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Equivocationand prophecy.

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Equivocation and prophecy Just after he has been named Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth is wondering if he can believe the rest of the witches' prophecies, and Banquo remarks, "oftentimes, to win us to our harm, / The instruments of darkness tell us truths, / Win us with honest trifles, to betray's / In deepest consequence" (1.3.123-126). Banquo is warning Macbeth that the witches could lure him to great evil by telling small truths. Even though Banquo doesn't use the word "equivocation," it's what he's talking about. In the scene in which Macduff discovers the bloody corpse of King Duncan, the Porter, still suffering the effects of a night of drinking, pretends that he is the gatekeeper of hell. Among the sinners that he pretends to welcome into hell is an "equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale" (2.3.8-9). This passage is often considered to be a reference to Henry Garnet, a Jesuit of Shakespeare's time, who wrote "A Treatise of Equivocation." He wrote the "Treatise" in order to tell other Catholics how to deal with dangerous questions from Protestant inquisitors. If the Catholics admitted that they were Catholics, they would be in serious trouble with the Protestants. On the other hand, it was a sin against God to lie under oath. ...read more.


(I.iii.67) Afterwards Duncan proceeds to allow the new thane of Cawdor, Macbeth, to deceive him at the cost of Duncan's life and cause what the first thane of Cawdor had lost (the uprising against the king) to be won by Macbeth. We again encounter double meanings when Angus speaking of the first thane of Cawdor says "But treasons capital, confess'd and prov'd / Have overthrown him." (I.iii.115-116) Examples like these pervade the play thoroughly enhancing the double meaning to be found almost everywhere. Macbeth's first appearance in the play finds him repeating the witch's words from the opening scene: "So foul and fair a day I have not seen." (I.iii.38) After the witches first encounter with him and Banquo, Macbeth says in an aside, "If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me / Without my stir." (I.iii.143-144) At this moment Macbeth demonstrates a belief in the controlling force of fate. He indicates that if this is truly meant to be it will happen without help from him. However, he almost immediately turns around and begins to take matters into his own hands as he communicates with his wife and begins to plot the murder of Duncan. He has begun to equivocate claiming fate will make it happen while still taking matters into his own hands demonstrating a lack of faith in the fate he believes gives him grounds for his claim to the throne. ...read more.


Macbeth finally finds himself betrayed by his stance when he says "I pull in resolution, and begin / To doubt th' equivocation of the fiend / That lies like truth." (V.v.41-43) Ultimately, the equivocal stance takes its toll on both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. She loses her sanity and commits suicide. He fluctuates between a faith in the predictions of the witches and fear that everything will be undone. He blindly tries to fulfill only the positive predictions about himself while attempting to prevent the fulfilling of the predictions about Banquo. As he also begins to lose his grasp of reality, Macbeth's actions become more and more intent on justifying his actions by silencing any opposing viewpoint. Thus madness is born out of the equivocal self-justification they both assume as a means to make themselves appear right in what they do. Ultimately, in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Shakespeare shows Macbeth fulfilling his future as predicted by the instruments of fate, the witches, but having this occur through chosen actions rather than inevitable destiny. Through use of the equivocating statements filled with ambiguous, double meaning, Shakespeare establishes mood and tension while also establishing the role of self-justification in attempts to fulfill destiny through one's own actions and the dangers this can cause as evidenced by the instability it creates for those trying to live with two sides of existence at the same time. ...read more.

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