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Conflict is extremely influential every day all over the world. It can be from the smallest contrast of opinion to the wars in Afghanistan and Syria. Conflict is a key theme in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It is evident throughout the play from the initial dialogue which is an example of nature in disharmony ‘thunder, lightning and rain’ to the end of the play where Macduff is jubilant about his execution of Macbeth ‘Hail, king! For so thou art: behold, where stands the usurper’s cursed head: the time is free’
The witches are the source on the majority of the conflict throughout Macbeth.
They are unnatural creatures who are constantly associated with negative imagery ‘upon the heath’ ‘thunder, lighting and rain’. They introduce the physical aspect of conflict in the play by saying ‘When the hurly-burly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won’. When Macbeth and Banquo meet the witches in Act One, Scene Three, Banquo describes them as ‘So wither’d and so wild in their attire’ and that they ‘look not like the inhabitants o’ the earth’ they deceive the stereotypical women as again Banquo says ‘Upon her skinny lips: you should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret, That you are so.
’ As well has looking extraordinary these women speak of extraordinary prophesies for both Macbeth and Banquo.
Macbeth is a character that is accustom to war and violence. We learn of this in Act One, Scene two when ‘the bloody man’ describes Macbeth to King Duncan as ‘Brave Macbeth’ and that Macbeth ‘Disdained fortune, with brandish’d steel which smoked with bloody execution, like valour’s minion carved out his passage till he faced the slave; which ne’er shook hands nor bade farewell to him, till he unseam’d him from the nave to the chaps, and fix’d his head upon our battlements’.
Macbeth is clearly a brave soldier who is willing to brutally murder another human being just to protect King and Country. He could be perceived as a savage murderer with no thought of another’s person’s life.
Although he is physically strong Macbeth is mentally weak. His soliloquy’s throughout the play give us an insight if his internal confliction. In Act One, Scene Three Macbeth has an in-depth verbalisation of these bizarre internal difficulties.’ 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? Present fears, Are less than horrible imaginings.’ He is confused about the witches’ prophecies and believes that to become King he must commit regicide. This leads Macbeth to become no longer cognitive as he is infatuated with his thrive for power. Macbeth then redeems his character by saying ‘If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, without my stir.’ In this particular soliloquy good has won over evil.
Later on in Act One, Scene Seven, Evil wins over good although Macbeth’s decisions are influenced by Lady Macbeth. Up until this point we have seen Macbeth as a man of decisive action. However the moral problem of killing king Duncan has resulted in him hesitating the opening of this scene is key as it shows Macbeth wrestling with his conscience for the final time before he commits the act of regicide. His thoughts here are plagued with thoughts as to whether or not he should kill the King. Macbeth’s complex character changes dramatically throughout the scene. Macbeth says to Lady Macbeth ‘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.’
This is Macbeth saying that he could kill King Duncan without consequence he would do it. He then shows his internal confliction by saying ‘we still have judgment here…which, being taught, return to plague the inventor.’ Macbeth is making a case against killing the King as he fears going to hell. He also says that he should be loyal to the king and as his host protect him. Lady Macbeth knows that herself and thirst for power are Macbeths mental weaknesses therefore manipulates Macbeth into killing king Duncan by calling him a coward. Macbeth himself summarises his faults with his final line of act one in which he says “false face must hide what the false heart doth know.’
In conclusion, conflict is a key theme in Macbeth and it falls under three types: internal, natural and physical, Macbeth is a physically strong character who is a savage killer on the battlefield. Macbeth is told by the witches that he will become thane of Cawdor and then king. This is a prime example of natural conflict as the witches have superhuman knowledge; these prophecies are the catalyst of Macbeth’s internal conflict as he is faced with the decision whether or not to commit the act of regicide.
Committing this act leads to the demise of both himself and Lady Macbeth. Every prophecies is meet with more conflict both and physically. As well as killing King Duncan, Macbeth also orders the killing of Banquo’s family as well as Macduff and his family but Macduff escapes. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are plagued by guilt, Macbeth begins hallucinating but Lady Macbeth throws herself off a building. Macduff returns to Scotland and kills Macbeth in battle and Malcolm is given is rightful position as king as he was heir to the throne. The play closes with physical conflict and courage.
The idea of conflict and war can be presented in different ways. Conflict is apparent in: ‘Macbeth’, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, ‘The Soldier’ and ‘The Hero’. Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce’ is a poem written about the struggles and difficulties of war and conflict. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori’ means ‘It is sweet and right to die for your country’. This is a contradiction of the poem which speaks of the affliction and distressing nature of war unlike the poem ‘The Soldier’ by Rupert Brooke which glorifies war. ‘The Soldier’ relishes in the spoils of war yet Brooke does not have first-hand experience of war like Owen does.
The poem opens with the line ‘Bent double, like old beggars under sacks.’ The men are struggling with the life they are living and it has there body’s decaying immensely. The exhaustion of war has drained the men both physically and mentally. Owen describes them as metaphorically ‘Marching Asleep’. ‘The men are all blind’ as they do not want to face the inevitability. They are so ‘drunk with fatigue’ ‘they are deaf event to the hoots of gas shells dropping softly behind.’
Although in ‘Dulce’ the men are mentally debilitated as a result of physical conflict, ‘Macbeth’ is driven and powered by bodily hardship and it is infact ‘Macbeth’s’ inner hostilities are what lead him into mental exhaustion. The poem is ‘Macbeth’s’ inner thoughts verbalised.
The poem ‘Dulce’ is written in the rhyme scheme of AB. The use of the AB rhyme scheme slows the poem down to reflect the men’s exhaustion and create a solemn atmosphere. The line ‘Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!’ as well as a caesura quickens the poem. Another technique Owen uses is a number of narratives to reflect that all the men were suffering not just one or two. ‘The Hero’ is written in an AA rhyme scheme therefore from this alone we can determine that is a more upbeat poem written from a more positive prospective.
Owen goes on to tell the reader about one man who didn’t fix his mask in time who was ‘flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…’ he then says that they ‘flung him in’ a wagon’ this statement emphasises the fact that a man who was once a friend and Conrad is now a burden to them. Metaphorically this is similar to ‘Macbeth’ as originally committing regicide was a good idea until it became the burden that lead to ‘Macbeth’s’ mental breakdown.
Later on in the poem Owen goes on to talk about the mental difficulties of seeing a man suffer such a gruesome fate. Owen says ‘If in some smothering dreams you too could pace. Behind the wagon that we flung him in, and watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;’ Here Owen is speaking of the mental strain that seeing a Conrad inflicts upon them. It is clear that although this trauma has Owen distraught he is also relieved that it is not him.
After reading all of the literature it is apparent that although all the text is written at different periods from the 16th century to the war periods conflict is key throughout. The literature gives different perspectives on conflict due to both their writers and the time periods they were written in.
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