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In Macbeth, the most significant inkling of Macbeth’s secret thoughts comes in the...

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erica_torales022 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 14, 2013 at 2:12 AM via web

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In Macbeth, the most significant inkling of Macbeth’s secret thoughts comes in the soliloquy
beginning, “This supernatural soliciting…” (I.iii.130-142).
a. What is the suggestion “whose horrid image doth unfix my hair”?
b. What moral conflict appears to exist in Macbeth’s mind? Quote and explain the
lines in which this conflict is expressed.
c. What conclusions about Macbeth’s character can you draw from this soliloquy?
Consider especially the question: why does the thought of killing Duncan affect in this way the man who has killed so many others on the battlefield, notably Macdonwald?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 14, 2013 at 6:25 AM (Answer #1)

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It is vital to recognise the importance of Act I scene 3. Firstly, the witches appear and deliver their prophecies to Macbeth and Banquo. Secondly, Macbeth hears that Duncan has appointed him Thane of Cawdor, proving the first of the prophecies concerning him to be true. This creates massive internal conflict within him, because if the first of the prophecies has been shown to be true, then this strongly indicates that the second prophecy will likewise become true. However, what concerns him is that when he thinks about the prophecy, he feels great terror and fear, as the following quote describes:

If good, why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,
Against the use of nature? 
 
What Macbeth is thinking of is killing Duncan in order to make the second prophecy come true. Why comitting regicide, or the killing of a king, is described as being "against the use of nature" is because in Elizabethan times, to kill a king was to kill God's appointed person, and was therefore going against God. Regicide was considered to be a terrible crime to commit, and thus even Macbeth, who shows himself in Act I scene 2 to be merciless with how he kills his enemies, is terrified at what might happen to him if he does commit regicide. This soliloquy shows the thinking of a man who is deeply conflicted between killing his liege in order to gain the power he craves or ignoring the prophecy.

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