Camera Foster Mr. Glenn AP Literature and Composition October 5, 2010 Equivocation in MacBeth “There’s a mighty big difference between good, sound reasons, and reasons that sound good. ” This quote by columnist, Burton Hillis, describes the conflict many face when expecting straightforwardness. Logical fallacies, with their double meaning and ambiguity, cause confusion and, in the case of William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, utter demise. In the play Macbeth visits with three witches after experiencing fortune from their previous premonition.
They, the weird sisters, offer him more prophecies that are, in fact, fallacies that he believes to be true. The equivocation of the witches enhances the play by including dramatic irony and securing the inevitable doom of Macbeth without his knowledge. When our doomed character and his noble friend Banquo (whose nobleness was ill-reciprocated, by the way) meet with the witches for the first time, the strange sisters do not hesitate to evade the whole truth as soon as they are provoked. The third witch recites, “All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter! (1. 3. 50). To any first reader, or listener like Macbeth, this seems to be a brilliant fortune, but the fallacy is that it is not truly explained how he will come to be king. Looking back, the irony is present because he will have to kill Duncan to conquer the crown, but he is too “…rapt withal…” (1. 3. 57) to know that yet. As the play progresses, Macbeth becomes more and more corrupt. Although it is smartest to avoid the knowledge of the witches, he seeks to know his fate after his foes begin to rise against him.
Once in their presence, he is shown a hallucination of a bloody child. “Be bloody bold and resolute,” it says, “laugh to scorn the pow’r of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth” (4. 1. 79-81). The sisters’ goal is to build up Macbeth’s confidence by stretching the truth; they succeed. He believes he can not be harmed, but we learn the irony in his last living scene against the play’s hero, Macduff, who professes he “…was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped” (5. 8. 15-16). The vagueness of the infamous apparition causes Macbeth’s defeat.
The last of the phantoms gives Macbeth the highest boost of confidence, compared to the others. A young prince occupied by a small tree in his hand proclaims Macbeth should “Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care…” (4. 1. 90). Basically, it is telling him to think of himself as invincible, which is well known to be false. It continues by announcing that “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to High Dunsinane Hill shall come against him” (4. 1. 92-94). The play straps the reader in on the “irony-train” when a messenger claims to see “Birnam…wood begin to move” (5. . 36-37). Macbeth understands, well after the reader, that the end is imminent when he finally realizes the witches’ equivocations are just that. All the encounters that Macbeth has with the weird sisters show how Shakespeare cleverly uses logical fallacies to present fate without Macbeth’s attention.
This improves the tragedy by offering the reader, or audience, a chance to figure out that Macbeth’s demise is unavoidable and soon. Not until his last scene does Macbeth realize he has been “…baited with the rabble’s curse…” (5. 8. 9), or, in modern terms, confounded by the withes. This is to make sure there is no way to get out of the karma he faces. The commonality of logical fallacies in daily life make us all wonder if we will be clever enough to find out their sub meanings or if we will fall to their underlying evilness—or maybe just their embarrassing truth. Work Cited Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Tennessee Edition (Holt Elements of Literature Sixth Course Essentials of British and World Literature). Austin: Holt, Rinehart And Winston, 2007. 439-520. Print.