What were the conflicts, both internal and external, in performing regicide?

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mperez-mugg21 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The prospect of killing Duncan is very difficult for Macbeth for a number of reasons.  First, he is a loyal servant to the king and a patriot at heart.  He finds himself in the terrible predicament of being forced to kill the king in order to fulfill his own ambition, although he finds the deed morally repugnant.  For example, his actions in committing the crime leave him terribly shaken and disgusted by what he has done (he returns from the scene with the bloody daggers and unable to shake emotions).  These elements serve as the internal conflict within the play: Macbeth is internally grappling with the moral anguish of committing regicide.  This internal conflict is most famously present in the dagger soliloquy in Act 2, scene 1.  During this section of the play, Macbeth speaks about his internal conflict and the psychological toll that it has taken on him.  Conversely, the external conflict in committing this act stems from the tension between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.  While Macbeth is repulsed by the action that he must commit to gain power, Lady Macbeth seems to take the act very lightly and pressures Macbeth to commit the crime regardless of his moral scruples.  Lady Macbeth uses Macbeth's manhood as a leveraging point in order to pressure him into following through with the act when he begins to question his decision.  Moreover, she also insinuates that he is weak and pathetic when he has trouble finishing the full act and covering his tracks.  This serves as the primary external conflict in the play and adds to Macbeth's psychological torment throughout the first half of the play.