I didn’t do this in the hour-and-a-half time limit as I was practising new skills but I wanted to see what sort of grade I would get. Also if anyone has some good tips on the preparation for this exam, please help!! I’m really scared about structuring my essay as I go in
Describe at least ONE important conflict in the written text(s). Explain how this conflict helped you to understand one or more characters or individuals in the text(s).
William Shakespeare’s thought-provoking play “Macbeth” revealed the interesting conflict within one’s mental state. The play follows an ambitious Scottish thane as he plots to murder the current king and take over the throne of Scotland. Through this action, Shakespeare presents to us the mental conflict of not only ambition and morals but also ambition and guilt. Through these two important conflicts, we are able to understand the key characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as the play progresses.
Through the mental conflict between Macbeth’s morals and ambition, Shakespeare helps us to understand the inner workings of Macbeth’s warring and complex mind. Upon being prophesied to become king by 3 witches, Macbeth is driven by his ambition to commit the heinous crime of murder. However, before committing the devious and heinous act, we know Macbeth’s ambition to kill the king conflicts with his morals through the techniques of soliloquy and aside. Soliloquy is used to show a character’s inner thoughts and along with the technique of aside, Shakespeare cleverly helps the audience to further understand the inner workings of Macbeth’s mind. We know Macbeth is a conscience-driven man when he says in his soliloquy “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent but only vaulting ambition” Through the technique of soliloquy we understand that not only does Macbeth still have a conscience through metaphor implying that ambition is no motive toward killing the king highlighting he still has morals, but also that his emotion of ambition is so huge - emphasised through the adjective “vaulting” - That it is great enough to match his values and result in the mental conflict we see through the soliloquy. We also know that this ambition is negative through aside where Macbeth says “Stars hide your fire, let not light see my black and deep desires” This further intensifies the conflict between Macbeth’s ambition and morals through the idea of light and dark conflict. The light of the stars being the truth and the black and deep desires is the ambition to murder the king. Using the strongly negative connotative word of black, often used to describe something dark and evil, further highlights how strongly his ambition-driven desire to kill the king conflicts with his morals. This intensifies the idea that when you greatly want something, even if it conflicts with your values, sometimes your values are not enough to stop you from pursuing it, and makes the audience question where this conflict of emotions is going to lead Macbeth. Will his conscience win and will he continue to follow his values or will his ambition drive him for the remainder of the play? Shakespeare’s purpose in showing us this is to highlight the changes within Macbeth’s character as a result of the ambition vs morals conflict. From a value-following general at the start of the play- when we are introduced to his character through the Kings words; “Valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman!”, - Leading the audience to believe that no man with values would think to kill a person that holds them of high regard, to a person whose “vaulting ambition” is enough of a motive to conflict with those values and commit a heinous act. Shakespeare creates an uneasy feeling within the audience as they begin to realise that Macbeth is becoming an ambition-driven man leading them to wonder how his character is going to react further into the story as a result of his ambition conflicting with his morals. Through the insight into Macbeth’s inner conflict of morals and ambition, we are able to understand human behaviour in society today; how criminal behaviour is often a result of ambition conflicting with values. Often a driver behind crime is the motive of power, a feeling Macbeth also seeks, that can only be won through murdering the king, The ambition to receive this power can seem to be so great that it conflicts with all morals holding you back from committing the disgusting and illegal activities pushing ambition to be one’s greatest driver in all activities, crime or not. Shakespeare highlights how it is important to remember your values through the character Macbeth, Macbeth is a power-driven man and through this conflict of ambition vs morals, we understand how his character was blinded by the thought of power.
