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Appearance vs. Reality Theme

Act 1    Act 2    Act 3    Act 4    Act 5

Act I

Witches: "Fair is foul, and fair is foul," (I, I, 10)
Comment: This introduces the idea of deceptiveness of appearances throughout the whole play.

King Duncan: "What [the Thane of Cawdor] hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won." (I, II, 79)
Comment: King Duncan calls Macbeth noble even though later he will become Duncan's murderer.

Macbeth: "So foul and fair a day I have not seen." (I, III, 38)
Comment: Macbeth speaks of the weather being foul and of winning the battles being fair.

Macbeth: "And nothing is but what is not." (I, III, 155)
Comment: Macbeth has been thinking about murdering the king and the picture of himself as the murderer is so vivid that he is not capable of seeing anything around him.

Macbeth: "The service and the loyalty in doing it pays itself." (I, IV, 25-26)
Comment: Macbeth says that serving King Duncan is its own reward, but he has already begun thinking about murdering the king.

Lady Macbeth: "Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under't." (I, V, 76-78)
Comment: Lady Macbeth is instructing Macbeth to look like he is innocent but underneath to be plotting to kill King Duncan.

Lady Macbeth: "All our service, in every point twice done and then done double, were poor and single business to contend against those honors deep and broad, wherewith Your Majesty loads our house." (I, VI, 18-22)
Comment: Lady Macbeth tells King Duncan that doing all the past service for him twice does not compare with the honor the he brings them with his visit, while in the meantime, in her thought, she plans to murder him.

King Duncan: "And [Macbeth's] great love (sharp as his spur) hath helped him to his home before us." (I, VI, 28-30)
Comment: The king thinks that Macbeth's love for his king and wife helped him speed home and arrive there before the king, but the real reason he got there so quickly was to talk to his wife about murdering King Duncan.

Macbeth: "False face must hide what the false heart doth know." (I, VII, 95-96)
Comment: Macbeth's appearance must hide that he will kill King Duncan.

Act II

Macbeth: "Being unprepared, / Our will became the servant to defect, / Which else should free have wrought." (II, I, 21-23)
Comment: Macbeth, with apparent modesty, claims to have wanted to serve the king to his fullest. He says that a lack of time did not allow him or lady Macbeth serve the King to their desire. This is ironic Because Macbeth and Lady Macbeth did have time to thoroughly think and prepare a plan to kill Duncan.

Macbeth: "... and withered murder, / Alarumed by his sentinel, the wolf, / Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace, / With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his / design" (I, I, 64-68)
Comment: In his imagination, Macbeth sees Murder as a withered man who is called to action by his sentinel, the wolf. In reference to ACT 1 sc. 7 lines 5 one would think of Macbeth as the sentinel who would keep an eye out for danger, "should against his murderer shut the door," and call out a warning or hinder Duncan from any danger. However, here murderer's sentinel or Macbeth bears "the knife" himself keeping an eye out for the opportunity to kill Duncan like the murderous rapist Tarquin; almost like a ghost.

Lady Macbeth:
"Go carry them and smear the sleepy grooms with blood" (II, II, 63-64)
"If he do bleed, / I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal, / For it must seem their guilt." (II, II, 71-73)
Comment: Lady Macbeth wants Duncan's death to appear to have been occasioned by the guards. She tells Macbeth that she will stain the faces of the guards with Duncan's blood to make them seem guilty because Macbeth will not do it.

"Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand?" (II, I, 44-45)
"I have thee not and yet I see thee still / Art thou not fatal vision, sensible / To feelings as to sight?" (II, I, 47-49)
"A dagger of the mind, a false creation" (II, I, 50)
"I see thee yet, in form as palpable / As this which now I draw." (II, I, 52-53)
"Mine eyes are made the fools o'the'other senses" (II, I, 56)
"I see thee still, / And, on thy blade on dudgeon, gouts of blood, / Which was not so before." (II, I, 57-59)
Comment: This parts of the soliloquy show how Macbeth is so obsessed by thoughts of the murder that he starts to hallucinate. He reaches for his imaginary dagger but of course he can't grasp it; it is a "false creation." Like that he realizes that he is seeing the dagger that he plans to use to kill Duncan. This is the dagger that leads him toward King Duncan's door and the dagger upon which appear thick drops of blood. The drops of blood foreshadow Duncan's death.

Macbeth: "Who could refrain / That had a heart of love, and in that heart / Courage to make's love known?" (II, III, 135-137)
Comment: Macbeth wants to make it seem as if he was very loyal to Duncan when Macduff asks him why he killed the guards. He wants to depict himself as a man of love and courage so that they will not suspect that he killed Duncan.


