Bravery and Capability. Those two words are very descriptive of our first impression of Macbeth in the start of the play. This initial impression is given in the wounded captain’s account of Macbeth’s performance on the battlefield. He seems to be a great and honorable warrior capable of heroic feats, that is until his interaction with the three witches. Then the perspective becomes complicated. Upon hearing that he will become king, a consuming ambition takes over Macbeth. Joined with a hidden lack of self confidence, an inner turmoil begins. Those three attributes--bravery, ambition, and self doubt create an internal struggle for mastery over Macbeth.
After Macbeth’s interaction with the witches, he was transfixed by what they had said to him. “You shall be king” (I.3.84). In his head he was already pondering how this prophecy would come to be. He wondered if the reign would simply fall to him or whether he would have to commit a “dark deed” in order to gain the crown. Macbeth’s immediate reaction to the prophecy emphasized his desire for power and prestige. That he was even considering conspiracy and murder to become king showed how fast his ambition was taking over his mind. In Macbeth’s case, considering treason and actually committing it were two different matters. On his own, he was not resolved to do so.
A cloud of confusion and self-doubt surrounded Macbeth’s character at this point. He was unable to sort out in his mind what he was going to do. This was obvious to his wife, who was far more ruthless than him. As soon as Lady Macbeth knew of the prophecy, Duncan was doomed. Lady Macbeth knew Macbeth was ambitious, but feared he was too full of “th’ milk of human kindness” to take the steps necessary to make himself king (I.5.15). She resolved to convince her husband to do whatever was required to seize the crown. She even went as far as calling him a coward and questioning his manhood to get him to acquiesce to killing the king. “When you durst do...
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