Struggles of the Conscience in Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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THE TRAGEDY THAT IS MACBETH Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” explores a fundamental struggle of the human conscience. The reader is transported into the journey of a man who recognizes and acknowledges evil but still succumbs to its destructive powers. The character of Macbeth is shrouded in ambiguity that scholars have claimed as both being a tyrant and tragic hero. Macbeth’s inner turmoil and anxieties that burden him throughout the entire play evoke sympathy and pity in the reader. Though he has the characteristics of an irredeemable tyrant, Macbeth realizes his mistakes and knows there is no redemption for his sins. And that is indeed tragic. A tragic hero is a nobleman who comes to a tragic end as a result of a deliberate choice – not as a result of fate or coincidence (Mrs. Horne). Macbeth is introduced in the play as a brilliant general. Wayne Booth comments that in order for the audience to recognize Macbeth’s fall, he had to be ‘a man worthy of our admiration’ (25). Thus, Macbeth’s loyalty and bravery is emphasized to magnify his tragic end. Lady Macbeth remarks that her husband is “too full o’ the milk of human kindness” (1.5.16) while Duncan is eternally grateful to the “noble Macbeth” (1.2.77). Macbeth is bestowed the Thaneship of Cawdor for his valour in battle. This stirs his dormant ambition or fatal flaw into question. The use of the ‘aside’ in Shakespearean plays ‘indicate a state of intense mental preoccupation’ (Mehl 111) in the character, as well as providing the genuine truth to the audience. In Macbeth’s aside in Act 1, scene 3, this technique is used to induce sympathy in the reader or spectators. We realize that Macbeth is tempted to kill Duncan, but is also horrified at the idea, “why do I yield to that suggesti... ... middle of paper ... ...evenge and engages Macbeth in swordplay. Macbeth is confident. However, it is quickly crushed when Macduff boldly states that he had been “untimely ripp’d” (5.8.20) from his mother’s womb. At this moment, Macbeth understands the full extent of the Witches’ deception. He is no longer living a charmed life of invincibility and must fight for his life. It is here that Macbeth’s courage returns when he refuses to surrender, “Yet I will try the last” (5.8.37). Macbeth’s story highlights the inherent goodness found in all of us, but also the evil that lurks within us, unnourished. Although there is no redemption for Macbeth’s evil sins, he finally comes to acknowledge his crimes and thus can provoke pity in the eyes of the audience. Macbeth’s psychological journey from a courageous general to a “ dead butcher” (5.9.41) is one that truly merits to be called a tragedy.

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