Ambiguity & Equivocation in Macbeth

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In William Shakespeare 's play, Macbeth, the theme of ambiguity and equivocation stands our quite clearly. The Oxford definition of equivocation is: ‘use of ambiguity to conceal the truth '. Macbeth 's voluntary misinterpretation of the ambiguity and equivocation of the witches relates to the play 's theme. After the first of the witches ' prophecies comes true, Macbeth begins to believe in their truth. However, he also believes that the prophecies must all lead to his enrichment and empowerment. The use of equivocation in Macbeth also incorporates a sub-theme of appearance versus reality and the powers of evil. In the end, he twists the witches ' words to fit his own purposes, ignoring the possibility that the prophecies might have…show more content…

The three apparitions which appear to Macbeth are, "Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware Macduff, Beware the Thane of Fife. / Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn the power of man; for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth. / Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are. Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him." Macbeth translates these prophecies as a meaning that he will reign as king until the day he dies of natural causes and will no longer have to fear Macduff for he can do no harm to him. Although he is assured by the equivocate predictions, his uncertainty gets the better of him. This can be seen in his actions; he kills Macduff 's family but leaves the man himself alive, he enters into battles screaming that no man of woman born shall ever harm him, not knowing that Macduff was born of Caesarian section, and eventually his foolish actions lead to his death at the hands of Macduff.

It is the equivocation of the apparitions that lead him to this course of action. In his apathetic, power-hungry state, Macbeth chooses to hear only the surface message and not the deeper warning. Nevertheless, the apparitions made it very easy for him to do this. They used equivocation to hide the truth. Macbeth, unable to control his desire to keep his power, interpreted those words in a way that would ensure his own

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