Physical Appearance Versus True Personality Depicted in Macbeth

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 791 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 791|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Macbeth's Transformation
  2. The Role of the Witches
  3. Lady Macbeth's Mask
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

In William Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, the theme of physical appearance versus true personality is a recurring motif. Throughout the text, characters often present themselves in a manner that contradicts their true nature. This essay will explore the various instances in which physical appearance is used to mask true personality in Macbeth, highlighting the implications of this deception. By examining the characters' actions and motivations, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complex nature of human identity. Ultimately, the play reminds us that one's physical appearance may not always align with their true character.

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Macbeth's Transformation

One of the most prominent examples of physical appearance versus true personality in Macbeth is the transformation of the titular character. Initially, Macbeth is portrayed as a loyal and honorable soldier, but as the play progresses, his ambition and desire for power consume him. This transformation is evident through his physical appearance, as he becomes increasingly paranoid and tormented by guilt.

Throughout the play, Macbeth's physical appearance deteriorates, reflecting the darkness within his soul. Lady Macbeth observes this change when she states, "Your face, my thane, is as a book where men / May read strange matters" (Macbeth 5.1.63-64). This metaphor suggests that Macbeth's true personality is written on his face, contradicting the facade he presents to the outside world. His physical appearance, marked by a haunted expression, serves as a visual representation of his inner turmoil and guilt.

Furthermore, Macbeth's physical appearance also influences his interactions with others. As he becomes more consumed by his ambition, he adopts a more aggressive and deceitful demeanor. This is seen when Macbeth manipulates and deceives those around him, such as when he convinces the murderers to kill Banquo. Despite his charming and charismatic physical appearance, Macbeth's true personality is revealed through his actions, which are driven by his lust for power.

The Role of the Witches

Another instance of physical appearance versus true personality in Macbeth is the portrayal of the witches. The witches' physical appearance is dark and grotesque, reflecting their malevolent nature. However, their true personalities are much more complex and mysterious.

The witches' physical appearance serves as a visual representation of the evil they embody. They are described as having "choppy fingers" and "skinny lips" (Macbeth 4.1.2-3), which create a sinister and unsettling image. This physical appearance aligns with their deceptive and manipulative personalities, as they trick Macbeth into believing in their prophecies, ultimately leading to his downfall.

However, the witches' true personalities are not solely evil. They possess a deep knowledge of the future and the power to manipulate events, suggesting a more nuanced understanding of their characters. Shakespeare's portrayal of the witches highlights the complexity of human nature and challenges the notion that physical appearance is a reliable indicator of true personality.

Lady Macbeth's Mask

Lady Macbeth also exemplifies the theme of physical appearance versus true personality in Macbeth. Initially, she presents herself as a strong and ruthless woman, willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her desires. However, as the play progresses, her physical appearance begins to crumble, revealing her vulnerability and guilt.

Lady Macbeth's physical appearance is described as "a little water clears us of this deed" (Macbeth 2.2.67). This statement suggests that she believes her physical appearance can mask her true personality and wash away her guilt. However, as the guilt consumes her, her physical appearance deteriorates, and she is haunted by visions and sleepwalking episodes.

This deterioration of Lady Macbeth's physical appearance reflects the crumbling facade she presents to the world. Despite her initial strength, her true personality is revealed as she descends into madness and guilt. Shakespeare uses Lady Macbeth's transformation to emphasize the consequences of masking one's true personality behind a false physical appearance.


The theme of physical appearance versus true personality is a central aspect of Macbeth. Through the transformation of Macbeth, the portrayal of the witches, and the descent of Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare explores the complex nature of human identity. The play reminds us that physical appearance may not always align with true character, and that the mask we present to the world can crumble under the weight of guilt and ambition.

By examining the characters' actions and motivations, Macbeth challenges our preconceived notions about the relationship between physical appearance and true personality. It serves as a cautionary tale, urging us to look beyond the surface and consider the complexities of human nature.

In conclusion, Macbeth demonstrates that physical appearance can be a deceptive facade, masking the true personality beneath. The play serves as a powerful reminder that true character cannot be solely judged by external appearances. As we navigate our own lives, it is important to remember that true understanding requires looking beyond physical appearances and delving into the depths of a person's true personality.

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Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Sandra Clark and Pamela Mason, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Physical Appearance Versus True Personality Depicted in Macbeth. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
“Physical Appearance Versus True Personality Depicted in Macbeth.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Physical Appearance Versus True Personality Depicted in Macbeth. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Jul. 2024].
Physical Appearance Versus True Personality Depicted in Macbeth [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 23]. Available from:
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