Title: "If ÔTwere Done": The First Soliloquy as the Key to the Plot of Macbeth Author: "Sylvester the Cat" Word Count:1 545 words Following king DuncanÕs arrival at Inverness, Macbeth delivers his first major soliloquy. This speech summarizes his reasons for not wanting to commit murder. It is also an image of the plot of Macbeth, as it foreshadows the chain of events that is to follow the murder of Duncan. Although Macbeth knows that he cannot "trammel up the consequence" of DuncanÕs murder and that his actions will have repercussions, he commits the murder and continues to kill; thus is Macbeth shown to be a weak character who can be easily convinced to perform terrible deeds. Although this is not apparent before the predictions, the moments following them and his homecoming demonstrate MacbethÕs own vulnerability. The important speech that he delivers summarizes the results of DuncanÕs murder, and the multitude of murders following this all follow suit. MacbethÕs eventual deterioration is inevitable. Near the beginning of the play, Macbeth is portrayed as a brave soldier and a noble officer in the kingÕs army. He successfully leads the attack upon the invading forces of Macdonwald, the Thane of Cawdor, and Sweno, king of Norway. He is killing upon the order of another, in this case, the king: "[Macbeth] Like valourÕs minion carvÕd out his passage/Till he facÕd the slave" (I.ii.19-20). Macbeth here appears as a powerful warlord who, although at times seems bloodthirsty, is effective in destroying the foe. Before his meeting with the witches, we have a rather clean view of him; he is a "good" man. When Macbeth and Banquo stumble onto the barren plateau where the witches live, they are both about to have their lives changed forever. When the witches deliver their prophecies, Macbeth and Banquo have significantly different reactions: Macbeth. This supernatural soliciting Cannot be ill, cannot be good; if ill, Why hath it given me earnest of success, Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor: If good, why do I yield to that suggestion Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, Against the use of nature? (I.iii.130-137a) Banquo. That, trusted home, Might yet enkindle you unto the crown, Besides the Thane of Cawdor. But Ôtis strange: And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betrayÕs In deepest consequence. (I.iii.120b-126) Macbeth allows himself to be overridden by this "horrid image" of him murdering Duncan. If he were to have a stronger character, as does Banquo, he would be able to recognize the witches as "instruments of darkness" that are merely tempting him. As it is, he plays their game and follows their plan to the letter, proof of his moral flaw. Macbeth says in scene three that he does not need to do anything to make himself king: "If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me,/Without my stir" (I.iii.143-144a). He convinces himself that murdering the king is irrational and against natural law. Therefore, he plans to let the crown fall upon his head of its own accord. Macbeth, however, being morally weak, cannot resist the temptation. When he returns home to his wife, she takes the opportunity to "pour [her] spirits in [his] ear." She convinces him to commit the murder of Duncan. In act one, scene six, Duncan arrives at MacbethÕs castle, and praises its seemingly heavenly appearance: "This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air/Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself/Unto our general senses." (I.vi.1-3a). He is unaware, however, of the great decisions concerning his fate that are being made inside the walls of this hellish sanctuary. Macbeth sits alone in his room and considers the consequences of DuncanÕs murder. This is MacbethÕs most important and longest soliloquy: If it were done when Ôtis done, then Ôtwere well It were done quickly; if the assassination Could trammel up the consequence, and catch With his surcease success; that but this blow Might be the be-all and the end-all. Here, But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, WeÕd jump the life to come. But in these cases We still have judgment here; that we but teach Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague the inventor; this even-handed justice Commends the ingredients of our poisonÕd chalice To our own lips. HeÕs here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been So clear in his great office, that his virtues Will plead like angels trumpet-tonguÕd against The deep damnation of his taking-off; And pity, like a naked new-born babe, Striding the blast, or heavenÕs cherubin, horsÕd Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which oÕer-leaps itself And falls on the other.- (I.vii.1-28a) Macbeth acknowledges the immorality of the act he has planned to perform. He fantasizes about an imaginary situation where the killing has no other consequences other than the death of the king, and that the afterlife can be skipped over. He knows very well, however, that to everything there is a result, and that he cannot "trammel up the consequence" of this regicide any more than he can "jump the life to come." He then explains that his example of killing the king could be passed on and return to "plague" him. Then, there are the practical reasons: Duncan is a good king full of virtue. Come the judgment day, his pleading for access into heaven would completely drown out MacbethÕs miserable supplications. Also, the people of Scotland would feel a great deal of pity for their deceased king, to the extent that their tears would "drown the wind." Macbeth can convince himself of anything, but, as soon as an outside force intervenes, he can be easily manipulated. In the second half of this scene, Lady Macbeth enters the room and convinces him once again to murder Duncan. In a mere half-scene, Macbeth allows his opinion to be turned around one-hundred-and-eighty degrees. He shows an incredible amount of moral weakness following his first soliloquy. Throughout the remainder of the play, MacbethÕs actions are not instigated by others, but he acts upon his own will. His murders follow each other and each is related to the last. He murders Banquo to evade destinyÕs prediction that he will be the seed for a line of kings. He murders MaduffÕs family so that the first of the second set of predictions cannot come true. He is living through the horrid consequences that he knew he would have to endure. Macbeth predicts the outcome of his own tragic life in the first act. He says that in killing the king he would give a bad example and run the risk of being the victim of his own "bloody instructions." The people of Scotland are grief-stricken when Duncan is killed, which Macbeth predicts in his initial speech. No doubt, Macbeth stands no chance at getting into heaven, because DuncanÕs pleas will muffle his own. MacbethÕs long soliloquy in act one is a key to plot of Macbeth. Macbeth is aware of the probable results of his committing murder, but allows himself to be manipulated. While he can figure and rationalize alone, outside influences such as Lady Macbeth and the witches change his actions and skew his thoughts. This weakness of character was particularly unacceptable in MacbethÕs time, when men were meant to be full of both mental and physical fortitude. Macbeth was a great man, but his tragic fault was his undoing, for a man of his power could not survive in those times without much more moral strength than he had. Bibliography Primary Source: Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Coles Total Study Edition. Toronto: Coles, 1992. Secondary Sources: 1. Coles Editorial Board. "Marginal Notes to Macbeth," Macbeth. Total Study Edition. Toronto: Coles, 1992. 2. Coles Editorial Board. Macbeth Notes. Toronto: Coles, 1992.