Self-delusion in Macbeth


Self-delusion can be defines as the act or the fact of deluding oneself. As the play progresses, self-delusion quickly becomes a central characteristic in the personality of our, in many ways, fascinating warrior and main character, Macbeth.witches.png
Macbeth starts out by being portrayed as a brave and loyal man with admirable heroic characteristics, but throughout the play he somehow develops into a state of confusion, paranoia, and intense hunger for power and prestige.


On a symbolic plan, the Three Witches play a central role in Macbeth’s negative development, as they are the primary source of evil temptation in the play, and take part in making Macbeth a victim of self-delusion. The role of the Three Witches is confusing, as it straddles the play’s borders between the real and the supernatural. However, the ThreeWitches are portrayed as dark and uncontrolleable supernatural creatures, and they challenge Macbeth’s faith in him and society with their ambigious and almost ‘hypnotic’ prophesies in rhymed verse (the so-called equivocation).

The first time we get to look into Macbet’s self-delusive mind, is in Act 1, scene 3, which takes place on the heath, and opens with the appereance of the Three Witches. Macbeth and Banquo immediately arrive on their horses, and they witness the witches’ prophesy about Banquo’s children who will, apparently, sit upon the throne. Macbeth too gets a prophecy, as he is set to be the future thane of Cawdor. However, as Macbeth curiously wants to ask the witches about what they really meant by their prophesy, they dissapear almost immediately. Although Banquo is clearly tempted by what the witches said, he is still capable of self-control and logical, rational thought,“But ‘tis strange And 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”. Banquo reflects on the witches’ equivocations, as he knows that they are ambigious, and can betray. Macbeth, however, is perfectly aware of what Banquo just told him about the witches, yet, he is in another, more dreamy state of mind. He lies to himself, ignores any moral thinking, and strongly wishes to believe the witches,This supernatural soliciting
Cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill,
Why hath it given me earnest of success
Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor. (1.3.129-132)”

It is important to note the witches’ symbolic role, as they are actually passive and never tell Macbeth or anyone else directly what to do. This is emphasized by their quick vanishing in the previously spoke about scene. Although you could say that Macbeth is under the Witches’ spell throughout the play, he still isn’t completely. They do not disturb Macbeths right to have a free choice, but what makes it tempting to think so, is Macbeth’s convincing imagination and self-delusive mind. Macbeth is the one letting himself be measured by the witches’ temptation, in comparison to, for instance, the character of Banquo. In this case, it could be interesting to note a major theme in the play; the fatal consequenses, which too much ambition, and the use of violence can have on a man, who clearly lacks character. Macbeth is the one having inner longings and struggles, while the witches could be set to simply illustrate those, and his growing evil, manipulated mind.