Macbeth Act 1, Scene 7: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

This lesson will begin with a brief recap of Act 1, Scene 6, of Macbeth. It will then summarize Act 1, Scene 7. Macbeth no longer wants to kill King Duncan, but Lady Macbeth convinces him to go ahead with the plan.

Recap

In Act 1, Scene 6 of Macbeth, King Duncan and some other Scottish noblemen arrived just outside Macbeth's castle. Lady Macbeth greeted them, and the King thanked her for her hospitality. She responded that the King has done so much more for her and Macbeth than they can ever do for him. King Duncan and others then entered the castle.

Macbeth Reconsiders

As we begin Act 1, Scene 7 of Macbeth, we see Macbeth pacing by himself as the servants set the dinner table. He has a few problems with killing King Duncan, and is reconsidering the whole plan.

The first problem Macbeth has with killing the King is that he knows such actions have a habit of coming back to haunt the people who do them. 'But in these cases We still have judgement here; that we but teach Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague the inventor.'

But there are more disturbing problems Macbeth has with killing King Duncan. First is his kinship (the common bond), and his loyalty to the King. 'I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed.'' As one of the King's loyal Generals, Macbeth can not see himself killing the King.

Macbeth is also King Duncan's host, and that itself puts a certain responsibility on him. 'Then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself.' A host should protect his guests from murderers, not be one himself.

Macbeth Changes His Mind

Macbeth also considers the fact that King Duncan is very well liked, and is a virtuous (good and ethical), ruler. So, other than his own ambition, Macbeth then realizes that he has no reason for killing King Duncan, which he knows is not a good enough reason. As such, he decides against killing King Duncan.

Lady Macbeth Is Furious

At this point, Lady Macbeth comes to find Macbeth. She tells him that King Duncan has had his dinner, and is asking for him. Macbeth tells her that he has changed his mind and will not kill the King. This makes Lady Macbeth extremely angry.

She rips into Macbeth and says, 'Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valour As thou art in desire?' In essence, Lady Macbeth wants to know if Macbeth is all talk or if he is willing to act.

Lady Macbeth then calls him a coward. 'Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem, Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would'?' What she's asking Macbeth is if he's too afraid to make the move from I cannot to I will, in order to get what he wants.

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