With Macbeth, Shakespeare has crafted a character that falls under immense pressures from various sources. These opposing forces create internal conflict with Macbeth as he is torn between right and wrong, ambition and loyalty. Shakespeare has engineered this internal strife as a means to highlight the theme of right versus wrong in this work.
As a general and great soldier, Macbeth has a developed sense of duty. Throughout the course of the play, he retains this duty, but to whom he is obligated shifts. Before the witches influence his thinking early in the play, Macbeth is duty-bound as a warrior to his king, Duncan. He fights fearlessly for Duncan and claims many victories in his name. Once the witches plant the seed of ambition in Macbeth, he begins to stray from Duncan. He becomes interested in his actions toward his own benefit, as opposed to the benefit of Duncan and his people.
The final swing in Macbeth’s duties places him at the whim of his wife, Lady Macbeth. She wants him to become the powerful King, thus making her his comparably powerful Queen. Macbeth feels duty bound to please his wife, and by this her encouragement is amplified. During this transition of Macbeth’s loyalty, Macbeth’s conscience torments him relentlessly. This reveals that there must be some good deep down in Macbeth’s heart, even after he has committed so many acts of evil.
Another crux of Macbeth’s torn directions is his wants for loyalty competing with his ambitious wants. Again, as a soldier, he has an embossed sense of loyalty toward Duncan. But that crown would look awfully great with Macbeth’s new kilt. After much influence from the witches and his wife, Macbeth buckles under the pressure and his ambition conquers his loyalty. With a few fell strikes of a dagger, Macbeth’s conscience is forever warped to taunt him.
As should be evident, Macbeth is a character of strikingly immense internal conflict. This stress may even be the root of his hallucinations of men he has wronged. Either way, his conscience drives him mad and his downfall may be partly attributed to it.
1. Macbeth struggles with his conscience and the fear of eternal damnation if he murders Duncan. Lady Macbeth’s conflict arises when Macbeth’s courage begins to falter. Lady Macbeth has great control over Macbeth’s actions. What tactics does she use to gain control over him? Cite examples from Act I. Does she solve her conflict through her actions? Cite examples from Act I.
2. Shakespeare begins Macbeth with Witches talking on a barren stretch of land in a thunder storm. This creates a certain atmosphere and mood. What images contributed to the evil atmosphere? Do you feel this mood continues through Act I? Did the actions and dialog of the main characters reinforce this atmosphere?
1. The Witches are characters that have a powerful impact on the play, but have very few lines. Banquo says that he cannot sleep because he is thinking about them. Macbeth says that he has not thought about them at all. How do the characters of Macbeth and Banquo differ and what influence have the Witches had on each character?
2. Macbeth is alone while Lady Macbeth returns the bloody daggers when he says, “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red.” Lady Macbeth returns will blood on her hands as well. What does the blood symbolize? Cite examples from the play.
(The entire section is 472 words.)