The Significance Of Paradox And Equivocation In Shakespeare’s Tragedy

Macbeth’s most prominent characters depend on their ability of equivocating to hide their covetous and malicious intentions. Although most characters are involved in this subterfugee, Macbeth is the most notable. Macbeth may employ the same tactics of speech manipulation as the others but he ultimately falls prey to the trickery because he is unable to see the deceit hidden in the witches’ words.

Macbeth is a well-respected and noble Thane. He is also a loyal man who is presented to the nation. Only when the witches promise him a future kingship, does he become the deceitful and dishonest murderer that plagues Scotland later in the play? Macbeth’s deceit is put to the first test when he tried to fool Banquo, Macduff and Malcolm into believing that he was just another loyal subject of his king. He tried to make them feel as shocked and appalled as he was by the brutal and unplanned murder. Macbeth attempted to prove his innocence by saying, “Who is able to be wise, amazed and temperate, furious and loyal, all in one instant?” Macbeth claims that no man can kill the guards who were supposed protect Duncan. He stated that no man could behave rationally during such extreme emotional intensity. Macbeth, however, demonstrates his mastery of equivocating by slyly contradicting his own declaration. He claims that men’s actions in times of strife are often irrational. However, he actually acted rationally. His actions were concisely based on a well-thought-out plan. Macbeth was attempting to conceal his murderous intentions by making this statement. Macbeth was unable to protect his future kingship and himself, despite his best efforts. These witches’ equivocations are Macbeth’s most prominent and most damaging statements. Act I, Scene III: Three witches greet Macbeth in their equivocal prophecies. Banquo is annoyed by the witches’ apparent favoritism for Macbeth and requests that they address him too. Frank Kermode, Author “Shakespeare’s Language”, acknowledges this meeting to be the initiation of witches’ equivalents. He writes about the ambiguity of this scene in his essay.

The scene in Macbeth’s encounter with Banquo fully displays the unusual, ambiguous double nature of Macbeth. These people are the inhabitants of earth? Are these figures men or women? Are you alive? They answer with their prophecy. Banquo asks Macbeth why he fears what appears so fair. He then addresses the sisters.

Are you a fable or a reality? Are you who you say you are, or just a bunch of apparitions? Why are you speaking to him but not to me? If you can see into the seeds and predict which grains will grow, talk to me. Who will neither fear nor beg for your favors.”

These rhythms are a reminder of the original question: Can we learn anything about the future from our present? He/me, grow/not Grow, be/fear and favors/hate even though they aren’t necessary to the substance. The oppositions and alternative sounds continue on incessant

Kermode asserts that witches are ambiguous in their positive/negative speech attributes as well as in a physical sense. Banquo’s statement that “You should have women, yet your beards prevent me from reading you as such” (3.1.20), demonstrates this point.

Banquo asks for help and the witches respond by saying, “Lesser Macbeth, but Greater” (3.1.19). “Not quite happy, but much more joyful” (3.1.19). Banquo instantly replies, “Stay.” (3.1.19). He expressed his concern about the witches words by stating, “Stay, imperfect speakers”. This proves that they are an equivocation due to their indiscernible nature. These statements are true, and they foreshadow the future. The quote “Lesser Than Macbeth, but Greater”

This refers to both Banquo’s nobility as well as moral issues. Banquo will never be elevated to the status of king, like Macbeth. This makes him less noble than Macbeth. Banquo is still more morally superior than Macbeth. This is because Banquo was not tempted to murder as Macbeth. Banquo and Macbeth can be compared by the second quote, “Not quite happy, but much more happier,” which refers to their emotional conflicts. Banquo will soon be executed, but he won’t enjoy the same fate as Macbeth. He will also be King. Macbeth is weighed down by guilt and fear of mutiny, making his life miserable, even though he is still king. However, Banquo is enjoying the last laugh.

Shakespeare also created Macbeth a character for comic relief. This is ironic considering Macbeth is a dramatic and dark play. The character was created to add a little humor to an already intense play. Its purpose, however, was to highlight the impact of equivocal languages on all aspects of the play. The porter, who is an absurdist himself, appears drunken as a jokester in a serious play. The porter then speaks in a completely paradoxical, convoluted language.

