Conflict In Macbeth

What are the main conflicts in Macbeth? How are they connected to the themes of the play?  

The main conflicts in Macbeth are between Macbeth and himself and between Macbeth and his disgruntled nobles. These conflicts are connected to the overriding theme of ambition and its dangers.

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One of the main conflicts in the play is the one between Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth. Initially, when she learns of what the Weird Sisters told him, she believes that he is "too full o' th' milk of human kindness" to take the quickest path to the throne of Scotland: murdering the current king (1.5.17). She indicates her willingness to manipulate her husband so that he does as she would wish, hoping that he comes directly home so that she

may pour [her] spirits in [his] ear
And chastise with the valor of [her] tongue
All that impedes [him] from the golden round (1.5.29–31).

She is quite prepared to persuade and coerce him to kill the king and take the crown, as she anticipates disagreement.

Later, Macbeth determines that he will "proceed no further in this business" of murder (1.7.34), and he tells Lady Macbeth that they are not going ahead with their plan to kill Duncan. She goes on to insult and berate him, claiming that he is not really a man but a coward if he will not go after what he wants. She also suggests that he does not really love her and that his love is weak because he is breaking his word to her. She wounds his pride deeply through their conflict, and as a result, Macbeth does kill Duncan.

Soon, the couple begins to grow apart as Macbeth plans more and more acts of violence without so much as consulting his wife. Perhaps this change in him was precipitated by her treatment of him prior to and following the murder of Duncan. She continued to insult him for being cowardly and weak because he felt so remorseful and fearful about what he'd done. Their conflict helps to convey the theme that appearances are often deceiving. It appears, at first, that Lady Macbeth is the strong one—the one who can hold it all together, even through stressful times—and it likewise seems as though Macbeth is the weak one who will fall apart. However, by the end of the play, we see that Lady Macbeth is the weaker party, the one whose conscience gets to her, and Macbeth is the one who seems most strongly committed to their plan.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 19, 2020
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One can identify two main conflicts in Macbeth, one internal, the other external. The internal conflict is between Macbeth and himself. Although Macbeth kills Duncan and willingly takes his place on the Scottish throne, he never appears comfortable with his new role. Even though he has absolute power and even though he appears to have fulfilled the witches' prophecy, he's never able to enjoy being king.

When it seemed that Macbeth was getting cold feet over killing Duncan, he had to be cajoled into doing it by his ambitious wife, the prime mover behind the murder plot. Yet even after the dirty deed is done, and Macbeth has ascended to the throne, he's still not happy with himself. Riddled with insecurities, Macbeth lashes out at his enemies, cementing his reputation as a bloody tyrant. His increasingly vicious behavior illustrates the dangers of ambition.

The main external conflict in the play is that between Macbeth and the Scottish nobility. Macbeth's ambition has led directly to this conflict—a conflict that will finally be resolved when Macduff kills Macbeth in a duel.

Perhaps it might have been possible for Macbeth to have established good relations with his nobles. But the suspicious nature of Duncan's death, combined with Macbeth's dictatorial behavior once he became king, made such an accommodation impossible to achieve.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 19, 2020
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There are both internal and external conflicts in Shakespeare's Macbeth. The important theme of the nature of evil is addressed in both.

The main internal conflicts occur when people reflect about how they should respond to the witches' prophecies. Banquo, after some initial hesitation, realizes that the witches are evil and thus to listen to them would be to risk one's immortal soul. Macbeth, on the other hand, lets their words overcome his ethical training and loyalty to Duncan, and cause his ambition to gain the upper hand in his nature, leading him to commit increasingly evil deeds. Lady Macbeth convinces herself that she must go against her moral nature and womanly instincts to support her and her husband's ambitions, eventually driving herself insane. 

The main external conflicts are the ones between Macbeth and the people he increasingly sees as obstacles to his ambition, including Banquo, Duncan, Malcolm, and Macduff. These conflicts are all related to the theme of what makes authority legitimate.

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Conflicts in Macbeth include:

Conflict between Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, who doesn't think he's enough of a man to get the job done (the job of murdering the king, that is).

Conflict between Macbeth and Macduff because of Macbeth having had Macduff's family murdered.

Conflict between Banquo and Macbeth because Macbeth is afraid Banquo's descendents will become kings of Scotland, despite the throne having been "promised" to Macbeth by the witches.

Conflict between Macbeth and the Apparitions because he wishes to speak to them, to question them further, but they refuse to allow him to speak.

Conflicts between the armies of Macbeth and Malcolm (Macbeth's men are serving simply out of fear of Macbeth, while Malcolm's men are serving to help Scotland escape the tyranny of Macbeth).

Conflict between Hecate and the witches because they took it upon themselves to speak to Macbeth without her permission or her being present.

Conflict within Lady Macbeth, once the guilt starts to work on her, leading her to madness and suicide.

Initially there's conflict within Macbeth over killing Duncan, but he manages to get over that particular hurdle, then isn't much bothered by the rest of the murders he is responsible for.

These conflicts relate to the play's themes in some way or another...themes which include ambition, power, guilt, the supernatural (illusion versus reality), and fate versus personal choice.

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