"There's no art to find the mind's construction in the face"[[#_ftn1|[1]]] (Act I scene IV lines 12)
Loyalty and Treason in Macbeth
At the time of Shakespeare, alliances and loyalty were vital, which is why the theme ”Loyalty and Treason” is so important/interesting.

In the opening scene the three witches predict that ”Fair is foul and foul is fair”, which indicates that the world picture is out of order. This characterizes the relation between loyalty and treason: Those thought to be loyal are treacherous and those known as traitors are loyal.

The play begins with the Thane of Cawdor, Macdonwald, who was honourable: “ A gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust” (Act I scene IV l. 14-16), but has betrayed the king and is loyal to Norway instead.
Macbeth is appointed as the new Thane of Cawdor, due to his loyalty to the king and his courage in war. At this point, Macbeth is honourable, utterly good and the most loyal.

But Macbeth’s loyalty has shifted, like Macdonwald’s did. Only, Macbeth’s loyalty is now towards himself and his possible achievements rather than towards another king.
This change of loyalty is based on his encounter with the three witches. When he is told of the prophecy, and especially when one of the prophecies is fulfilled (in Line 90), Macbeth believes the witches, and in himself. From this point, the idea of murdering the king grows in his mind and the downfall starts.

The murder of King Duncan
The king is staying as a guest at Macbeths’ castle – Macbeth is "his host,/ who should against his [Duncan's] murderer shut the door." Therefore, Macbeth is having second thoughts on killing the king: My king, my cousin and my guest.
But his wife is eager to become queen, and pushes him to treachery: Act I scene VII.
Is it reasonable to blame Lady Macbeth of the murder of King Duncan, solely?
Macbeth is the one who begins plotting King Duncan’s death and the prophecy counts for no one else; his wife is only intrigued by the idea. If Macbeth had chosen to be loyal to Duncan, nothing would have become of the prophecy.

Is Macbeth under the witches’ spell?
It is a fact that the prophecy, which the witches told him of, plays a major part in Macbeth’s treason, but to say that his actions are the work of the witches would be a mistake. The witches only showed Macbeth a possible future of greatness, which Macbeth chose to follow, no matter how foul he would have to be. Banquo questioned their prophecies, which indicates the fact that there is always a choice.

The existence of royalty is the base for loyalty and treason. (Act I scene IV l. 22-27)
Every man has thought of what it would be like to be King. But Shakespeare shows that this has a price. In order to take over the throne, one must go through foul actions.

The foul is within all
Lady Macbeth and Macbeth himself kill a fair man in their yearning for the throne, and reveal their foulness.
Only those who can resist their ambition of gaining power, like Malcomn, can remain fair.
"Thou/ . . . art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it." (Act I scene V)

Macdonwald is now, compared to Macbeth, loyal, since he gave his life to pay for the crimes he had made.
“He confessed his treasons, implored . . . pardon, and set forth a deep repentance," (Act one scene IV lines 5)

external image macbeth-polanski1.jpg

[[#_ftnref|[1]]] Duncan: You can’t trust people on their face value – Duncan trusted Macdonwald, and he betrayed him.