamlet delineates between appearance and reality, a theme that continues throughout the play Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare. The idea of appearance versus reality defines three characters in particular: Hamlet, Polonius, and Kind Claudius.The paradox of discrepancy between appearance versus reality is that sometimes, to find reality or truth, one has to act fake himself in order to find out the true nature of others. The two characters who use this theme for unjust purposes ultimately fail, but Hamlet is appearing as something he is not only to discover the truth. Even though Hamlet’s tragic death ends the play, he ultimately finds the truth and accomplishes his ultimate purpose, while Polonius and King Claudius could have easily avoided their deaths by remaining loyal and truthful to their loved ones and to themselves. CHANGE AROUND THIS LAST SENTENCE, I THINK ITS CONFUSING) King Claudius is perhaps the one who puts on the biggest act out of all these characters. Claudius’s personality is completely false, especially when it comes to his pretended love for Hamlet and the supposed grief he has for his dead brother.

When the audience first sees Claudius,it seems that he is sincere in his grief for his brother. He describes to the court his mixed emotions concerning his brother’s death and his hasty marriage: Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death The memory be green, and that it us befittedTo bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom To be contracted in one brow of woe, Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature That we with wisest sorrow think on him Together with remembrance of ourselves (1. 2. 1-7). Claudius is careful to appear to be grieving and anxious to show that his recent marriage does not mean disrespect to his brother. In the same scene he also presents himself as a good king, sending ambassadors to deal with the problem of Fortinbras and granting permission to Laertes to return to France, and he demonstrates the ability to handle issues at court.However, when the Ghost reveals to Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius, the audience realizes that the reality of Claudius’ inner character is very different from the appearance he presents.

Claudius’s motive for creating a false appearance is to cover up the reality of his crime. Claudius hides his crime even from his wife, Gertrude. She clearly hasn’t been an accomplice because the Ghost specifically instructs Hamlet, “Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive/Against thy Mother aught” (1. 5. 92-93). Even his wife, Gertrude, doesn’t know who Claudius really is.If the audience has any question about old Hamlet being murdered by his brother, that doubt is removed when Claudius’s false appearance is stripped away as he unsuccessfully attempts to pray: But, O, what form of prayer Can serve my turn? ‘Forgive me my foul murder’? That cannot be, since I am still possessed Of those effects for which I did the murder: My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.

(3. 3. 55-59) Once alone, Claudius reveals the truth. When Claudius realizes that Hamlet is onto him, he goes to great lengths to try to get rid of Hamlet so that he can maintain his false appearance of innocence.When the plot to send Hamlet to his death in England fails, Claudius, like Polonius and Hamlet, sets up a false scene in an attempt to have Hamlet killed. The sword fight at the end of the play is meant to appear as a friendly sport, but in reality, it is all just Claudius’s plan for murder by poisoned wine or poisoned sword tips. Claudius’s actions are arguably the most corrupt of all, although at times, Polonius’s deeds throughout the play are almost as unjust as Claudius’s (CHANGE SENTENCE AROUND? ) Even though Polonius’s reasons for his false appearance aren’t to cover up a murder, his motives are still less than admirable.

Polonius sets up his multiple fake appearances by creating scenes to be enacted, just as the director in a play would. For example, Polonius first portrays himself as a wise father saying goodbye to his son, but once Laertes has arrived in France, Polonius sends a spy, Reynaldo, after him, proving he is not the trusting, all-knowing father he claims to be. In Polonius’s elaborate instructions for Reynaldo, he orders Reynaldo to come close to slandering Laertes so he can find out the truth of Laertes’s behavior: “Your bait of falsehood take this carp of truth”(2. 1. 70).In a slightly different way, Polonius sets up another spy scene, this time, to get information about Hamlet. He betrays his daughter by using her as bait to gain information about Hamlet, just as he betrayed Laertes by having him spied upon.

Although Polonius does find out that Hamlet’s appearance of insanity is not out of love for Ophelia, he causes his daughter great anguish in the process. Polonius’s final subterfuge occurs when he insists on his secret presence at the confrontation between Hamlet and Gertrude. Ultimately, Polonius’s deceitfulness brings him to his death.Although Hamlet is like Polonius in the sense that he uses false appearances in order to ascertain the truth, his motifs in doing so are much more morally sound. Hamlet adopts what he calls an “antic disposition,” so that he only appears to be insane. He creates this false appearance so that he has the freedom to gather information from people without being suspected of anything unusual, therefore using false appearance to find the reality of the truth. Hamlet’s first act of craziness occurs when he is talking to Ophelia “ungartered and down-gyved to his ankle” (2.