Later in the play we further understand Macbeth’s character after the conflict of ambition vs morals lead to a further conflict of emotions, ambition vs guilt. This mental conflict is carried by both Macbeth and his wife as both parties were involved in conspiring to kill the king. Upon murdering the king, Shakespeare first introduces us to this resulting conflict in Macbeth when he hears his conscience cry “Sleep no more, Macbeth doth murder sleep” as well as “Glamis Hath murder sleep, Macbeth shall sleep no more.” Strong symbolism of sleep, which later carries out through the play, highlights the conflict of ambition vs guilt. Sleep is an action that can only be done when one has a restful mind. As a result of Macbeth’s ambition winning his conflict between ambition and values, as he killed the king, Macbeth’s conscience is forcing him to live forever unrestful as a result of immense guilt conflicting with his ever-growing ambition. This idea is highlighted by Shakespeare when it is implied that upon murdering the king, Macbeth has also murdered sleep as a result and by using his previous title, Thane of Glamis, Shakespeare intensifies that he can not return to the value-driven general he was previously and now the present, ambition-driven Macbeth will suffer from the effects of guilt forever. This highlights to the audience that not only has ambition triumphed over Macbeth’s morals but also shows them that the effect of his ambition is that it will now conflict with the feeling of guilt for the rest of his life. This conflict between guilt and ambition is further highlighted through the symbolism of blood where Macbeth says; “I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go over.” Blood highlights the permanent stain of guilt on his conscience as a result of it conflicting with his ever-growing ambition, shown by the intent of Macbeth to continue wading in the blood only getting deeper and deeper in guilt as it is easier than trying to undo what has already been done this idea possibly being ingrained by Lady Macbeth saying to him “what’s done is done”. This intensifies the conflict between Macbeth’s ambition and guilt and how the more ambitious he is - shown through the numerous murders he performed as a result of that ambition (Killing Banquo, Macduff’s family and castle inhabitants, and King Duncan)- the more guilt he will encounter. This conflict helps the audience to understand how Macbeth’s character perceives this conflict of ambition vs guilt. He believes there is nothing he can do to stop the conflict so he will continue on his ambitious path of power with growing guilt until he is most likely dead. To the audience, this further helps them to understand the consequence of ambition overriding one’s morals. We can see this idea in society today through Olympic Skater Tonya Harding, who, on her path to becoming the best figure skater in the world, injures her competition. As a result of this ambition driving her to commit this heinous act (much like Macbeth) she is barred from ever skating again as consequence and for the rest of her life has to live with the guilt as a result of her ambition. Both characters lived ambitions lives however these lives were taini=ted by guilt and through this conflict, we further understand how this conflict of ambition vs guilt further drove the downfall of Macbeth’s character as a result of growing guilt the more his ambition drove him.
Finally, we further understand Lady Macbeth’s character as a result of the mental conflict of Ambition vs guilt. Unlike Macbeth who was obvious in highlighting that his ambition to kill the king was against his morals, Lady Macbeth was seemingly without conscience and believed that her husband’s conscience was not only holding them back from killing the king, but also allowing them to feel powerful, her included. This idea was interesting in Shakespearean times, when women were of no power. It highlighted to the audience of the time that women want power too and by using this concept, Shakespeare intensified the viewing of Lady Macbeth as evil through her mannish thoughts. This further helps one to understand lady Macbeth’s character and her resentment for her gender and her husband as a result of her unable to gain any power and her husband not wanting to go through with the deed that would gain them power. This is shown when she says that Macbeth is “Too full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” Intensifying the previous conflict of ambition vs morals but also highlighting how lady Macbeth is without conscience and it is already her ambition that drives her. It is not until after the heinous act that Lady Macbeth’s mind begins conflicting as a result of her ambition. Shakespeare helps us to understand this by using further symbolism of blood and contrast. After the murder Lady Macbeth says “A little water clears us of the deed” showing to the audience that she believes just a little water removes the guilt from her hands however this is sharply contrasted later in the play when in soliloquy lady Macbeth sleepwalks, once again purposefully done by Shakespeare to highlight how guilt has consumed the couple through unrestful sleep, emphasising the confliction their ambition has with their guilt. In sleep, Lady Macbeth cries “What will these hands never be clean” this sentence not only allows the audience to think back to when lady Macbeth ironically said the opposite but also helps the audience to understand how in reality the effects of lady Macbeth’s ambition has conflicted with her now apparent conscience so greatly that she is overwhelmed by the negative effects of guilt, tainting her like a blood stain and causing her unrestfulness in mind, shown through her sleepwalking. Through this physical conveying of the conflict of ambition vs guilt, we understand that Lady Macbeth’s character has changed, from the evil, ambition-driven wife we saw at the beginning of the play to a grovelling guilt-stained woman as a result of her ambition conflicting and creating this immense guilt as a consequence. Not only do we realise that lady Macbeth is not as evil as we thought her to be but also we feel pain for her as we know that this guilt will never leave her. By understanding this we know that Lady Macbeth committed suicide as a result of her conflicting ambition and guilt and realise that the conflict was so bad that her character would rather die than live with the pain, highlighting her change of character as a result of this important conflict.
Overall it is clear to see how mental conflict often drives one’s character to change or complete actions that lead them down a road of everlasting guilt. Throughout the play, the important conflicts of ambition vs morals and ambition vs guilt are clear to see through the characters Lady Macbeth and Macbeth intensifying our understanding of their actions as well as their thoughts. “Macbeth” is a powerful piece of literature that divulges the ideas of inner mental conflict of emotions and leads us to understand, that as a result of these conflicts “Indeed his(Macbeth’s) downfall was inevitable” -Cedric Watts.