Shakespeare’S “Macbeth” Term Paper

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Illusion versus Reality in

Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”

Throughout the entire text of William Shakespeare’s play, “Macbeth”, there is an evident struggle between reality and illusion. In the very first scene of the play, the Weird Sisters prophesize a future that Macbeth is assured will come true. He struggles with the moral implications of their predictions as he watches his life fall into place exactly as the witches forecast.

In Act Two, Scene One, an example of Macbeth’s struggle between what is real and what is mere appearance is clear, and shows itself in the form of an apparition. As he contemplates murdering King Duncan, Macbeth imagines that he sees a dagger hovering in the air in front of him, pointing in Duncan’s direction. Suddenly, he sees bloodstains on the knife. Astonished, Macbeth mumbles, “Is this a dagger which I see before me? The handle toward my hand?” (2,1). Macbeth is unsettled by this vision, but not dissuaded from his bloody job. “Come, let me clutch thee,” Macbeth says to the illusion as he grabs the handle of his own dagger and makes his way to kill Duncan.

Another example of Macbeth’s internal struggle between reality and illusion happens in Act Three, Scene Four. At a banquet, which Macbeth and his wife have thrown for the thanes of Scotland, Macbeth imagines that he sees the ghost of Banquo, a former companion of Macbeth’s, who he has recently murdered. In front of everyone, Macbeth hallucinates and is propelled into alternating fits of courage and anguish. Seeing this, Lady Macbeth assures the others that her husband has not gone mad and bids them to leave at once. It is during this scene that Macbeth loses all perception of what is real. From that point on his only thought is of his next victim, Macduff.

Word Count: 300

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