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Caroline Rowell
Mr. Starkey
Gifted English 8
The Rhyme of Evil
The play Macbeth, written by Shakespeare, is about the juxtaposition of good and evil in humans,
as seen through the lens of rhyme. The most important rhyme in the play that supports this motif is
spoken by the witches. They start the play by saying: Fair is foul, and foul is fair/Hover through the fog
and filthy air (I.i.12-13). This rhyme sets up the theme for all of the villainous events that are going to
occur in the play. Whenever there is a reference to rhyme, it foreshadows that there will be a wicked act
to follow. Macbeth, the main character, begins as an ethical man. His wife, Lady Macbeth, believes that
he is weak, and too full of the milk of human kindness (I.v. 4). She believes that this milk is
worthless and no respectable man should have it. He later changes into a tyrant who kills anybody that he
is afraid of or that gets in his way. Shakespeare cleverly clues the reader into knowing that after a rhyme,
there will be a malicious act.
The witches and rhyme are used together often in this Scottish play. Whenever they speaking in
rhyme, they are speaking about something wicked or evil. For example: Round about the cauldron go,/
in the poisoned entrails throw./ Toad, that under cold stone/ Days and nights has thirty-one/ sweltering
venom sleeping got,/ Boil thou i th charmed pot" (IV.i. 4-9). This line is talking about making a hell
brew of some sort. Since its in rhyme, you know that evil news will come from it. Macbeth then comes,
and the apparitions tell him his destiny. They say that Macbeth cannot be killed by anybody who was
born from a mothers womb. In this Shakespearian work, Macbeth says quite a few of his lines in rhyme.
Whenever he uses rhyme, the reader knows that he is talking about the weird sisters, or witches, and that
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means evil. Macbeth's first prophecy from the witches is that he will become Thane of Cawdor, and then
king. At first, Macbeth doesn't want to do this, but his wife, Lady Macbeth, convinces him to do it by
calling him a coward. When Macbeth is convinced, he says this very famous line: "Stars, hide your fires;/
let not light see my deep and black desires." (I.iv. 52-53). Macbeth says this rhyming line right before
killing Duncan to become king, just what the witches said would happen: "Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a
knell/ that summons thee to heaven or hell." (II.i. 64-65). Notice how both lines rhyme, just like how the
witches talk. Both of these lines are about wicked acts.
Macbeth kills anyone who interrupt his quest to become king and keep the crown. That includes
Banquo, his best friend, because he was with Macbeth when the weird sisters came to them, and they told
Banquo that he wouldn't be king, but his sons would. Macbeth has a suspicion that Banquo knows he
cheated to become king. Macbeth wants to kill Fleance, Banquo's son, because the witches told Banquo
that his sons would be king. While Macbeth is talking to the murderers who are going to kill Banquo and
Fleance, he says this: "It is concluded. Banquo, thy soul's flight,/ If it find heaven, must find out tonight."
(III.i. 146-147). He's speaking in rhyme, foreshadowing a malefic act to follow. The murderers kill
Banquo, but Fleance survives and gets on his horse and "flies away" (III.iii. 27).
In conclusion, the reader can utilize the clues of rhyme to prepare for the horrible dark acts that
will follow. And it all begins with witches proclamation that Fair is foul and foul is fair (I.i. 12).
Sadly, Lady MacBeth influenced her husband to become a murderer for the sake of power. Macduff ends
Macbeths reign of terror by killing him only because he was born untimely ripped (V.viii. 20).
Shakespeare creates a powerful ending by placing Malcolm, Duncans son, in power. Malcolm becomes
king, and preaches to the people that this is a new era. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the evil butcher and
his fiend-like queen (V.viii. 79) are finally dead and no more rhyming appears in writing of Macbeth.