1. 90). nd she reports his strange condition to her father. Hamlet persists in this false behavior throughout most of the play. Besides trying to find the truth, Hamlet uses his supposed condition to make fun of Polonius and belittle him slanders, sir; for the satirical rogue says here that old men have gray beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging think amber and plum-tree gum, and thst they have a plentiful laxk of wit, together with most weak hams; all which,sir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down”(2. 2. 215-220).

SOME SORT OF EXPLANATION OF IMPORTANCE OR SOME SENTENCE EXPLAINING THIS? ) Hamlet sets up a clever scene to rid himself of other enemies: he turns the tables on Rosencrantz and Guilderstern, who are supposed to be Hamlet’s childhood friends, by reversing the Claudius’s orders for Hamlet’s death so that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are killed. But Hamlet’s greatest achievement through the creation of a false appearance is his production of “The Mousetrap,” the play within a play. By using drama, Hamlet creates a fictional device--an illusion--to find the reality of the truth, by observing Claudius’s reaction to the play.Hamlet is certain he has exposed Claudius’s guilt when he stops the play and cries out, “Give me some light. Away! ”(3. 2. 295).

This scene is very important in the development of Hamlet’s revenge because it ultimately gives him the confidence he needs to execute the murder. All three characters create false appearances, but all for different reasons. Claudius creates a false appearance to mask his crime while both Polonius and Hamlet use appearances to deviously find information. However, Polonius exhibits no concern for morality in his actions, which is where he differs from Hamlet.Hamlet is driven to create a false appearance because of his loyalty towards his father. Even though the idea of revenge itself may be questionable, his love for his father and his desire to right the wrong that has been done to him are more honorable than the motives of the other characters. Quotes for Claudius Acts like he is sad about his brother dying “whose whisper o’er the world’s diameter, as levels as the cannon to his blank transports his poisoned shot, may miss our name and hit the woundless air.

oh come away! My soul is full of discord and dismay! ”- Claudius, act 4 scene 1, lines 42-46.Acts like he cares about hamlet "and that it us befitted/To bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom/To be contracted in one brow of woe" (Shakespeare I 2 2-4)"our late dear brother's death" (Shakespeare I 2 "O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven. /It hath the primal eldest curse upon't/A brother's murder" "It is most retrograde to our desire/And we do beseech you, bend you to remain/Here in the cheer and comfort of our eye" (Shakespeare I 2 114-117). "And he [Hamlet] to England shall along with you [R ; G]" (Shakespeare III 3 4). Claudius also refers to himself as "Thy loving father,Hamlet" (Shakespeare IV 3 50) "Our sovereign process, which imports at full/By letters congruing to that effect/The present death of Hamlet" Quotes for Polonius Sends person to spy on laertes |POLONIUS | |This above all: to thine ownself be true, | |And it must follow, as the night the day, | |Thou canst not then be false to any man. |(1. 3.

1) | Such meaningful words are almost not meaningful at all because polonius is the one that is saying them. He always wants to give advice but he shouldn't been the one doing it, especially when it comes to the truth 3. Polonius (Act II, Scene 2, lines 210-211) Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t. Will you walk out of the air, my lord? Quotes for Guildenstern and Rosencrantz

Macbeth Appearance vs Reality

The role of deception and the motif of appearance and reality had a large role in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. The motif of appearance and reality is first introduced by Shakespeare early on in the play when Macbeth must cover up for the murder of Duncan. This motif of appearance versus reality, or deception, appears again when Macbeth fools the murderers that killed Banquo. Macbeth tricks the murderer’s into believing it was Banquo’s fault that they led such miserable lives when in reality Banquo had nothing to do with them.

Finally, the reader sees this motif of appearance versus reality appear one last time towards the end of the play when Macbeth believes he is invincible and ends up ignoring one of the witches’ prophecies which ultimately leads to his demise. Throughout Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth has the knack to make others believe in him although he is ultimately lying to them. This can be first seen during the murder of King Duncan and his two servants when Macbeth must disguise the fact that he had committed the crime.

Macbeth initially feared committing a crime such as killing Duncan because he had no reason to do it and feared the consequences. Lady Macbeth, however, sensing the weakness in her husband’s heart gives Macbeth a piece of advice; “False face must hide what the false heart doth know. ” (I. VII. 92). Lady Macbeth tells her husband to deceive everyone into believing that neither he nor his wife had anything to do with the murder of Duncan or his servants. After the crime has been committed, both Lennox and Macduff knock on Macbeth’s door.

