William Shakespeare’s Macbeth isa tale of contrasts and conflict; of thestruggle between vice and virtue, good and evil, and the fght for anatural order. Conflict is the major driving force for theplay – in particular, it is Macbeth’s internal battle which draws it out to itsconclusion. Macbeth is a study of blatantcontradictions – he desires what he can gain from acts of brutality, butinitially hesitates to commit them himself. By the plays end he has not so much overcome this hesitation than hehas utterly destroyed the emotions which drive it in the first place.In a sense, Shakespeare has made it so thatthe true tragedy of the play is not the death of individuals, but the decayingof Macbeth’s humanity; his slow declineinto becoming little more than a mechanical warrior – and what drives him tothis devastating end is his failure to win the battle raging within himself. At the plays onset, the reader isintroduced to “brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name – disclaiming Fortunewith his brandished steel” – and here, already, Shakespeare allows a glimpse of the conflict which controlshim.
He is loyal, but rutal, with noqualms about killing for King and country. These ideas already deep- seated when he is introduced into the play,only truly come to a head after his meeting with the witches, who hail him”King hereafter”. From this point on,the internal struggle taking place within Macbeth is what drives the play downthe long road to its ending, and his own ultimate destruction. Macbeth truly desires to commit evil,but despairs over the physical act of it.He is a self-conscious killer, at times horrified by his own actions,whose honesty with himself s often chilling “l have no spur to prick the sidesof my intent, but only vaulting ambition which o’er leaps itself and falls uponthe other. ” Shakespeare goes to greatlengths to expose every nuance of Macbeth’s fght between humanity anddepravity particularly during the scene in which Macbeth and Lady Macbeth argueabout committing the murder of Duncan. Lady Macbeth is, without doubt, thecatalyst of Macbeth’s internal conflict.
She is the one to tip the scale, to take advantage of his flaws, In a way, Lady Macbeth nderstands hisdesires better than Macbeth does, as he is constantly hiding them fromhimself. She appeals to his manhood andscorns it in turn. “When you durst do itthen you were a man and, to be more than what you were, you would be so muchmore than man”. Shakespeare uses LadyMacbeth to not only aid the battle within Macbeth, but to provide an externalconflict that Macbeth cannot win, taking advantage of his love and devotion toLady Macbeth to further tip the balance between the desire to do evil, and theacting out of it. ose the battle withinhimself. The destruction of hishumanity, and the unleashing of his darker side, are what drives him to notonly have Banquo murdered, but to kill off Macduffs family, which are bothimportant links in the chain leading to his downfall.
Though Macbeth’s internal conflict isone of the biggest forces driving the play, it is not the only one Shakespeareuses. Macbeth and Macduff are setagainst each other – one defined as a natural man “l must also feel it as aman”, the other a tyrant, whose evil simply grows as the play progresses. Things bad begun make strong themselves byill”. Indeed it is not until these twocome head to head and the simmering animosity between them truly comes to ahead, that Shakespeare allows the reader a glimpse past the monster Macbeth hasbecome, and into the man he once was. Atthe plays end, Macbeth does not truly wish to kill Macduff “of all men else I have avoided thee but getthee back! My soul is too much chargedwith blood of thine already’.
Shakespeare uses Macduff to show another important development in theplay – that of the re-emerging of Macbeth’s humanity.Conflict is also shown between naturaland unnatural – the witches are held up gainst the rest of the world as beingoutside the natural order, and Macbeth’s rule of Scotland is in conflictbetween Malcolm and the King of England, who is said to have powers of healing. While England is seen to thrive under the rule of its King, Ross says ofScotland “Alas, poor country, almost afraid to know itself; it cannot be called our mother, but ourgrave, where nothing but who knows nothing, is once seen to smile; where sighs and groans, and shrieks that rendthe ain are made, not marked; whereviolent sorrow seems a modern ecstasy’.Shakespeare shows, by the conflicting mages of these two separatereigns, the inferiority of chaos, and the natural to the natural order. Shows that men such as Macbeth – unnatural men – are inferior to such individuals as Malcolm and Macduff. By using so many conflicts, bothinternal and external, Shakespeare drives the play along. Each individual conflict is exceedinglyimportant to the text as a whole, because they are what pull it down the pathto its conclusion, and each forms a separate link in the chain.
Shakespeare weaves them together effortlessly,but the fact remains – conflict is the true heart and soul of the play.