Motivation, Consequence and Conscience: Macbeth Act 1, Scenes 5& 7

Topic: LifeLoyalty
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Last updated: October 5, 2019

In Macbeth, one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Macbeth is faced with very tough choices and encounters several moral dilemmas.

In act one, it is revealed to him in a prophecy, proven to be accurate on two other occasions, that he is to become king. Although there’s already a healthy and great king, Duncan, Macbeth – now convinced it is his destiny – begins to have indecent thoughts about how to make the thrown his own. His mind quickly brings him to the idea of murdering Duncan.He tells his wife, Lady Macbeth, of the prophecy and his intentions of murder and has her full support, as she is anxious for the throne to belong to her husband. In scenes five and seven of the first act of Macbeth, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth both have significant motivating factors for murdering Duncan, but Lady Macbeth is less concerned with negative consequences and has a lighter conscience than Macbeth, who has a harder time convincing himself that he should and actually is capable of committing the crime.Lady Macbeth is strongly motivated and therefore determined to murder Duncan and is not very concerned with matters of conscience or consequence.

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Her prime motivation for murdering Duncan is to see Macbeth be king. She is truly devoted to Macbeth; not talking of herself as queen but only him as king. This shows that her potent motivation to murder Duncan is not purely evil and selfish, but is an act of loyalty and love towards Macbeth. Her strong motivation and ambition easily override most of her conscience, but she also takes care to summon evil spirits to remove what is left of it.She commands, “Unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe topfull of direst cruelty;” showing her true desire to be free of guilt or pity in order to go through with her plan. Lady Macbeth doesn’t think much on the negative consequences of murdering Duncan because she doesn’t see how it could go wrong; she feels now that Macbeth shall become king no matter what, as it is meant to be.

Her only concern seems to be that Macbeth will not be capable of murdering Duncan due to his own conscience, but she uses her words to convince him it must be done.She is also extremely confident that nobody will find out it was she and Macbeth who murdered Duncan. She has the ‘perfect’ plan; blame the guards for the murder and “make [their] griefs and clamour roar upon his death… ” to offset suspicion. Lady Macbeth’s ambition and love for her husband provide the motivation for her to clear her conscience, and the confidence for her to fearlessly go through with the murder of Duncan.

Macbeth has strong motivation to murder Duncan so he can claim the thrown as his, but he experiences great struggles with his conscience and with imagining the consequences of committing such a crime.Macbeth has great ambition and desire to be king, and the prophecy strengthened that desire through power of suggestion. Becoming king now seems achievable to him, and that provides almost enough motivation to carry him through with the murder; the reward of success now seems not only possible, but plausible. Macbeth also knows that him being king would please his wife very much. Throughout his battle with his conscience she forces him to go on by encouraging him and reminding him of the security of their plan and the great reward that awaits them once the deed is done.

When he tells her he simply can’t, she insists that he must. Macbeth finds it harder than Lady Macbeth to keep a clear and guilt-free conscience, as is expressed in his soliloquy. He first fears vengeance; he feels that “bloody instructions, which being taught, return to plague th’inventor,” basically saying if he kills he will in turn be killed. The thoughts of loyalty and kinship with Duncan also cross his mind and he expresses how wrong he feels it is when he admits “I am his kinsman and his subject… ho should against the murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself. ” Not only is Duncan his king, but he is a good and virtuous king and all would agree.

Macbeth knows this and agrees so strongly that he fears if he were to murder Duncan, heaven would send down all the angles and cherubs to tell everyone of his terrible deed. The thought of being punished in the afterlife also crosses his mind, and he does not want to be damned for all eternity for his actions.His ambition and motivation begin to outweigh his conscience as he watches his wife’s plan unfold, and he – along with Lady Macbeth – declares it is indeed possible and that “false face must hide what the false heart doth know. ” In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the characters of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth have strong motivation and ambition. Their desire for Macbeth to have the throne eventually takes over their inhibitions and brings them together to do what seems must be done. Although Macbeth is at first hindered by his conscience nd fear of the consequences of murdering Duncan, his ambition – combined with the loyalty and determination of Lady Macbeth – is enough of a driving push to convince him to murder Duncan and take the thrown as his own.

The combined force of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth creates an almost ‘dynamic duo’ and enables them to take on the task of successfully committing a murder and the working together to cover it up. To conclude, Lady Macbeth’s intense motivation and ambition and Macbeth’s contradictory conscience and fear of consequences results ultimately in the completion of the murder of king Duncan.

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