Number Three in Macbeth's Apparition

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 643 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 643|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Context of the Third Apparition
  2. Symbolism in the Third Apparition
  3. Impact on Macbeth
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

William Shakespeare's play Macbeth is filled with supernatural elements that play a significant role in the unfolding of the tragic narrative. Among these elements are the three apparitions that appear to Macbeth, each delivering a cryptic message that fuels his ambitious and destructive path. In this essay, we will delve into the significance and implications of the third apparition in Macbeth. By exploring its context, symbolism, and impact on the protagonist, we will uncover the deeper meaning behind this apparition and its contribution to the overall themes of the play.

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Context of the Third Apparition

To understand the significance of the third apparition in Macbeth, we must first examine the context in which it appears. The third apparition is summoned by the witches to provide Macbeth with a false sense of security, leading him to believe that he is invincible and untouchable by any mortal. The apparition takes the form of a child crowned, holding a tree in its hand, and delivers the message: "Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him" (IV.i.92-94).

This prophetic message is intended to reassure Macbeth and strengthen his resolve to remain in power, as it seems impossible for a forest to move. However, as we later discover, this apparition's message holds a hidden truth that ultimately leads to Macbeth's downfall.

Symbolism in the Third Apparition

The symbolism embedded within the third apparition adds depth and complexity to its message. Firstly, the child crowned represents Macduff, who was born by Caesarean section, fulfilling the witches' earlier prophecy that Macbeth should "beware Macduff" (IV.i.71). The crown symbolizes royalty and power, signifying that Macbeth's reign will not end until Macduff poses a threat.

Secondly, the tree held by the child represents the Birnam Wood. This symbolizes nature and its ability to disrupt and challenge human endeavors. The notion of a forest moving against Macbeth's stronghold seems absurd, yet it foreshadows the coming events where the soldiers use tree branches to camouflage their numbers as they approach Dunsinane Hill.

Combined, these symbols highlight the deceptive nature of the apparition's message and emphasize the theme of fate versus free will in Macbeth. Macbeth wrongly interprets the message as a guarantee of his invincibility, failing to recognize the underlying warning that his actions will eventually lead to his downfall.

Impact on Macbeth

The third apparition's message has a profound impact on Macbeth's psyche and actions. Initially, it bolsters his confidence and fuels his determination to cling to power, despite the growing opposition. Macbeth becomes increasingly reckless and ruthless, believing himself to be untouchable.

However, as the play progresses, Macbeth's blind faith in the apparition's message proves to be his undoing. When he learns that the soldiers in Birnam Wood are using tree branches as camouflage, he realizes the witches' prophecy was not as straightforward as it seemed. This revelation shatters his illusion of invincibility and plunges him into despair.

The third apparition serves as a turning point in Macbeth's character development, showcasing the consequences of his blind ambition and the manipulation of supernatural forces. It highlights his tragic flaw—his unyielding desire for power—which ultimately leads to his downfall and demise.


The third apparition in Macbeth plays a crucial role in the development of the play's themes and the trajectory of Macbeth's character. Its deceptive message and symbolic elements contribute to the overarching themes of fate versus free will and the destructive consequences of unchecked ambition.

Through the context, symbolism, and impact on Macbeth, we gain a deeper understanding of the significance of the third apparition in Macbeth. It serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the dangers of succumbing to our darkest desires and the consequences of disregarding moral boundaries.

Overall, the third apparition's subtle yet profound influence underscores the timeless nature of Macbeth and its enduring relevance in exploring the human condition.

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Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, 2011.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Number Three In Macbeth’s Apparition. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 20, 2024, from
“Number Three In Macbeth’s Apparition.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Number Three In Macbeth’s Apparition. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Jul. 2024].
Number Three In Macbeth’s Apparition [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 20]. Available from:
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