Macbeth's Ambition as Displayed in Act 1, Scene 7

Stephen Nash

In Macbeth?s soliloquy in Act I, scene 7, Macbeth hesitates because of both pragmatic and moral causes; although, his moral scruples seem to overpower the pragmatic arguments. Macbeth is torn between these two issues, and his unique way of deciphering his problems is exhibited in this scene.

Macbeth feels that if he were to assassinate the king, Duncan, that he better do it soon. The first line of Act I, scene 7 begins with, ?If it were done when ?tis done, then ?twere well; It were done quickly.? So, basically, Macbeth feels that if the crime was committed when it needed to be, and if it were done quickly, then he would be safe. This argument is a moral concern toward Macbeth, this is the first thought that comes to his mind, because it is exhibited in the fist line of his soliloquy.

Macbeth is hesitant to murder Duncan, because he feels that he would be eternally punished in hell for committing such a heinous crime. Macbeth expresses these feelings in lines 7-10, ?But here upon this bank and shoal of time; We?d jump the life to come.? The ?life to come?, is the afterlife, which would be an eternity of suffering for Macbeth, because of his assassination of Duncan. Thus, making this argument a moral concern, and one of Macbeth?s overpowering arguments in his soliloquy.

Macbeth feels that if he were to succeed the throne from Duncan, the common people would feel a sense of mistrust toward Macbeth. Macbeth expresses these thoughts in lines 7-10, ?Lines 7-10: ?We still have judgment here, that we but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague th? inventor.? So, this quote basically means that Macbeth feels that the ?bloody instructions? are the plans to kill Duncan, and that if he were to go through with those plans, the ?bloody instructions? would eventually lead back to Macbeth (?return to plague th? inventor). In addition, the common people would know that Macbeth was not the rightful heir, and that Macbeth killed Duncan. Making it extremely hard for Macbeth to win the people?s trust; therefore, making this argument a pragmatic concern.

Macbeth feels that he is leading a double life toward Duncan. Moreover, because Macbeth invited Duncan to his house, Macbeth is now the host; a host is obligated to console their guests, not kill them. Macbeth expresses such thoughts in lines 12-14, ?Here?s in double trust; First, I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host.? So, Macbeth feels that Duncan should not be killed now, because neither has Duncan been wrong toward Macbeth nor has he been deficient in facilitating Macbeth. Therefore, this argument is a moral scruple, which begin to take over Macbeth?s train of thought.

When the soliloquy is over, Macbeth comes to the conclusion that the only driving force in his attempt to kill Duncan is ambition. The last two lines of his soliloquy state, ?Vaulting ambition, which o?erleaps itself, and falls on th?other.? This means, that Macbeth thinks that if he pursues this assassination attempt, it will only get him back to where he started, or ?which o?erleaps itself.? This is a moral argument, and this is the last argument, which means that the soliloquy ended on a moral scruple, making Macbeth?s reason to hesitate a moral cause.

To the reader, Macbeth does not seem like a fictional character, but rather a real character. That is because Shakespeare?s wanted his personification of Macbeth to be as real as possible, so that every reader could relate in some way to Macbeth. In act I, scene 7, Macbeth?s character is really exhibited in his soliloquy, which becomes the basis of Macbeth?s character, as well as the entire play.