How does Shakespeare show the theme of conflict in Act 3, Scene 4 in Macbeth? I need to show both internal and external conflict in this scene. Thanks.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The external conflict is that Macbeth is on a killing spree. But, from Macbeth’s own perspective, the conflict is that Fleance has escaped. (Macbeth hired two murderers to kill Fleance and Banquo to prevent the witches’ prophecy from coming true.) The internal conflict is in Macbeth’s mind; at the banquet, he is overwrought with guilt and fear about all the killing. This inner conflict manifests in hallucinations of Banquo’s ghost. The hallucination is an interesting concept in this respect, because it is an inner (mental) constructed illusion, but manifests in an outer (sensory illusion) ghost. Macbeth’s behavior, arising from his guilt could also be a contributor to the growing outer conflict and the growing suspicion of Macduff and Lennox that Macbeth has been behind all these killings.

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dule05 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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In Act 3, Scene 4, Macbeth learns that the murderers he hired to kill Banquo and his son Fleance have failed to kill Fleance. The news perturbs him greatly:

Then comes my fit again: I had else been perfect,
Whole as the marble, founded as the rock,
As broad and general as the casing air:
But now I am cabin'd, cribb'd, confined, bound in
To saucy doubts and fears.

Not only does this make the plot more complex (this is the external conflict), but the news also make Macbeth feel vulnerable and disturbed. He wants to be untouchable as the leader and is resolved to get rid of anyone who could threaten him in any way.

As for the internal conflict, Macbeth's guilt-ridden conscience begins to manifest itself again in visions and hallucinations. In this particular scene, Macbeth believes he sees the ghost of Banquo, and every guest at the banquet is shocked to see Macbeth's irrational behavior. Macbeth is tortured by the vision of the ghost. Although Macbeth appears to be in control of everything, his sense of guilt arising from the people he has murdered proves to be too much to handle:

Avaunt! and quit my sight! let the earth hide thee!
Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
Which thou dost glare with!

Realizing that Macbeth is behaving irrationally, Lady Macbeth urges the guests to leave.


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