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The Ambivalence in Macbeth by Shakespeare

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In the process, she deftly uses the allegation of cowardice in order to persuade him to performing the deed since, ultimately, she can be almost certain that Macbeth – who, in accordance with his self-conception, perceives his manfulness and military honor as his highest virtues – will by no chance tolerate such an accusation and that he probably would want to prove her the opposite whenever possible.

The ambivalence in Macbeth also becomes evident due to the fact that – out of connectedness to the world of values – he continuously experiences inhibitions and impulses during the first scenes of the drama, which originate from his deepest inside and restrict and threaten his own willpower; after all, he knows exactly that his wish and plan to murder Duncan would be against the divinely-ordained world order. That is why, like already mentioned above, apart from the perfidy of the deed itself he also fears the negative consequences that his murder of the king would inevitably entail for him. Nonetheless, the demonic urge in him wins and drives him – willingly and unwillingly at the same time – to commit the murder . His pangs of 'conscience' – or rather his fear of the consequences for regicide – are additionally increased by his imaginative predispositions for doubt and fearfulness; the warning voices of his 'conscience', which in his case is closely connected with his imagination, densify into dreadful horror visions.

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In addition, Macbeth possesses the peculiar feature that, in the presence of people whose inner character is stronger and more consistent – so that they are able of keeping a straight line in their lives – he has a feeling of inferiority, or even an inferiority complex, out of which, inter alia, his fear of Banquo results2.Now the impacts of evil on Macbeth, along with their effect on his psyche, shall be shortly depicted.

According to Shakespeare it is often the richest and most gifted natures – just like it is the case with Macbeth – that are destined to ruin and doom by a “dram of eale” . Thus, this principally great and noble man is being destroyed from the inside in the course of the play, and by an addition of evil and bad, which he has to carry along. From an ethical standpoint, his ambition is not a grave flaw, but since it is stored in the demonic layer of his essence it develops a tremendous explosive and destructive power. The danger of this evilness is additionally increased by the fact that it is multiply stored in the undermost layers of human consciousness, so that Macbeth himself is unaware of these hazardous 'explosives'. Just like poison, this “dram of eale” rests inside his body and permeates him over time without him noticing.

It is four forces and powers that help this evil inside him to victory: fate, which causes the time and place, the best moment for both Macbeth's temptation as well as his regicide; the witches who, by order of fate, bring about the encounter with him; Macbeth's natural predispositions, or more precisely an extraordinary impressionability, an intensive suggestibility and, in connection with it – as repeatedly mentioned – productive imagination; and lastly, Lady Macbeth who becomes his biggest temptress and who manages to eliminate all of her husband's doubts and inhibitions concerning the murder of the king – which however, as stated above, are of selfish and practical nature. All these forces turn out to be a temptation for Macbeth; this temptation becomes the destiny of the person that, through a win of the irrational powers of the subconsciousness, ultimately has to succumb to it .

His development in the drama can now be summarized as follows: As an initially quite positive, honorable, almost heroic character, Macbeth – incited by demonic-seeming forces both inside him, namely the “vaulting ambition”  and the negative side4 of his productive imagination, as well as in his direct external environment, being the witches and his wife, who shows diabolical traits – ultimately succumbs to evil after long hesitation and massive pangs of conscience. What constitutes the turning point for this is not only the murder itself, but already his consent to the execution of Lady Macbeth's murder plot when he says: “I am settled, and bend up / Each corporal agent to this terrible feat.” 

Thus, by and by, he completely succumbs to the dark forces, which, for example, becomes evident through his spine-chilling apostrophe of the night shortly before the murder of Banquo, so that “the whole flood of evil in his nature is now let loose. He becomes an open tyrant, dreaded by everyone about him, and a terror to his country.”  As Malcolm accurately puts it: “I think our country sinks beneath the yoke; / It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash / Is added to her wounds.” Macbeth uses every necessary means to defend his usurped reign, which he built on unsteady ground, until his last breath - “I'll fight, till from my bones my flesh be hacked.”

In short, he thus degenerates from “Bellona's bridegroom” , as he was called in the beginning of the drama, almost into an epitome of bad and evil – or, in Malcolm's words a “bloody, / Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, / Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin / That has a name. - up into a “hell-hound” in the end . 

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