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In Macbeth, how does Shakespeare present Macbeth as having a disturbed state of mind...

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Janellyn | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 6, 2013 at 2:55 PM via web

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In Macbeth, how does Shakespeare present Macbeth as having a disturbed state of mind towards the deed before and after the murder of Duncan?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 6, 2013 at 5:00 PM (Answer #1)

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While Macbeth is, indeed, enticed by the predictions of the three sisters, his warrior-loyalty to King Duncan, as well as his blood kinship to the ruler, effect internal conflict. Thus, within Macbeth there is the conflict between what is "foul" and what is "fair" since the witches consider evil deeds fair and Macbeth's "vaulting ambition" interprets them likewise, his conscience yet recognizes the foulness of regicide and the evil of upsetting the Chain of Being, as well as the dangerous implications of having King Duncan die in his home.

These are the conflicting feelings and ideas expressed in Macbeth's soliloquy of Act I, Scene 7, in which he first wishes that the assassination can be done quickly and successfully:

If it were done quickly. If th'assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch,
With its surcease, success; .... (1.7.2-4) 

However, Macbeth also realizes that there are always consequences for actions, 

But in these cases
We still have judgment here, (1.7.7-8)
 
And, again as previously stated, Macbeth recognizes his kinship with Duncan, as well as the virtue of this king which will effect retribution against the assassins,
Besides, this Duncan
...hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off; (3.7.16-19)
 
Against all these thoughts, Macbeth acknowledges that it is only his "Vaulting ambition" which propels him to commit the murderous deed. After this soliloquy, Macbeth goes to his wife, telling her that they will "proceed no further" in their plan of assassination. Lady Macbeth chides him, ridiculing his manhood and telling him to muster his courage again and he will succeed. However, in Act II, Scene 2, when Macbeth returns after having committed the murder, he is shaken and regrets his deed; he tells Lady Macbeth that he has heard voices saying, "Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep" (2.2.44). Again, Lady Macbeth chides him for his lack of courage, declaring that she would be ashamed to "wear a heart so white" (2.2. 65). Tortured by guilt, Macbeth wishes that his deed could be undone: "Wake Duncan with they knocking! I would thou couldst!" (2.2.75)
 
 
 
 
 

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