What does the following quote from Macbeth mean?""Whose horrid image doth unfix my hairAnd make my seated heart knock at my ribs,Against the use of nature?"

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As always, to identify the meaning of any given individual quote it is vital to look at that quote in context and try to use those contextual clues to help us understand it. This quote is actually from Act I scene 3 and is said by Macbeth as part of an aside in response to hearing the prophecy of the witches and then having the first element of that prophecy completed through his gaining of the title of Thane of Cawdor. In this aside, Macbeth explores his curious range of emotions at having had the first stage of the prophecy confirmed, and debates whether the prophecies he has received are good or bad. Note what he asks:

If good, why do I yield to that suggestion

Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair,

And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,

Against the use of nature?

Macbeth is asking if the prophecies are good, why is it that he finds himself contemplating killing King Duncan, something that terrifies him incredibly because it is such an unnatural thing to want to do? This quote therefore points towards the way in which Macbeth is already contemplating committing regicide to gain the crown for himself.

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