Theme of Macbeth: BETRAYAL By Caroline Miller

"The King's abed. He hath been in unusual pleasure, and Sent forth great largess to your offices. This diamond he greets your wife withal, By the name of most kind hostess" (Shakespeare, Act II Scene I)

Who's involved?

  • Macbeth - committing the betrayal
  • King Duncan - victim of betrayal

" 'There shall be done A deed of dreadful note.' 'What's to be done?' 'Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, Till thou applaud the deed' " (Shakespeare, Act III Scene II).

Who's involved?

  • Macbeth - again, committing the betrayal
  • Lady Macbeth - victim of betrayal
  • Banquo - victim of betrayal
Symbol of betrayal

Betrayal is a prominent subject throughout the play with Macbeth as the main culprit. At first, Macbeth had to be coaxed into betraying King Duncan by his wife, who began as much power-hungrier and more cruel than her husband. Lady Macbeth convinced Macbeth to work with her to lure the king into a false sense of security, which they achieved perfectly according to Banquo's description of the pleasant and gratuitous attitude the king had before he went to bed on the night he was killed (as described in the first quote). Following his wife's orders, Macbeth proceeded to murder King Duncan, utterly betraying his trust. Later on in the play after Macbeth had become king, he felt that his future as king was threatened by Banquo and Fleance, which led him to order the killing of the two, betraying them in the same way he had Duncan. In his evil scheming, Macbeth also betrayed his wife because he did not tell her of his dark plan (as described in the second quote). Up until this point, the couple had been in cahoots in ruthlessly gaining power, but Macbeth independently performing such a sinister act without consulting his wife revealed how he betrayed her, too, without physically harming her. The strong theme of betrayal can be represented by an image of a knife because of the phrase "back-stabber" that is commonly used to describe someone who has betrayed another. In addition, Macbeth experienced several hallucinations before and after killing Duncan and Banquo in which a bloody knife appeared, so a knife as the physical instrument of betrayal was implied expertly by Shakespeare.

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