The First Soliloquy of Macbeth.


Critically discuss the ‘First Soliloquy’ of Macbeth.

The first soliloquy of Macbeth occurs in Act I, Scene VII of Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Macbeth’. In the scene that precedes Lady Macbeth greets Duncan with studied warmth of heart and politeness. She has already chastised Macbeth with the ‘valour’ of her ‘tongue’ to goad Macbeth into murdering Duncan. It is true that Macbeth has contemplated the murder, but it is very difficult to translate his plan into action. In his soliloquy, Macbeth is reflecting on the consequences of the contemplated murder. In this intensely critical scene, he is, to quote Bernard Groom, “hesitating at the last moment on the brink of his crime.”

Macbeth fondly wishes the act of murder were wholly finished when it is done; he wishes it could entangle its own results and obtain its object i.e., the throne of Scotland. Macbeth is not scared of the punishment in the life hereafter. If there were no sequel to the action, he would “jump the life to come.” But he fears that there will be a sequel of the murder “here, on the bank and shoal of time.” He says to himself, “But in these cases, /We still have judgment here.” He says that the conspirators teach others to do what they have done. This means that Macbeth himself will fall victim to his conspiracy. He soliloquizes,

“… we but teach/ Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return/ to plague th’inventor.”

The soliloquy shows the partial justification of Lady Macbeth’s remark that: “it (Macbeth’s nature) is too full o’th’milk of human kindness, / To catch the nearest way.” He is aware of the magnitude of the sin to be committed by him. First, Duncan is his king. Secondly, Duncan is his kinsman. What is most important is that the king is his guest. As a subject, he is going to commit the sin of regicide. As a kinsman, he is going to shed his brother’s blood. And as a host, he is going to kill his guest. Macbeth knows perfectly well that as a host, he should “against his murderer shut the door, / Not bear the knife myself.” Macbeth finds it difficult to drown the voice of his conscience.

It is impossible for Macbeth to justify his plan to get rid of a virtuous king, who “hath been so clear in his great office.” Macbeth has nothing but his “vaulting ambition” to goad him on. He feels that the murder of the good king will arouse pity in the hearts of all concerned. Macbeth seems to have the foreknowledge of the futility of the contemplated murder. Macbeth conveys his fear through the metaphor of horse riding:
“I have no spur/ to prick the sides of my intent, but only/ Vaulting ambition, which o’er-leaps itself/ And falls on the other, -.”

Work-cited page
1. Hubbard, S. (2016) Macbeth by William Shakespeare. London: Hodder Education.
2. Macbeth: Notes (2009). Toronto, ON: Coles Publishing.
3. Moschovakis, N.R. (2008) Macbeth: New critical essays. London: Routledge.

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