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Equivocation In Macbeth

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Tomas Waz

on 7 May 2014

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Transcript of Equivocation In Macbeth



Definition of Equivocation
Uses of Equivocation in Macbeth

Equivocation's Effect as a Theme
the use of ambiguous or unclear language with the intention to deceive the listener or to avoid answering a question directly.

ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense
‘use a word in more than one sense’
): from late Latin aequivocat- ‘
called by the same name
,’ from the verb aequivocare, from aequivocus (New Oxford American Dictionary)
Funny Examples of Equivocation:

- The sign said "fine for parking here" and since it was fine, I parked there

- Do women need to worry about man eating sharks?

- Noisy children are a real headache. Two aspirin will make a headache go away. Therefore, two aspirin will make noisy children go away.
Historical Context surrounding Equivocation in Macbeth:

- A few months before Macbeth was performed , the Gunpowder Plot occurred. The suspects, including Guy Fawkes, were encouraged by a Catholic priest named John Garnett, whose nickname was "farmer", which was alluded to by the porter. The practice of lying in court about one's religion by employing confusing or ambiguous language was known as equivocation. Catholics used equivocation so that they would not openly renounce their faith nor would they lie, which was considered a sin before God.

Equivocation is a major but often overlooked theme in Macbeth, due to its obscurity. Equivocation is only mentioned a few times in the play, but how it is used is far more important. Equivocation plays a key role when it is used by the witches, because they present answers to Macbeth without providing the "how" or "why" of what will happen. As a theme, it follows the general motif in the play of "nothing is but what is not", especially n respect to what the witches say. They seem to say things that sound good, but but the methods by which the predictions are achieved are not so wonderful.
*The sisters' ambiguous/unclear and dark appearances add to the suspense and ominous mood of this scene
Equivocation eventually leads to Macbeth's demise:
- He is ambitious and greedy about prophecies
- His eagerness leads him to interpret the prophecies too literally
- He eventually realized that the witches were equivocating but it was too late

Act. 5, Scene 5
Act 1. Scene 3
Act 4. Scene 3
Act 1. Scene 3
Act 1. Scene 3
Act 1. Scene 3
Act 5. Scene 5
Act 2. Scene 3
Works Consulted:

Equivocation used to create suspense
and a dark mood:
Equivocation used to create dramatic Irony:
Equivocation used to deceive Macbeth
- The witches' speech in the video is another example of equivocation being used to deceive Macbeth
- The prophecies could also be an example of this because the audience knows near the end of the book that they were not to be taken literally
Act 5. Scene 8
Equivocation used for comedy
- The Porter uses equivocation in a funny way to temporarily relieve the audience after the dark murder of Duncan
The real effects of Shakespeare's uses of equivocation are not truly felt until the end of the play, when we can fully understand what has happened. We can see that various uses of equivocation have brought Macbeth to their doom, and that because he was unable to truly pick up on what was going on, he met a grisly end.
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