"The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong." ― Carl Gustav Jung

Macbeth: Astray From Morality

The deepest principle in human nature is the unintentional desire to dominate each other. William Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, illustrates the transformation of one's morals when introduced to the opportunity for power. This is evident through the characterization of the protagonist, Macbeth, who drastically undergoes a significant change because of the potential of evil he possesses. Equally important is the everlasting relationship Macbeth had with the witches which built the foundation of Macbeth's immorality. Furthermore, the urge for power eventually created a remorseless figure which Macbeth had become. Through the following quotes Shakespeare effectively illustrates the recurring inner conflict between desires and conscience which results in the destruction of one's morals.

"For brave Macbeth... which [he] ne'er shook hands nor blade farewell to [Macdonwald], / Till [Macbeth] unseamed him from the nave to th'chops, / And fixed [Macdonwald's] head upon our battlements" (I,iii,16-23).

Shakespeare's description of Macbeth's actions clearly emphasizes that Macbeth has a potential of evil since no one with a good heart would ever split a man from his naval to his jawbone. On top of that, Macbeth not only murdered Macdonwald but he also stuck his head using a sword on the castle wall. One could easily interpret that it was an irrational and gruesome act. It is easily interpreted that Macbeth wants other to see that he is a powerful and violent man. This foreshadows the tragic flaw in Macbeth which is craving for power.

"My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical / Shakes so my single state of man" (I,iii,142-143).

In the current scene, none of the characters have talked about murdering anyone for Macbeth to become king but Macbeth has already said that a murder must happen in order for him to become king. This exposes that Macbeth's ambition to become king is guiding him in a path of immoral actions.

"...let not light see my black and deep desire. / The eye wink at hand, yet let that be / Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see" (I,iv,53-55).

Macbeth is well aware that his path to achieve his ambitions are immoral but his desires are too strong and he refuses to change his path. His inner conscience repeatedly tries to stop him but it is overpowered by his strong desires. This eventually causes Macbeth to go down his immoral path to achieve his ambition.

"All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter"(I,iii,51).

The three witches in Macbeth played a significant role in Macbeth. They continued to always support Macbeth down his immoral path. The witches knew about Macbeth's desire for power and they started to give him hints about his potential to become king. This started to pull Macbeth's secret desire from his inner conscience. This proved to be useful since Macbeth started questioning the witches which revealed his temptation to become the king. In other words, the relationship Macbeth had with the witches created a path full of immoral actions that Macbeth started on.

"If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me" (I,iii,147-148).

When Macbeth says that line, he is referring to chance as the prophecies of the witches. Macbeth is aware that murders must happen for him to become the king, including the murder of Banquo so instead of blaming himself for the immoral actions he is about to commit, he blames it on "chance". In other words, he is implying that he will become king regardless of what he needs to do even if it requires Duncan to be killed. Consequently, this shows that Macbeth's ambition has awakened the evil within him.

"I conjure you by that which you profess- / Howe'er you came to know it-answer me...Even till destruction sicken, answer me / To what I ask you"(IV,i,50-51,61-62).

After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth goes straight back to the witches since he is dependent on them. He demands to get answers to his questions since he does not know what do after murdering Duncan. At this point, one can easily interpret that Macbeth has fallen into a state of desperation and to fulfill his ambition he needs the witches' prophecies. The answers he received from the witches continues to guide him in the wrong path.

"For mine own good / All causes shall give away. I am in blood / stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more / Returning were as tedious as go'er"(III,iv,143-145).

Macbeth's ambition has eventually created him into a remorseless figure. Macbeth has no intention to stop killing. When he has an option to stop killing, he explains how he has already killed too many people and that he is stuck in a "blood of river". Macbeth also mentions that he only looks for his best interest which is fulfilling his desires and to eliminate any threats preventing him from being the king. One can easily identify that his ambition is the root of his evil.

"The castle of Macduff I will surprise, / Seize upon fife, give to the' edge o'the' sword / His wife his babies and all unfortunate souls"(IV,i,157-159).

In this act, Macbeth continues to do unnecessary and violent deeds. Instead of killing people getting in his way, he kills innocent women and children. An example of this is when he chooses to kill Macduff's family. Killing a family is known to be one of the most gruesome and immoral acts in society but Macbeth does not even hesitate when he chooses to kill Macduff's family. He had no second thoughts and even mocked them by calling them unfortunate souls. Macbeth's ambition has rewired his brain to be evil and unsympathetic.

"I will not yield, / To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet" (V,vii,27-28).

In the last act of the play, Macbeth is at war and he is battling Macduff. He refuses to give up says that he would rather die instead of seeing Malcolm as the king. This shows how strong Macbeth's ambition is. On top of that, Macbeth does not ask Macduff to surrender but instead attempts to kill him without hesitation. If Macbeth was successful, he would have continued his killing rampage by killing Macbeth and many others. His ambition is the root of his immoral acts and if he did not have such a strong ambition he might have been alive at the end of the play.


Essentially, Shakespeare proves that the clash between desires and conscience symmetrically destroys one's morals. However Macbeth's desires did not only destroy his morals but also ended his life. Macbeth's ambition causes his character to change from loyal to sinister throughout the play. Macbeth already had a potential of evil but it required an opportunity to reveal itself. The opportunity was given when the witches manipulated him and caused him to believe that he was able to become the king. As a result, both the witches and his strong ambition for power created a remorseless figure on a killing spree. While this happens, Shakespeare persistently refers to Macbeth's true desire throughout the play which was power. Although, one should always follow their ambitions, Shakespeare demonstrates that you should always take the right approach to ensure success.


"The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality." ― Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality