In the play Macbeth, the main character Macbeth experiences many forms of internal and external conflict. These internal and external conflicts help us understand the universal meaning and the main messages of the play, that Shakespeare is trying to convey.

Internal conflict in the play mostly comes about because either Macbeth or Lady Macbeth regret that they killed Duncan. One example of this is when Macbeth says “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?”. Macbeth says this after he has killed King Duncan. What he means by this is not literally that he can never wash the blood clean from his hands, but that he can never take back what he did and that nothing he does can rid him of this crime. This quote adds to the universal meaning of the play because it indicates Macbeth’s internal conflict and shows us how Macbeth chose his selfish ambition to become king over his loyalty to the throne and to his friend King Duncan and how even though he may regret it, he can never take it back.

Later on in the play, Macbeth says ““O, full of scorpions is my mind!”. Macbeth says this quote to Lady Macbeth and it shows us how as the play progresses, Macbeth kills more people and does more dark things to gain and keep the throne, his internal conflict becomes worse. He knows he must continue to gain the throne or else his killing of King Duncan,his two guards, Banquo, Lady Macduff, her children and her household will have been wasted. But at the same time, he regrets what he has done but knows there is no way to take it back. This helps us understand the main messages of the play because Macbeth chose his ambition to become king over his loyalty. One of the main messages of the play is that that was the wrong choice.

One of the main messages of the play as portrayed in Macbeth’s quotes is that Macbeth chose his ambition for himself becoming king over his loyalty to his friend King Duncan and to Scotland as a whole. What Shakespeare is trying to portray through this message is not only that Macbeth chose wrong, but that anyone who chooses their own ambition over their loyalty to others will end up regretting it. This message is important because it relates to everyone one of us at some point or many points of our lives where we have to make decisions, and whatever values we have will influence our choices. Shakespeare wrote the play Macbeth not only for entertainment purposes but to possibly influence people into making the right decision when they’re faced with the same sort of choice Macbeth was.

Shakespeare’s play Macbeth was only really intended to be seen by people in the era when it was written in 1606. In that era, loyalty to the king was one of the highest values. This was because in that time, things could get chaotic and out of hand much faster than now, such as a country being invaded or people rebelling against the king. In the play, there is fighting almost all the time as in the beginning and ending of the play there are two wars being fought. So the reason why loyalty to the throne was so important was because when people were disloyal to throne, the whole system could turn to chaos very easily.

When Macbeth, one of the king’s most trusted soldiers, turns against him, this would be one of the worst things he could do back in those days. This is why after Macbeth has killed King Duncan, he knows he must continue trying to become king because there is no way he can turn back and become the person he once was again. Once people realised what he has done, he would never be accepted back into society and would be killed on the spot.

Back in those days, the difference between good and evil was clear but there was not a huge difference for example Macbeth killed many people in war and that was all right because they were on the other side. He was rewarded for this by being given the title Thane of Cawdor. When Macbeth killed King Duncan and his supporters to gain the throne, this was seen as an evil act even by himself.

The difference between killing people in war and killing people in cold blood was that when Macbeth killed people in war, it was seen as a good thing because he was killing for the good of his country. And when he killed people because of his own ambition to gain the throne, this was an evil act because he was simply killing for no other reason than his own ambition. This is portrayed in Macbeth’s quote “Stars hide your fires. Let not light see my black and deep desires.”  What Macbeth means is that he is ashamed of what he wants to do, and he does not want anyone, let alone the stars who represent God, to see his ambition of gaining power

In the end of the play, before Macbeth is about to go and fight his final battle, an example of external conflict, and just after Lady Macbeth has died, he says “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Macbeth believes that life is not worth anything because no matter what you do and how influential you are, you will never really change anything. Macbeth believes this because he achieved his goal of becoming king, his ambition, but he was never happy with it. This was because of all the terrible things Macbeth did to gain the throne, and in the end he knew he never deserved the throne. His internal conflict has lead him to give up all hope in life.

In this quote there is also dramatic irony when he says “struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more.” The character saying this quote is actually an actor. This brings the audience back to the fact that Macbeth is not a real story, it is simply told by actors on a stage. Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something that the characters don’t. This is a strange form of dramatic irony because Macbeth is talking about his life, but at the same time, without knowing it, he is also talking about what he really is and this makes the audience feel that they know something that he doesn’t. This is the peak of Macbeths’ internal conflict where he reaches despair.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Hi Mr Waugh I started writing this as a paragraph but ended up turning it into an essay used Mum as writer planned a lot of it before I wrote it

    Thx, Quinn

  2. Great to see you putting time into preparing. This will do you a lot of good.

    You’ve made a series of strongly insightful observations about a variety of forms of internal conflict and what they reveal. You’ve used excellent detailed quotations and fully explained their meaning.

    The weaknesses are:

    1) Organisation – at times it’s not clear where you’re going with the good points you’re making. This is particularly so when you start to discuss the difference between good killing and bad killing – how does this relate to the question about conflict and what it reveals. To help this, I recommend re-stating the response to the question more frequently: in this case – “This conflict reveals that…”

    2) Precision in relation to the question. As stated above, sometimes it’s not entirely clear whether you’re still addressing the question. Sometimes discourse markers are important here. Phrases like “In addition to”, “Unlike”, “Similarly”, “In contrast to”, “furthermore” and many others help your reader to navigate between your ideas, seeing how they’re linked to each other.

    You’re going well, though. I gave you a hard question – now try with a self-selected one from the papers I posted on the class site.



Leave a Reply to Quinn Cancel reply