At this point Macbeth is feeling extremely guilty. However, Lady Macbeth diverts all attention away from Macbeth by fainting. “Help me hence, ho! ” (II. III. 129) During this brief time p Macbeth manages to collect his thoughts and weasels his way out of a hole by lying about his knowledge involving Duncan’s death. As the play progresses Macbeth uses his ability to deceive people to his advantage. He uses this ability to remove suspicion from himself when he kills his best friend, Banquo.

The motif of appearance versus reality was shown to appear after a murder, but as the play wears on it is possible to see that it also occurs before a murder. An ideal example of this can be seen when Macbeth decides to kill Banquo. Macbeth decides to hire professional murderers to carry out the deed of killing Banquo so that he would not have to get his hands dirty. The murderers, stricken by poverty, lead difficult lives and Macbeth uses this fact to manipulate the murderers into believing his lies.

Macbeth blamed the murderers’ hardships on Banquo even though Banquo had nothing to do with it. “Both of you Know Banquo was your enemy. ” (III. I. 124-125). Using the ability to deceive others, Macbeth managed to trick the foolish murderers into believing Banquo was indeed their enemy. He later arranged for a feast to occur on the same day as the murder so that he could have his name cleared from any list of suspicions. Finally, one can also see the concept of appearance vs. reality when the Weird Sisters foretell their prophecies.

One of the three apparitions that the weird sisters made appear before Macbeth was a child holding a tree. This apparition told Macbeth that he “shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him”(4. 1. 105-107) By saying this, the apparition caused Macbeth to gain great confidence, because if taken literally, it then sounds impossible for Macbeth to die. How can a forest move? Well it can’t. The witches used equivocation to deceive Macbeth into thinking that the whole forest needs to move, but reality only parts of the forest need to move.

An example of this would be when each person in Siward’s army carries one piece of the forest to Dunsinane and unknowingly Siward has completed part of the prophecy. Soon after Macbeth receives word of this, “As I did stand my watch upon the hill, /I looked toward Birnam, and anon methought/ the wood began to move. ” (5. 5. 37-39) Once Macbeth gets word of this, he realizes that what he thought was impossible, has just happened. The second apparition is a bloody child. This apparition tells Macbeth to “Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn/ The power of man, for none of woman born/ Shall harm Macbeth. (4. 1. 90-92) Because of this apparition Macbeth gains copious confidence. Through his eyes, every man is of woman born, for everyone has a mother. The Weird Sisters, being very devious, do not count being born by a caesarian section as “of woman born” (4. 1. 91) This causes Macbeth to get a since of false security. So through Macbeth’s eyes he appears to be very safe. But in reality there is a dark future in store for him. The last of the three apparitions would be the armed head. This apparition says “Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware Macduff! Beware the Thane of Fife! Dismiss me. Enough. ” (4. 1. 81-82) This apparition essentially foretells who will kill Macbeth, sadly after hearing the preceding apparition, Macbeth ignores this warning and makes it seem irrelevant. These apparitions have, through Macbeth’s eyes, been nothing but good news. First he hears he will not die until a forest moves to his castle. Then he hears that he should beware Maduff, but then ignores the warning after he hears that anyone born from a woman cannot kill him. Anyone would have gained confidence after having heard this news.

However, the Weird Sisters never speak literally, “the witches' prophesies are intentionally ambiguous” (Lizhi, Ye). So this since of invincibility that Macbeth gets, will later lead to his inevitable yet heroic demise. In conclusion, the concept of appearance vs. reality is found throughout the whole play. This concept of deception is used, but not limited, to Macbeth. Macbeth takes the idea of deception and enhances it to the point of manipulating other people. This not only causes Macbeth to rise to power, but also once he has gained too much confidence, it causes his heroic and inevitable downfall.

Appearance vs. Reality: Macbeth essay

This essay was written by a fellow student. You can use it as an example when writing your own essay or use it as a source, but you need cite it.

Get professional help and free up your time for more important courses

Starting from 3 hours delivery 450+ experts on 30 subjects
get essay help 124  experts online

Did you know that we have over 70,000 essays on 3,000 topics in our database?

Cite this page

Explore how the human body functions as one unit in harmony in order to life

Appearance vs. Reality: Macbeth. (2016, Aug 16). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/appearance-vs-reality-macbeth/

Don't let plagiarism ruin your grade

Run a free check or have your essay done for you

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Save time and let our verified experts help you.

Hire writer