I have to write a three body term paper on Macbeth but I am having trouble supporting my topic and was hoping to get some advice or some ideas.  My thesis is: When descisions are affected by...

I have to write a three body term paper on Macbeth but I am having trouble supporting my topic and was hoping to get some advice or some ideas.


My thesis is: When descisions are affected by internal and external forces all rational thoughts are abandoned. My paragraphs will be on the witches, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth's own fear and ambition... I need some supporting statements for all three. A quick answer would be preferable, too. Thank you!!

Expert Answers
webbed eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The effect of internal and external forces on an individual’s decisions is richly displayed throughout the play. Right from the start, Shakespeare draws our attention to the manipulation of the weird sisters and its stimulating effect on Macbeth and his wife. Here are several possible resources for supporting details in Act I:

  • Act I, Scene 1 – The opening of the play introduces the audience to the three Witches. A battle is underway and these “weird sisters” discuss how they plan to meet Macbeth after the battle ends.
  • Act I, Scene 3 – The Witches meet with Macbeth and Banquo, greeting Macbeth as the Thane of Cawdor and the King of Scotland. Although this confuses Macbeth, it also intrigues him. Banquo asks the Witches about his own fate, to which they respond that although he will never be king, his sons will. This prediction will later feed into Macbeth’s twisted thoughts as a threat to his own status. Shortly after the Witches disappear, Macbeth and Banquo are met by two noblemen who inform them of Macbeth’s appointment as Thane of Cawdor. The first stage in Macbeth’s downfall has been set in place.
  • Act I, Scene 4 – King Duncan names his son Malcolm as his successor, which presents Macbeth with a dilemma: How will he succeed to the throne if Malcolm is the occupant?
  • Act I, Scene 5 – Lady Macbeth dominates the scene, her own ambitions obvious in her promise to help Macbeth succeed in becoming the King of Scotland. When Macbeth arrives, the two agree that they will do whatever’s necessary to make the Witches’ prediction come true.
  • Act I, Scene 7 – While Macbeth balks at killing Duncan, fearing for his soul, Lady Macbeth accuses him of cowardice. Internal and external forces are both at play here: the internal struggle within Macbeth as he reconsiders the decision to murder the King and the external pressure heaved on Macbeth by his wife and co-conspirator that attacks his manhood.

Act II also provides evidence of the effect of internal and external forces: Macbeth’s guilty conscience weighs heavily on him, and he begins to demonstrate signs of increasing madness that will dominate his actions throughout the remainder of the play.

In Act III, Macbeth’s irrational behavior intensifies as he begins to eliminate who he perceives as his rivals and enemies, including his friend Banquo. Not everything, however, goes according to plan, most significantly Banquo’s son’s escape. More and more the relationship between husband and wife diminishes as Macbeth’s blind ambition and paranoia merge.

In Act IV Macbeth seeks the Witches' counsel and demands to know more about his future. Three Apparitions provide him with three predictions. With Macduff the latest nobleman to flee Scotland, Macbeth’s murderous rampage now turns to an “I’ll show you” sort of mentality and he orders the death of Macduff’s family.

By Act V, Lady Macbeth has descended into madness. She sleepwalks and keeps trying to wash her hands. While Macbeth shows some concern for her well-being, asking the Doctor to find a cure, when she dies just before he engages in battle with Malcolm’s forces, he merely responds that life is short. Although Macbeth feels safe within his castle, as each of the Witches’ prophecies from Act IV come true, he realizes his predicament, and once again, internal and external forces come together as he faces his enemy and fights to the death, a warrior to the very end.

Good luck with your paper.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like the idea of your thesis and believe it will make for an interesting essay.  I pulled some quotes and supporting statements to address your thesis. 

The witches

  • The witches clearly represent external forces in the novel, a supernatural interference that stirs Macbeth's inner ambition. 
  • Their predictions at the beginning of the novel lead Macbeth to question his place in the Scottish hierarchy. 
  • Later in the play in Act IV, scene 1, Macbeth seeks the witches' confirmation of their prophecy, wishing for answers to how they know the future.  The witches conjure the three spirits, whose prophecies convince Macbeth of his invincibility and need to murder Macduff.

Lady Macbeth

  • Lady Macbeth is an external source of influence upon her husband, convincing him to carry through with the plan to murder Duncan. 
  • Where Macbeth feels himself occasionally falter in self-doubt and recrimination like at the feast when he sees Banquo's ghost, Lady Macbeth convinces him to be strong and move forward with their plans.
  • Lady Macbeth also provides great insight into internal conflict, and the abandonment of rational thought, especially in the final scenes of the play.  The doctor confides to Macbeth in Act V, scene three that Lady Macbeth is "Not so sick, my lord,
    As she is troubled with thick-coming fancies, That keep her from her rest" (V.iii.43-45)
  • I would definitely draw upon the famous "out damned spot" dialogue from Lady Macbeth to show her separation from reality and good judgment.

Macbeth's own fear and ambition

  • His own fear and ambition are certainly internal forces that motivate many of his choices and actions throughout the play, such as:  murdering Duncan, murdering (and framing) Duncan's servants, murdering Banquo, murdering Macduff and his entire family.
  • Macbeth seeks out the weird sisters in the beginning of Act IV; this act signifies a complete disregard for logic and common sense or rational judgment. 
  • He has bought into the witches' prophecy completely, letting his ambition and fear of Macduff blind him to more logical courses of action.  The witches' prophecies further play on Macbeth's insecurities, practically setting him up for failure in the final conflict.  His reliance on the supernatural and desire for the throne proves to be his undoing.