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Ambition in Shakespeare's Macbeth

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1131 words Published: 30th Jul 2019

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Without ambition many of man’s greatest achievement would not be possible simply because nobody would seek to create opportunities, to discover and clash against the most enduring truths and succeed. Although the world pushes the thought that ambition life is necessary and rewarding, it is vitally important to acknowledge that unrestrained ambition is mankind’s greatest downfall. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, ambition is one of the most important themes, also a wicked motivation that urges Macbeth’s cruel nature and eventually turns him into a bloodthirsty monster.

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“All hail, Macbeth! that shall be king hereafter!” (I.3.52), as soon as the “weird sisters” gave Macbeth a vague prophecy that he will become king, he seem to lose patience and immediately wrote a letter to his wife telling her about his meeting with the witches. What is it that makes Macbeth ponder about the predictions even he knows that the witches represent something bad and evil? It is the “lust for power, temptation, presented with concrete force” (Bloom 117), an overwhelming and formidable force that brings out Macbeth’s dissimulated desire. At the beginning of the play, it was not Macbeth the ambitious but indeed it was Lady Macbeth, irreligiously cold and ruthless woman, tried to convince her husband to kill the king, to achieve what she really want regardless her husband’s indecisiveness. “Ambition was a theme that was clearly evident in Macbeth, and his counterpart, Lady Macbeth” (Dunton 214), the role seems to switch around as the play goes on, the great ambition in Macbeth finally came out and he quickly formulated plans that “restrain their power and remain as Scottish royalty for as long as they possibly could” (Bloom 137).

It is argued for centuries that without Lady Macbeth and the witches, Macbeth would never have murdered the king, a man that he love and admired. Even though there are other factors that caused Macbeth to kill Duncan, it is obviously understand that the biggest factor is still his ambition. He convinced the soldiers to kill his best friend, going against his moral to achieve what he wants and to please his own selfishness. Macbeth states, “our fears in Banquo/ stick deep, and in his royalty of nature/ reigns that which would be feared” (3.1.48-50), why does he fear Banquo now and not before? Banquo was his closest best friend, the one who have been through battles with him, helping him to achieve such a honorable position in the society but now Macbeth fears him, fear “thy good” nature, classifies him as an obstacle that he need to smash. He became so ambitious that he would destroy everything that blocks his way to the top.

It is ironic that such a loyal and courageous man could call prey to his ambition in a few days. A man who fought for his country, who is admired by many people, and later appointed as Thane of Cawdor, which once more, proves he is honorable in the eyes of royalty. However, it seem to not enough for Macbeth, the thought of being powerful, being the ultimate one creep into his head, bring out his vaulting ambition and he started to act upon it.

“Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe topful of direst cruelty!”(1.5.42), as soon as Lady Macbeth finished reading the letter from her husband, she becomes so anxious to the point that she could not wait until the arrival of the King. She asks all the evil spirits to plunder her feminine nature and pour into her body the cruelness of a man. Macbeth’s letter actually bought out the hidden ambition inside of Lady Macbeth, without any consideration, she begins to plot Duncan’s death. Lady Macbeth is the driving force that encourages Macbeth to overcome his strong sense of guilt and take action on the prophecies” (Jamieson); she is the catalyst that effectively sent Macbeth down his dark path. She fears “It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness” (1.5.15-18), that Macbeth did not have the gut to kill Duncan to become the King of Scotland. She started to question about his manhood and courage by telling him that she would smash her baby against the wall if she has sworn to do so, makes him more evil and confident about his actions. This revealed how evil and impatient she is, showing her desire to become queen and her extreme ambitious nature. The thought of becoming Queen pushed her and causes her to act outrageously, ignore the possibility of guilt, the consequences that would haunt her and Macbeth and in the end takes away her own life.

Lady Macbeth played a dominant influence on Macbeth but not the only one. She did encourage and insist her husband but Macbeth was still the person who committed the murder. “Macbeth does not shy away from murderous thoughts” (Fallon 109), he was the first one who started to think about killing Duncan after hearing the witches’ prophecies without the influence of Lady Macbeth. One of the three apparitions told him to beware of Macduff, leading Macbeth to slaughter the innocent woman and her son without pity. This show how corrupted and villainous his moral has became, caused many irrational murders and leads to his own destruction. “Macbeth degenerated from a powerful and respectable general to a desperate and insecure tyrant” (NekoKun). Macbeth’s ruthlessness shows us another face of human nature and teach us a lesson about power and responsibility, point out how far a person will go and what will he do to achieve his ultimate goals and satisfy his selfishness.

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Macbeth’s murdering Macduff’s family also brings out Macduff’s ambition, the ambition to avenge his wife and son, along with the ambition of bringing the justice back to his country and kinsmen. When Macbeth murdered King Duncan to gain the crown, Scotland suffered enormously of political chaises and especially Macduff, who lost his entire family, decided to overthrown Macbeth. But the ambition existed in Macduff is the good kind of ambition, which caused him to developed reasonable motives and not going against his nature and moral, contrasting the overwhelming ambition that live in Macbeth.

Though ambition drives many people to accomplish great things but it also can destroy a life, as it did in Macbeth. In Macbeth, Shakespeare demonstrated another deadly flaw of our mankind, which is unchecked ambition. When overly ambition goes along with moral constraint, selfishness, and violence, it is impossible to stop. Because having too much of something can be very dangerous, it makes a person lose sight of what is truly important, leads them to the wrong path and finally to their downfall. In the end, ambition becomes their greatest weakness and contributed to their destructions.


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