“Lechery sir. It makes you want, but it takes away your performance. Drinking too much can be equated with lechery. It marred him. He is unable to stand or not stand; it puts him to sleep and, after giving him the lie to, leaves him. (2.3.63)

This passage refers to alcohol as a harsh equivocator. It’s characteristic of encouraging men to speak out and then taking away their ability to follow through. The undulating effects alcohol has on men is directly related to Macbeth’s cowardice and ferocity as a king. He is determined and ruthless when he murders people, but his once strong will to do so soon crumbles, leaving him in a tangled mess under the watchful eyes of his fearful nobles.

Macbeth based his courage on the prophecies of witches. Do not be afraid to mock the power and might of men, as no one of these women shall harm Macbeth.” (4.1.127). Macbeth replied to this statement by saying, “Then Live Macduff; What need I fear about thee?” (4.1.128). Macbeth implied that this phrase meant that he was untouchable by anyone, Macduff included. Macbeth should therefore not be afraid of the man who could harm him. Macbeth believes that this misinterpretation was intended by the witches. He is induced to relax and surrender to their illusions, which in turn lulls them into false security. He eventually succumbs to vulnerability at the intersection of “Great Birnam Wood and “High Dunsinane Hill”.

Macbeth’s blindness and resilience can also been attributed to The Other Witches’ prophecy. It states: “Be Lion-Mettled, proud, but don’t care who chafes. Who frets. Or where conspirators’ are. Macbeth’s defeat will not come until Great Birnam Wood or high Dunsinane Hill is against him. Macbeth gives in to the witches’ tricks as he did before. Because it was easy to misinterpret (as Macbeth demonstrated), this prophecy became a paradox. The statement is therefore lost in relevance because of its absurdity. Macbeth replies to the prophecy with “That will never happen!” Who can convince the forest? Sweet bodements, good!” (4.1.127). His fault was in interpreting the quote from an objectively logical perspective. He relies upon the fact that an entire forest like “Great Birnam Wood”, cannot be lifted and moved as though it were a small item. He praises his prophecy for relieving him of his paranoia about his crown’s security. The prophecy is true, however, when Macduff’s attacking army carries “Great Birnam Wood” to “high Dunsinane Hill”, which is where Macbeth’s castle and castle are, respectively, about to be under siege.

Maureen Mcfeely’s “Fair is Foul. Foul is Fair: The Paradoxes in Macbeth” views that the most significant paradox is:

“The one at play”

s Center: The relationship of Macbeth to Lady Macbeth as well as murder.” Hearing the bizarre sisters’ prediction that her husband would succeed her, Lady Macbeth instantly turns her attention to murder. Macbeth may be too saturated with “the milk of humanity kindness” to perform the deed. This is her greatest fear (Mcfeely, 7)

Macbeth’s apparent inadequacy is reconciled by Lady Macbeth praying to the “murdering Ministers” to “take Her Milk for Gall”, which Mcfeely calls “a ritual Sex Change” (Mcfeely7). The paradox is in the fact that both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, despite their initial attempts to fill themselves with gall, eventually develop into the stereotypical male/female roles. Lady Macbeth gives up trying to be masculine enough in order to manage murder. Her character eventually goes insane and commits suicide. Macbeth has become used to his treacherous crime, despite being previously troubled by it. Lady Macbeth had believed that his “milk of humanity kindness” had become the most important thing he lacked.

Macbeth ultimately falls for the witches because he cannot resist the temptation of fortune found in the witches’ prophecy. He succumbs to the lures of wealth and power, which blinds him to their true intentions. He is willing to accept the possibility of becoming king and lowers his morality. Despite Banquo’s warnings he gives in to the temptations and allows them to control him. He then murders King Duncan and Banquo who he is most loyal to. His disgraceful acts were expected to be balanced out at the end, when the crown fell upon his head. Macbeth loses the things that matter to him. His ingenuity at equivocation blinds him to seeing the message of the witches. His death is a price for winning at his own sport.

rosssaunders Written by:

Ross Saunders is an educational blogger and professor, who has written extensively on topics such as education reform, online learning, and assessment. He has also spoken on the topic at various conferences and universities.

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