Examples of Juxtaposition in Macbeth

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 818 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 818|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Character Juxtaposition: Macbeth and Banquo
  2. Setting Juxtaposition: Macbeth's Castle and the Natural World
  3. Ideas Juxtaposition: Appearance vs. Reality
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

William Shakespeare's tragic play, Macbeth, is renowned for its complex characters, intricate plot, and powerful themes. One literary technique that Shakespeare expertly utilizes throughout the play is juxtaposition. Juxtaposition is the act of placing two contrasting elements side by side to highlight their differences and create a deeper understanding of the text. In Macbeth, Shakespeare employs juxtaposition to emphasize the stark contrast between characters, settings, and ideas, ultimately revealing the true nature of ambition, guilt, and power. Through a careful analysis of specific scenes, this essay will explore the multiple instances of juxtaposition in Macbeth and their implications for the overall meaning of the play.

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Character Juxtaposition: Macbeth and Banquo

One of the most notable examples of juxtaposition in Macbeth is the contrast between the characters of Macbeth and Banquo. While both are brave warriors and loyal companions to King Duncan, their reactions to the prophecies of the witches differ drastically. Macbeth is immediately consumed by ambition upon hearing the witches' predictions, whereas Banquo remains skeptical and cautious. This juxtaposition highlights the divergent paths the characters choose to take: Macbeth embraces his desire for power and resorts to murder, while Banquo remains honorable and trusting in his own fate.

Furthermore, their ultimate fates exemplify the consequences of their choices. Macbeth's ambition leads him to a tragic downfall, as he becomes consumed by guilt and paranoia, while Banquo's skepticism and loyalty result in his murder but also in the preservation of his legacy through his son, Fleance. This juxtaposition emphasizes the destructive nature of unchecked ambition and the potential for redemption through honorable actions.

Setting Juxtaposition: Macbeth's Castle and the Natural World

Another significant use of juxtaposition in Macbeth can be seen in the contrast between Macbeth's castle and the natural world. In the play, Macbeth's castle represents a place of darkness, deceit, and corruption, where the characters' immoral actions take place. In contrast, the natural world, often depicted through the imagery of birds, represents purity, truth, and the natural order of things.

For instance, in Act 2, Scene 2, after Macbeth has murdered King Duncan, he reflects on the magnitude of his crime, stating, "Methought I heard a voice cry, 'Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep.'" This juxtaposition between the darkness of Macbeth's castle and the purity of sleep highlights the guilt and remorse that haunts Macbeth after his immoral act. Similarly, when Macduff discovers Duncan's body, he exclaims, "Confusion now hath made his masterpiece! / Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope / The Lord's anointed temple." Here, the juxtaposition between the sacredness of the king's body and the sacrilege of the murder further emphasizes the heinousness of the crime.

By juxtaposing the corrupt setting of Macbeth's castle with the purity of the natural world, Shakespeare underscores the moral decay and disruption of the natural order that results from Macbeth's actions. This serves to highlight the consequences of succumbing to ambition and the importance of maintaining moral integrity.

Ideas Juxtaposition: Appearance vs. Reality

One of the central themes in Macbeth is the idea of appearance versus reality. Shakespeare employs juxtaposition to explore this theme and highlight the deceptive nature of appearances. Throughout the play, characters often disguise their true intentions or manipulate their outward appearances to achieve their goals.

For example, Lady Macbeth initially appears strong and ambitious, encouraging Macbeth to commit regicide. However, as the play progresses, her guilt and remorse become evident, revealing the vulnerability beneath her hardened exterior. This juxtaposition between Lady Macbeth's initial appearance and her true character emphasizes the theme of deception and the consequences of hiding one's true nature.

Furthermore, Macbeth himself is deceived by the witches' prophecies, which initially seem promising but ultimately lead to his downfall. The juxtaposition of the witches' supernatural appearance and their deceptive nature highlights the theme of appearance versus reality and serves as a cautionary tale against trusting in superficial appearances.


Juxtaposition is a powerful literary technique that William Shakespeare skillfully employs in Macbeth to highlight contrasting elements and deepen the understanding of the play's themes. Through the juxtaposition of characters, settings, and ideas, Shakespeare explores the destructive nature of ambition, the consequences of moral decay, and the deceptive nature of appearances. By examining specific scenes, such as the contrasting reactions of Macbeth and Banquo to the witches' prophecies or the juxtaposition between Macbeth's castle and the natural world, it becomes clear how Shakespeare utilizes this technique to convey deeper meanings and insights.

In conclusion, the use of juxtaposition in Macbeth not only enhances the dramatic tension and complexity of the play but also offers valuable insights into the human condition. Through the exploration of contrasting elements, readers are prompted to question the consequences of unchecked ambition, the importance of moral integrity, and the dangers of relying on appearances. Shakespeare's masterful use of juxtaposition in Macbeth continues to captivate audiences and serves as a testament to the enduring power of his works.

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Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by A.R. Braunmuller, The New Cambridge Shakespeare, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 1997.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Examples of Juxtaposition in Macbeth. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 20, 2024, from
“Examples of Juxtaposition in Macbeth.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
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