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What does the quote mean when Macbeth says "Why should I play the Roman fool and die...

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krystalh14 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 15, 2011 at 12:32 PM via web

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What does the quote mean when Macbeth says "Why should I play the Roman fool and die on my own sword?"

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 16, 2011 at 2:56 AM (Answer #1)

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Macbeth's words from Act V, Scene 7, allude to Shakespeare's other play, Julius Caesar, in which Brutus and Cassius who killed themselves with their own swords in the moment of defeat.  For the Romans, this was a death that was nobler than being taken captive and tortured and/or killed by one's enemy.  Ever the warrior, Macbeth vows to fight to the end, saying that as long as there are men alive, he will try to kill them, not himself:

... Whiles I see lives, the gashes
Do better upon them. (5.8.2-3)

Macbeth's statement, too, continues the motif of blood and brutality prevalent in this drama.  Truly, it is a heart of darkness that owns Macbeth's every thought and action.  For, even as he faces defeat, he vows to inflict injury and death upon whomever he can before he dies.

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