Literature Study GuidesMacbethAct 1 Scene 7 Summary

Macbeth | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 1, Scene 7

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 1, Scene 7 of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth.

Macbeth | Act 1, Scene 7 | Summary

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Summary

As the servants prepare a banquet to honor the king, Macbeth debates with himself and shores up his courage to kill Duncan. However, he begins to have second thoughts and goes as far as telling his wife they will "proceed no further," citing the honors Duncan has granted him. She responds by questioning his courage and his manhood and asks why he told her about the witches if he didn't want to become king. She assures him their plan will succeed if Macbeth does what he is supposed to do. She explains the details, saying she will get Duncan's guards drunk and Macbeth will stab Duncan in his sleep. Convinced at last, Macbeth praises his wife's nerve. He is ready.

Analysis

Macbeth's soliloquy at the start of the scene reveals him as a deeply divided character. He is aware of the ethical duties of host and subject, and yet he is ready to violate those principles; he is fearful of the uncontrollable consequences of murder, and yet he is eager to reap murder's benefits. The exchange between Macbeth and his wife presents her as the architect of the assassination plot and Macbeth as divided—sometimes a coconspirator, other times a skeptic. Macbeth attempts to dissuade Lady Macbeth by reminding her how well Duncan has treated him. She pushes the plan forward here, circling back to her doubts about Macbeth's manhood and saying that he owes more loyalty to her than to the king. She illustrates this point by saying she would rather kill her own child than break the oath that Macbeth has made to go through with this plot, another rejection of the nurturing feminine ideal. Macbeth remarks that his wife's personality is a better inheritance for sons than daughters. She has him wound up again to commit "this terrible feat."

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