What is Macbeth's problem in his opening soliloquy in Act 1 scene 7?

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pirateteacher's profile pic

pirateteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In this soliloquy, Macbeth debates with himself the plan to kill King Duncan that he and Lady Macbeth have just created.  He knows that it is something that he needs to do to become king, but he also knows that it is wrong to kill another person.  Additionally, he must worry about killing his king, who he has vowed to protect, and worry about killing his house guest.  

First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself.

Here Macbeth lists the issues his conscience has with killing Duncan.  Killing a person is wrong, but even more problematic is  killing your king. 

Macbeth points out that he has welcomed the king into his house (Macbeth calls himself Duncan's host).  Part of agreeing to let the king stay in your house is an understanding that he will be taken care of, and that he will still be alive the next day.

In the end, Macbeth convinces himself the deed must be done, and so he goes through with the plan.

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rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Macbeth's problem in this soliloquy is that he realizes, as he says, that he has no cause to kill Duncan except "vaulting ambition." He must kill Duncan, he believes, in order to fulfill the witches' prophecy and become king of Scotland. But Duncan has done nothing to offend him. Duncan is not only Macbeth's king, but he is his cousin, and one that holds him in high esteem. So to kill him would be to violate a "double trust." Moreover, Duncan is Macbeth's guest, and to murder him would violate a sacred duty owed to a guest by a host in Scottish society. Finally, Duncan is a generally popular and well-liked king, and his death would cause great consternation and sadness in Scotland. So in short, Macbeth feels it necessary to carry out an act, the murder of the king, that he knows is morally unjustified and evil. By the end of his soliloquy, in fact, he has resolved not to go through with the murder. At this point, Lady Macbeth enters and berates him for vacillating. She challenges his masculinity and his courage and steels him to carry out the act. So in the end, the problem is resolved, not by Macbeth himself but by his wife.

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