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Summary: the Core Theme of Appearances Being Deceiving Throughout the Play Macbeth

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 William Shakespeare strongly manipulates characters, settings and the historical context of Macbeth to expose the audience to the masked appearances human obtain when tempted with success. As they become incapable of remaining trustworthy and truthful, ultimately resulting in their tragic downfall. Humans are often tempted with success throughout their life and sacrifice their true identify in order to achieve this. However, more times than not, when appearances are masked from the real world, this ultimately leads to the tragic downfall of humans.

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Shakespeare manipulatively constructs the protagonists, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth throughout the play to reveal to the audience that appearances are deceiving when humans are tempted with success. As they build an indifferent and sophisticated facade that assists them in making actions, they could not have done previous. Macbeth’s masked appearance deceptively transforms him from a “worthy gentleman”  into a tragic hero, as his lies start to unravel his ambitious plans. Macbeths truths begin to unravel into deceptive lies when discussing the witch’s prophecy, as Macbeth states “I think not of them” . This exploits the permanent prevarication mask Macbeth is now actively performing as he becomes extremely untrustworthy towards Banquo, a man considered to be his best friend. Macbeths masked appearance is a double-edged dagger that provides him with a shield of perseverance and potence, but consequently slices deep within himself and darkens his good intentions and his core value. Which ultimately transforms him from a loyal and devoted warrior into a subterfuge liar when wanting to fulfil his ambitious goals. “Oh, yet I do repent me of my fury. That I did kill them.” – And yet I still regret the anger that drove me to kill them”. As Macbeths masked appearance continues to shoot out tender treacherous lies out of his unassertive mouth, this causes MacDuff to immediately become suspicious Macbeth due to his transparent lies forming an unbalanced alibi. Therefore, making Macbeth extremely untruthful and untrustworthy towards MacDuff, which ultimately results in Macduff’s plot in Macbeths tragic downfall. “Look like the time, Bear welcome in your eye, Your hand, your tongue. Look like th’ innocent flower. But be the serpent under’t. He that’s coming.”  Lady Macbeths masked exterior reflected that of an emasculated and indomitable force but with every lie not only deceitfully unravelled the truth, but ultimately unravelled and forcefully destroyed her mental state, which ultimately results in Lady Macbeths tragic downfall. Like a Mother teaching a child to paint, Lady Macbeth guides Macbeths every stroke in becoming a master of masking appearances through the devious art of lying. They are very much alike, when looking in the mirror, one represents both. Both protagonists would not have dramatically changed without the help or ambitious goals of the other. Due to this are both covered in the blood of despair, trouble and have made the same wrong actions that resinate reflect deep down within their ambitious eyes. It is evidently clear that Shakespeare sufficiently uses characters to embody and reveal that appearances are deceiving to the audience, through the characters becoming tempted with success, that ultimately leads to their tragic fall.

The complex construction of a dark setting and mood is undoubtedly developed to convey the inner emotions and actions of humans when ambition corrupts them after being tempted with success. “Come, thick night, and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, that my keen knife see not the wound it makes nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry “Hold, hold!”. The notation of the thick night and smoke of hell expose the audience’s understanding that bad things are going to occur, despite no bad actions being taken at the moment. Dark settings reveal the true appearance that the characters begin obtaining as the dark mood created is associated with evil, death and crime, all are reflected within the true appearances that the characters obtain. This allows the audience to feel momentarily suspended from the action but in no way removed from the intensity of emotions. This dark setting and mood ultimately foreshadow the beginning of the disorder going to occur. Despite Lady Macbeth killing King Duncan, and this being seen as good, the dark setting and mood that is created states otherwise. It signifies that this is only just the beginning and the actions that have occurred are bad and unholy. Through this representation, there is a direct parallel to a representation of the Scottish state now being in disorder, as storms and cloudy weather often bring havoc and destruction. The change of tone to one of high rhetoric and classical allusion allows the audience to then imagine Macbeth putting on a “mask” of language in preparation for the murder. “When shall we three meet again. In thunder, lightning or in rain?” . The construction of darkness around this scene is extremely important as it reflects the trouble and nefarious times awaiting, but through this resonates that “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”. This construction of darkness emphasises that despite something being bad, the truth can be found within it. This is evident as despite the darkness and evil surrounding the witches, they remained truthful throughout the play. It is exceptionally clear that through constructing a dark setting allows the audience to understand how humans become incapable in remaining trustworthy and truthful when tempted with success, therefore leading them to mask their appearance.

Shakespeare cleverly draws connections between the Gunpowder Plot and Macbeth to effectively establish the underlying message that when tempted with success, the appearances of humans are masked as they become incapable of remaining trustworthy and truthful. Discovered in 1605, the Gunpowder Plot is deeply displayed and mirrored throughout the play to achieve Shakespeare’s purpose of entertaining of King James. “Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale; who committed treason enough for God’s sake yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator.”  It evidently clear that this line is a direct reference to the Jesuit thinker Henry Garnet, the main conspirator behind this dangerous plot. He wrote a novel called A Treatise of Equivocation, which provides a justification for lying. Garnet was a Jesuit priest that when tempted with the success of replacing the country’s Protestant government with Catholic leadership, this led him to mask his true appearance and become untrustworthy and truthful to the Catholic Church. His masked appearance that motivated his actions ultimately led to his tragic downfall and death. Not only does this reference entertain King James, but it also removes all suspicion of Shakespeare being involved in the plot and makes a mockery out of the people that tried to kill him. Through this, the audience gains a diverse understanding and example of Shakespeare mocking those people that share the same wild ambitions of success and evidently display the consequences of this. Through creating a common parallel of the theme of treason and murder, this supported the main theme that appearances are deceiving and when humans let their masked appearance control them, this ultimately leads to their tragic downfall.

It is exceptionally clear that Shakespeare constructs characters, settings and even the historical of the play to induce the audiences understanding that appearances can be deceiving when humans are tempted with success. As this makes them incapable of remaining trustworthy and truthful, which ultimately leads to their tragic downfall.

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