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How Do Macbeth’s Soliloquies Chart His Moral Degeneration?

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How Do Macbeth's Soliloquies Chart His Moral Degeneration? Shakespeare uses soliloquies to show us what is going on in the person's mind, their motives, thoughts and feelings. Macbeth's soliloquies show us that as the play goes on, his morals gradually degenerate, until the end when he is described as a "ruthless butcher". In this play I plan to explore how Macbeth's mind and morals degenerate throughout the play, by looking at three different soliloquies. In this soliloquy Macbeth asks himself two questions: If what the witches said was evil, how come two good things they have said come true? (He was Thane of Glamis and now he is Thane of Cawdor). If what the witches said was good how come his body reacts so violently to it? Like "horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs" this means to make his hair stand on end and that the thought of murder makes Macbeth's heart beat strongly. Macbeth seems frightened because he is thinking about murder, which goes against all rules, 'The Divine Order'. ...read more.


Macbeth also lists reasons why he should and why he should not kill the king; Macbeth is his kinsman, his host and his subject. Macbeth should be the one to protect him. The king is so good and kind "in his great office", that killing him would cause big problems and distress. Also the King has used his authority so wisely and has been so free from corruption that his good qualities will be like "angels trumpet-tongued", plead like angles against the evil deed if he was murdered and Macbeth will be condemned to "deep damnation". The images of heaven and hell show the conflict in Macbeth's Morals between love and evil. Macbeth also says that the only thing pushing him to do the crime of killing Duncan is his ambition; "vaulting ambition which o'erleaps itself and falls on th'other-". In the third soliloquy, Macbeth sees a vision of a dagger covered in blood. Macbeth tries to clutch the dagger, which represents committing the murder. Macbeth is unable to hold the dagger, which shows his ambivalence about the deed and he realises that it is not real, even though all of his other senses says it is, "mine eyes are made fools o' the other senses". ...read more.


The "knell" is a church bell that is rung to announce a death. The dagger is the first of several visions that Macbeth sees. He cannot tell whether they are real or imaginary. The visions are symbols of the power of evil sprits and also of the evil that is growing in Macbeth's heart. This shows that Macbeth's morals are increasingly evil, and this is the beginning of Macbeth going mad as he afterwards continues to kill innocent people, including Lady McDuff and her children. These soliloquies show how Macbeth's moral state gradually decreases. In the first soliloquy Macbeth is only thinking about murder, but he decides to leave up to chance. But in the second soliloquy Macbeth thinks about killing the king more, he begins to list reasons of why not to kill the king, the king's character and his obligations to the king. Macbeth knows the crime has to be done, and that his ambition is the only thing driving him to do it. In the third soliloquy his morals decrease rapidly, until Macbeth actually does the murder. His mind is full of dark imagery, as he uses strong, evil words. ...read more.

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Related AS and A Level Macbeth essays

  1. To what extent do the supernatural and Macbeth’s superstition contribute to his downfall?

    Macbeth already knows that he is Thane of Glamis by birthright, but does not know how he can be the Thane of Cawdor, when to his knowledge the Thane is a prosperous gentleman, and to be king he does not even dare to contemplate.

  2. By considering the soliloquies, analyse how Macbeth's character changes as the play progresses.

    At this point in the play he is undecided. It is also apparent that towards the end of the first speech the language used by Macbeth is very negative: "and nothing is But what is not." (Act 1, Scene 3, Line 139)

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