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Equivocation and Double Meanings in Macbeth

Equivocation and Double Meanings in Macbeth

Shakespeare uses equivocation not to confuse but to either get across multiple meanings or to leave dialogue and events in the play open ended. Equivocation can be seen with the witches and whenever they talk. The witches are themselves a vague set of characters who talk in a puzzling riddle-like manner. For instance when Macbeth goes to see them for the second time they are very vague about predicting his future, intentionally confusing him and making him overly confident. An example of this riddled dialogue goes like this:

All (three witches): Listen, but speak not to’t.

Apparition: Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care

Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are:

Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until;

Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill

Shall come against him.

Macbeth: That will never be:

Who can impress the forest, bid the tree

That excerpt shows how the witches twist and play with Macbeth’s mind and feelings. By the end of the Apparition’s lines, Macbeth is convinced he can not be killed by anyone, and so grows in confidence till seething and almost rupturing with it. It also shows Shakespeare’s use of equivocation and how, unless certain lines are studied, their true, if vague, meaning cannot be seen or understood.

The quoted phrase, “fair is foul and foul is fair” is used frequently, the phrase itself is an oxymoron. Early in the play the reader sees Macbeth as the hero because he has saved all of Scotland from the Norwegians. Duncan, honoring Macbeth, says, “More is thy due than more than all can pay.” (Act 1, Scene ) Towards the middle of the play the reader suddenly begins to pity Macbeth, slowly realizing his encroaching insanity for what it is, a downward spiral of death and increased mistakes. Finally, at the end of the play, the reader’s opinion of Macbeth moves more towards hate and a feeling that Macbeth is unmistakably evil. As the second witch said:

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes:

(-Act 4, Scene 1)

Such is Macbeth’s fair to foul story in a flash. There is also Lady Macbeth, Macduff, Malcolm, and Donalbain, and perhaps even Banquo. Each of these character’s development follows the “fair is foul and foul is fair” format.

Cervantes’ Motivation for Writing Don Quixote

Cervantes’ Motivation for Writing Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes’ greatest literary work, Don Quixote, maintains an enduring, if somewhat stereotypical image in the popular culture: the tale of the obsessed knight and his clownish squire who embark on a faith-driven, adventure-seeking quest. However, although this simple premise has survived since the novel’s inception, and spawned such universally known concepts or images as quixotic idealism and charging headlong at a group of “giants” which are actually windmills, Cervantes’ motivation for writing Don Quixote remains an untold story. Looking at late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Spain from the viewpoint of a Renaissance man, Cervantes came to dislike many aspects of the age in which he lived, and decided to satirize what he saw as its failings; however, throughout the writing of what would become his most famous work, Cervantes was torn by a philosophical conflict which pervaded the Renaissance and its intellectuals–the clash of faith and reason.

When Cervantes began writing Don Quixote, the most direct target of his satirical intentions was the chivalric romance. He makes this aim clear in his own preface to the novel, stating that “..[his] sole aim in to invalidate the authority, and ridicule the absurdity of those books of chivalry, which have, as it were, fascinated the eyes and judgment of the world, and in particular of the vulgar.” Immediately after the beginning of the novel, he demonstrates some of the ridiculous and unbelievable writing of these books: as Alonso Quixano–the man who decides to become the knight Don Quixote, after going mad from reading too many of these romances–sits in his study, tirelessly poring over his belo…

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…r (Magill 330). In Part II of the novel, however, Don Quixote becomes less of a sadly comic figure, and more heroic (331) after he stoically faces down a lion, leading Sancho to change his master’s previous title–”Knight of the Rueful Countenance”–to “Knight of the Lions”.

Although the tale told in Don Quixote, the account of an idealist who embarks on a seemingly impossible quest to rid society of injustice, “[has] assumed archetypal importance for what [it reveals] of the human mind and emotions (Person 81),” there is another story which remains hidden between the pages of the novel: what was Cervantes’ original intent in writing, and how that simple goal–a humorous parody of chivalric romances–eventually led to the literary embodiment of a tremendous philosophical debate: whether to let the perception of truth be dominated by faith, or by reason.

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