Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Macbeth book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What are the reasons Macbeth considers against the murder of King Duncan?

Expert Answers info

litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write15,967 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Macbeth worries about getting caught, feels Duncan has not done anything to deserve being killed, and believes a host should not kill a guest.

The first problem Macbeth has is that killing a king is very serious. He tries to talk himself out of it in his soliloquy. He begins by saying that, if he does kill Duncan, then he needs to do it quickly. Killing the king is dangerous. Macbeth is worried about the effects it will have on the kingdom. Will one murder create a domino effect of murders?

There are additional problems because the king is Macbeth's kinsman and his guest.

He's here in double trust;
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 (Act I, Scene 7). 

Basically, Macbeth would be violating every rule of gracious hosting by killing Duncan while he is staying at his home. You are supposed to protect your guests, not kill them. This is even worse when your guest is also your kinsman. 

Macbeth then goes on to praise Duncan, saying he is great and doesn’t deserve to die.

Besides, this Duncan

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his great office, that his virtues

Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against

The deep damnation of his taking-off (Act I, Scene 7).

Duncan has been a noble and virtuous leader. People will sing his praises when he dies. He doesn’t deserve death. It sounds like Macbeth is no ethical match for him. Therefore, Macbeth worries about killing and serving as the replacement for such an excellent leader. Macbeth's only qualification for being king is that he wants to be king badly enough to kill the current king.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

jawad652057 | Student

Macbeth [c. 1014-August 15, 1057] had more reasons for not killing King Duncan I [d. August 14, 1040] than for carrying out the killing. For example, he owed the King respect as the beneficiary of honors and titles; and as cousin, host, and subject. Killing the King disrespected Duncan's position as benefactor, cousin, guest, and king. Additionally, the King was beloved and respected by the people of Scotland. Finally, Macbeth had managed to gain the esteem of important people who wouldn't be impressed with king-killing.