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What does Macbeth's soliloquy given below in the act 1 scene 7 mean?"If it were done...

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macbeth9 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted July 6, 2012 at 12:12 PM via web

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What does Macbeth's soliloquy given below in the act 1 scene 7 mean?

"If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well 
It were done quickly. If the assassination 
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch, 
With his surcease, success; that but this blow 
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,(5) 
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, 
We'd jump the life to come. But in these cases 
We still have judgement here, that we but teach 
Bloody instructions, which being taught return 
To plague the inventor. This even-handed justice(10) 
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice 
To our own lips. He's here in double trust: 
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, 
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, 
Who should against his murderer shut the door,(15) 
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan 
Hath borne his faculties so meek, 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(20) 
And pity, like a naked new-born babe, 
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubin horsed 
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, 
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur(25) 
To prick the sides of my intent, but only 
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself 
And falls on the other—"

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 6, 2012 at 1:49 PM (Answer #1)

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This soliloquy demonstrates the inner turmoil Macbeth experiences as he contemplates the murder of Duncan. He recognizes that what he is about to do is morally wrong, not just in the abstract sense, but because Duncan is his kinsman and a guest in his castle. In addition, Duncan is hardly a tyrant. He is a good king, and a good man, and anyone who killed him would be instantly condemned by all who knew him, and ultimately in the eyes of God. Macbeth recognizes, then, that he has no moral justification for assassinating Duncan. He is driven only by "vaulting ambition"  to fulfill what he sees as his destiny. This is Macbeth's mental state when he encounters his wife, who then fortifies his courage, challenging his masculinity in an attempt to get him to overcome his scruples and achieve his destiny.

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