Appearance vs Reality in Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Appearance versus Reality in Macbeth
The theme of appearance vs reality is one of the most important and recurring themes in William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. This theme is explored through the use of various techniques, including irony, symbolism, and characterization, and it is central to the play’s plot and structure. In this essay, I will discuss how the theme of appearance vs reality is presented in Macbeth, and how it contributes to the play’s overall meaning and significance.
One of the most important examples of appearance vs reality in Macbeth is the character of Macbeth himself. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is presented as a loyal and honorable soldier who is praised for his bravery and loyalty to the King. However, as the play progresses, it becomes clear that this is just an appearance, and that Macbeth is actually a ruthless and ambitious man who is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals.
This is evident in Macbeth’s reaction to the prophecy of the witches, which he initially dismisses as “fantastical” and “impossible.” However, as soon as he is told that he will become King, he becomes obsessed with the idea, and begins to plot the murder of King Duncan. This shows that Macbeth’s initial appearance of loyalty and honor was just a façade, and that his true nature is one of ambition and deceit.
Another example of appearance vs reality in Macbeth is the character of Lady Macbeth. Like Macbeth, Lady Macbeth presents an appearance of loyalty and honor, but this is quickly revealed to be a façade. In her famous soliloquy, Lady Macbeth reveals that she is willing to do whatever it takes to help her husband become King, even if it means killing an innocent man. She says, “Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood, / Stop up the access and passage to remorse.”
This shows that Lady Macbeth’s true nature is one of ambition and ruthlessness, and that she is willing to sacrifice her own morality in order to achieve her goals. However, this appearance of strength and resolve masks a deep sense of guilt and despair, which Lady Macbeth reveals in her sleepwalking scene. This scene is a powerful example of the contrast between appearance and reality, as Lady Macbeth’s outward appearance of strength and control is shattered by her inner turmoil and guilt.
Irony is another important technique that Shakespeare uses to explore the theme of appearance vs reality in Macbeth. One of the most striking examples of irony in the play is the contrast between the way that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are perceived by the other characters, and their true nature. Macbeth is initially perceived as a loyal and honorable soldier, while Lady Macbeth is perceived as a dutiful and loving wife. However, as the play progresses, it becomes clear that both of these perceptions are false, and that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are actually ruthless and ambitious individuals.
Another example of irony in Macbeth is the contrast between the way that Macbeth and Banquo respond to the witches’ prophecy. Banquo, who is initially skeptical of the witches’ predictions, is ultimately proven right, as he is not seduced by the lure of power and remains loyal to his principles. Macbeth, on the other hand, who initially dismisses the prophecy, is ultimately consumed by his ambition and becomes a tyrant who is despised by his people.
Symbolism is also an important technique that Shakespeare uses to explore the theme of appearance vs reality in Macbeth. One of the most important symbols in the play is the motif of blood. Blood is a symbol of guilt and violence, and it is used to highlight the contrast between appearance and reality in Macbeth. For example, after Macbeth murders King Duncan, he is unable to wash the blood from his hands, saying, “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?” This shows that Macbeth’s outward appearance of strength and confidence is just a façade, and that he is consumed by guilt and remorse.
Similarly, Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene is filled with references to blood, which symbolizes her guilt and the violence that she and her husband have unleashed. She says, “Out, damned spot! out, I say!…What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” This shows that Lady Macbeth’s outward appearance of strength and control is just a façade, and that she is consumed by guilt and despair.
In conclusion, the theme of appearance vs reality is central to the plot and structure of Macbeth. Shakespeare uses various techniques, including irony, symbolism, and characterization, to explore this theme and to highlight the contrast between appearance and reality in the play. Through the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare shows how ambition and deceit can lead to the destruction of the individual, and how appearances can be deceiving. The use of symbols such as blood also serves to emphasize the theme of appearance vs reality, and to show the consequences of the characters’ actions. Ultimately, the play suggests that the pursuit of power and ambition can lead to one’s downfall, and that it is important to remain true to one’s principles and to be aware of the dangers of appearances that may not reflect reality.
Read More: Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Written by Koushik Kumar Kundu
Koushik Kumar Kundu was among the toppers when he completed his Masters from Vidyasagar University after completing his Bachelors degree with Honours in English Literature from The University of Burdwan. He also completed B.Ed from the University of Burdwan.