Throughout the renowned tragedy “Macbeth”, Shakespeare delves into the manifold layers of internal human conflict, and its implications on the interpretations of humanity in a person, portrayed by masterfully composed and developed characters. In no character is this more emphasized than the subject of the play himself, Macbeth, a Scottish noble and warrior, whose thoughts and emotions are torn between his ambition and conscience, as his desire for power and his loyalties, armed with reason, struggle over control of his actions. The Elizabethan playwright repeatedly uses soliloquies revolving around Macbeth to allow the audience a telling insight into the main character’s train of thought and true emotions. One such important passage occurs in Scene 7 of Act 1, as Macbeth, after the king’s arrival to his castle, is debating whether he should commit regicide, thus hoping to make true a prediction earlier made to him by three witches, who prophesied that he would become king. Macbeth’s internal turmoil is evident through the use of figurative language and argumentation, thus revealing the truly human dimension of the character.
The use of figurative language by Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 7 demonstrates his struggling emotions and his awareness of the consequences of his actions, indicative of reason. He labours under the weight of evil temptation, by which he is drawn, as shown through: “If the assassination / could trammel up the consequence and catch / With his surcease success”. The metaphor here possesses a duality of interpretations, as Macbeth likens the king’s murder with a net, which brings bounty to the fisherman while sealing away the furor of his catch, alluding to his tempting desire for the kingship, which is opposed by his fear of what consequence, whether divine or human, could result, a motif which is carried in this scene. Further to the point, Macbeth later invokes his conscience, saying: “ 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”. Here, he compares the good of the king’s nature and the sway it holds over people’s affections, such that any harm to it would cause an outcry, being a crime against the divine. This identifies Macbeth’s fear of holy retribution, as well as emphasizing his conscience, which evokes this emotion and identifies the murder as a heinous act against a man who Macbeth knows to be virtuous, and to whom he owes fealty. In addition, such a realization demonstrates itself through the reasoning nature of the quote, as Macbeth continues to run through the possible consequences of his actions. Finally, it would have a powerful effect on the superstitious audience, creating shock at the implications of Macbeth’s crime on the divine mandate.
Argumentation in a text is often indicative of conflict; when internal, it may demonstrate indecision, hesitation and turmoil. In Act 1 Scene 7, Macbeth pits his ambition, motivated by temptation, against his conscience, abetted by reasoned fear. In lines 1-4, Macbeth lays out his ambition, tempered with hesitation, beginning with: “If it were done when ‘tis, then ‘twere well / It were done quickly”, indicating Macbeth’s indecision through the use of “if”, as well as showing his desire to be rid of the pressure of such a deed in the future, while also failing to name the act properly, using “it” instead, further demonstrating his hesitation, even apprehension, surrounding the matter. Shakespeare elegantly contrasts this shorter part of the passage with the next, beginning with the following: “But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, / We’d jump the life to come”. This sets out the tone for Macbeth’s counterargument, incorporating his fear for his life and of justice both human and divine. Furthermore, Macbeth’s turmoil is evident as he says: “As his host / Who should against his murderer shut the door, / Not bear the knife myself”. Here, Macbeth struggles with his identity, as he sees himself as both murderer and host, and cannot shut his temptation away, yet also refuses to let it reign over him, as that contradicts his values as a noble warrior. Finally, Macbeth concludes with: “I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition”, clearly stating that he has no motivation to commit the crime but ambition, such that his reason has won the argument, but was unable to quell his great ambition, a tragic flaw, openly inviting Lady Macbeth, who enters cutting the soliloquy off, to provide the said spur, and destroy whatever frail integrity Macbeth managed to build.
Macbeth is in essence a character who epitomizes a great part of being human, which is imperfection. The audience watches as he goes through the timeless struggle between the glinting light of good and the alluring blaze of evil temptation. Ultimately, it is the skill of the playwright which leaves the audience thinking, doubting, whether Macbeth is weak for displaying such flaws, or whether by their presence he is simply human. For what is our existence but endless doubt, of ourselves, of the world, and of the currents that guide us?