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by William Shakespeare

Macbeth Theme of Versions of Reality

(Click the themes infographic to download.)

Bearded witches, severed fingers, and floating daggers: Macbeth is more fun than a haunted house at the state fair. And, like that haunted house, nothing is quite what it seems. Fair is foul; foul is fair; and the rivers of blood turn out to be corn syrup and food coloring. But once you're in that rickety cart jerking around the tracks, can you you really be sure that the skeleton in the corner is fake?

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. At the beginning of the play, the witches say "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." What in the world does this mean, and how does that topsy-turvy feeling resonate in the play?
  2. How do Macbeth and Banquo respond to the witches' prophesy in act one, scene three? Does it seem real to them? Why or why not?
  3. What kinds of hallucinations and visions occur in the play? What purpose do they serve?
  4. Why is a doctor called in to tend to Lady Macbeth? What's wrong with her?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Truth and reality are often murky in Macbeth and the distinction between what is "foul" and what is "fair" is frequently blurred.

Lady Macbeth's hallucination of blood stained hands is no hallucination: no matter what she does, she can never wash away her guilt for the murder of Duncan.

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