An Analysis of the Themes as Abuse of Power and Appearance Versus Reality in His Play Macbeth By Shakespeare

How does Shakespeare portray such themes as the abuse of power and appearance versus reality in his play, Macbeth? Shakespeare utilizes literary devices such irony and symbolism to convey the central messages of the play.

Several key events within the play influence characters to act the way they do. As Act I opens the play, we see Macbeth and Banquo deliberating over the witches predictions. While analyzing the witches prophesies of events yet to come, Banquo says The instruments of darkness tell us truths, / Win us with honest trifles, to betrays / In deepest consequence.

/ Cousins, a word, I pray you. He is warning Macbeth not to be seduced by the witchs promises of the throne and kingdom. As the play advances we learn that Macbeth has become infatuated with the idea of becoming king, and disregards Banquos warnings. Soon after, Macbeth and his wife devise the assassination of King Duncan inside their castle. After becoming king of Scotland, Macbeth becomes overwhelmed with paranoia and guilt; this causes him to abuse his power even further.

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After a series of murders, including the murder of Banquo and Macduffs family, Macbeth is finally defeated. Malcolm and Macduffs army from England subjugates Macbeth; soon after Macduff himself kills him. The rightful heir to the throne is finally in power and peace is restored throughout Scotland.

Shakespeare drives his intent with the use of several recurrent themes within Macbeth. Nothing is ever what it appears to be in the play and therefore the theme of appearance versus reality is introduced.

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For example, the witches predictions in Act IV of the play seem to have a positive outlook for Macbeth and his future as king. The first apparition that the witches conjure alert Macbeth to Beware Macduff / Beware Thane of Fife. The second apparition is most likely the one Macbeth finds the most comfort in; The powr of man, for none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth. The reader learns at the end of the play that Macduff fulfills this very bizarre category. Another recurrent theme is the abuse of power. After Macbeth has been crowned king of Scotland, he slowly begins his reign of terror. One of Banquos murderers says to Macbeth, Ay, my good lord: safe in a ditch he bides, / With twenty trenched gashes on his head, / The least a death to nature. He is saying simply that Banquo is not a threat anymore to Macbeth. Macbeths next target is by far the most shameful on a persons part; he orders the murder of Macduffs wife and children. The cruelty of his actions has reached a new level of evil.

Literary devices such as irony and symbolism perform an essential role in the development of the themes within Macbeth. Irony is used several times in the play to reflect the theme of appearance versus reality. The witches predictions appear to have a positive outlook for Macbeth; however, they are truly revealing his downfall. As King Duncan enters Macbeths castle in Act I Scene vii he says, This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air / Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself / Unto our gentle senses. This is a truly ironic statement because of the fact that he will soon be murdered in that same castle. Another example of irony is the fact Macbeth and Lady Macbeth thought their newfound royalty would bring them good, when in fact it only brought them misery and eventual death. Symbolism is when an object is used to represent something else. The most apparent use of symbolism is the use of blood within the play. In Act I blood symbolizes honor when the Captain of the army has announced their victory. As the play continues, blood comes to symbolize dishonor and the abuse of power. The murder of the King, Banquo and slaying of Macduffs family all show blood as an article of disgrace.

By utilizing literary devices such as irony and symbolism throughout Macbeth, Shakespeare conveys the themes of appearance versus reality and abuse of power. Using characters to further develop the plot, he tells us generally nothing is what it seems and that too much power can corrupt a person to the point of pure insanity.

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An Analysis of the Themes as Abuse of Power and Appearance Versus Reality in His Play Macbeth By Shakespeare. (2022, Apr 20). Retrieved from

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