"The table's full." (III, IV, 54)
"Which of you have done this?" (III, IV, 59)
"Thou canst not say I did it: never shake"/"Thy Glory locks at me." (III, IV, 61-62)
Comment: Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo sitting in his seat at the banquet that he was supposed to attend. Banquo was just killed on the other scene, and his ghost can only be scene by Macbeth. Others seem confused about why he can't find his seat at the banquet and to why he is saying the things hat he is saying.

Macbeth: "If I stand here, I saw him." (III, IV, 89)
Comment: Macbeth is seeing the ghost of Banquo appear and disappear, and nobody else can see it. The ghost is pricking on Macbeth's mind, to drive him insane. Though the ghost isn't there, he still insists that it was.

Macbeth: "Avaunt, and quit my sight! let the earth hide thee!" (III, IV, 113)
Comment: The ghost of Banquo reappears, and Macbeth announces his appearance out load, to everybody else in the room. Macbeth is acting scared and frightened at an empty seat from the point of view of the people at the banquet.

Act IV

Second Apparition: " None of woman born shall harm Macbeth" (IV, I, 91-92)
Comment: Macbeth takes this to mean no one can kill him because everyone is born of women, but later we find out Macduff is an exception to this.

Macbeth: "Then live, Macduff: what need I fear of thee? / But yet I'll make assurance double sure, and take a bond of fate. Thou shalt not live;" (IV, I, 93-95)
Comment: Macbeth has learned Macduff cannot harm him but decides to kill him anyway to make sure he is not harmed.

Third Apparition: "Macbeth shall never vanquished be until / Great Birnam Wood to Dunsinane Hill / Shall come against him." (I, I, 105-107)
Comment: Macbeth will not be defeated until Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane Hill , and Macbeth believes this will never happen, but later Malcolm uses the branches of the trees to conceal his army's numbers from Macbeth's spies.

Macbeth: "Infected be the air whereon they ride, / And damned all those that trust them!" (IV, I, 157-159)
Comment: Macbeth believes what the witches have told him but at this point does not believe he himself is damned.

Lady Macduff: "When our actions do not, / Our fears do make us traitors." (IV, II, 4-5)
Comment: Lady Macduff comments on the fact that although her husband is not a traitor his fears may make him act like a person who is a traitor.

Lady Macduff: "Fathered he is and yet he is fatherless" (IV, II, 31)
Comment: Lady Macduff speaks of her son, he does have a father but his father is not there.

Sirrah: "The liars and swearers are fools ; for there / are liars and swearers enow to beat the honest / Men and hang up them." (IV, II, 62-64)
Comment: Sirrah says that traitors which lie and swear are fools because there are many more of them than there are honest men and they could easily beat the honest men and hang them up.

Lady Macduff: "I am in this earthly world, where to do harm / Is often laudable, to do good sometime / Accounted dangerous folly." (IV, II, 83-85)
Comment: Lady Macduff says that in this world it is acceptable to be evil, and if you do good you are considered a traitor.

Malcolm: "But I have none. The king-becoming graces, / As justice, verity, temp'rance, stableness, / Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, / Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude, / I have no relish of them" (IV, III, 107-111)
Comment: Malcolm says he does not have any of the virtues that a king should have but he is only saying this to test Macduff's loyalty.

Act V

Gentlewoman: "It is an accustomed action with her to / seem thus washing her hands. I have known her / continue in this a quarter of an hour." (V, I, 30-32)
Comment: To the gentlewoman it appears as if Lady Macbeth's continuous action of washing her hands is a custom. Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, is trying to wash Duncan's blood off of her hands.

Macbeth: "And be these juggling fiends no more believed that palter with us in a double sense, that keep the word of promise in our ear and brake it to our hope." (V, VII, 23-25)
Comment: Macbeth realizes that the witches lead him on to do evil by tempting him with false promises

Malcolm: "Let every soldier hew him down a bough / And hear't before him: thereby shall we shadow / The numbers of our host and make discovery" (V, IV, 6-8)
Comment: Malcolm instructs his army men to cut down some branches for each of them and to cover themselves with them. That way they could hide themselves from the view of Macbeth's troops and thus conceal the size of Malcolm's army, making the appearance of a moving grove marching towards Dunsinane. Remember the witches prophesy, "Fear not till Birnam wood do come to Dunsinane". Well, here is some Birnam "wood" coming to Dunsinane.

Malcolm: "Now, near enough: Your leafy screens throw down / And show like those you are" (V, VI, 1-2)
Comment: Malcolm's army reveals it's self for what it really is, not a moving grove but an invading army. Macbeth did have to fear the grove, but not for the grove it's self but for what the grove hid from Macbeth's view. Malcolm's army.