Macbeth’s Conscience

Montaigne once remarked, “As an ill conscience fills us with fear, so a good one gives us greater confidence and assurance; and I can truly say that I have gone through several hazards with a more steady pace in consideration of the secret knowledge I had of my own will and the innocence of my intentions.” If Macbeth, up until he commits the murder, feels like the carrying out of his deed will have nothing but a blameless effect on him; he may feel this way because of his perceived “innocence of his intentions.” After all what is he doing but carrying out a prophecy that he feels is going to occur whether he “stirs” or not. In effect the Weird Sisters predicted King Duncan’s death in addition to Macbeth’s ascension as one can’t realistically occur without the other, and if King Duncan is bound to die, it wouldn’t matter if Macbeth or anyone else performed the deed, the end result will be the same. This idea may be how Macbeth considers what he does in accordance with an act done “holily” as it is in accordance with fate and theretofore the confines of divinity. But he makes a fatal error in the carrying out of this murder. He kills Duncan while in the consecrated state of repose driving Macbeth mad as it appalls him so deeply after reflecting on the malignity of such an action. Immediately after the crime Macbeth begins hearing things like “sleep no more, Glamis hath murdered sleep and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more.” His schizophrenia tortures him henceforth and becomes almost unbearable at the point when he confides, ” O full of scorpions is my mind dear wife.” Macbeth failed to consider how the manner of Duncan’s assassination would affect his conscience and as a result is made into an overly fear-stricken tyrant, and his peace of mind is perpetually dismembered to the uttermost.


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