What Is The Theme Of Ambition In Macbeth

Improved Essays
How could a suppressed thought, a choice crammed in the back of a mind, develop into something with the power to ruin a man’s life? In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we are introduced to a man who discovers the true power of a decision. Macbeth is a “tragic hero” flawed by his unbridled ambition. He hears a wonderful prophecy from witches- that he is to become king. He decides to act upon his future through his ambition. Throughout the play, this ambition grows, progressing from a hidden thought, to a frightening reality, and finally into a paranoia that haunts him. Together, the play illustrates the life of a man who, cursed by a fatal flaw, ruins his own future. In Macbeth, Macbeth’s immoderate ambition suggests that ambition can often cause …show more content…
By the time that Macbeth decides to murder the king, his ambition has become frighteningly real, expressed through his words. While thinking to himself, Macbeth acknowledges his morality and states that the only thing motivating him is “vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself” (1.7. 26-27). He admits that aspiration makes people rush ahead of themselves to disaster, yet he does nothing to stop his own. He knows full well that people will suffer from his actions, but he doesn’t mind. In addition to this, a new idea rises from Macbeth’s view. Based on this passage, when he speaks about the crown, he does not see the physical crown. In his mind, he sees the power and respect of others, or the things he values. Then Macbeth’s ambition is physiological, rather than material. He struggles internally. Later, when he relays his inner doubts to Lady Macbeth he is impressed by her courage, and decides that “[he] is settled”(1.7. 92-96). Macbeth’s tragedy is that he knows what effect killing Duncan will have on him, but he still gives in to his ambition. Based on what we know about Macbeth’s mind, he is not actually convinced by Lady Macbeth. His mind is already set on killing the king. Macbeth’s ambition is strong enough to erase all sense of morality. Macbeth feels that his desire is more important than the consequences that will inevitably accompany it. He willingly brings his plots into reality through …show more content…
His ambition has developed to the point where he is almost paranoid. He begins to think illogically. Macbeth begins to fear Banquo because the witches prophesized that he would father kings. He believes the witches have “[placed upon his head] a fruitless crown/ And put a barren scepter in [his] grip/ Thence to be wretched with an unlineal hand” (3.1. 66-68). Looking at the word choice, “wretched” and “barren scepter”, suggests Macbeth thinks that Banquo’s sons will forcefully take the crown from him. With this knowledge, Macbeth believes that the throne is worthless. However, backtracking returns us to the fact that the witches have not specified which kings Banquo’s posterity will become. Macbeth’s ambition creates this false interpretation that blinds him, making Macbeth commit another murder, to make Duncan’s assassination “worthwhile”. In context, he shows a lot of agony, using words such as “fruitless” and “barren” to emphasize his pain. Adding to this is the fact that he “is in blood/ Stepped so far that, should [he] wade no more/ Returning were as tedious go o’er” (3.4. 168-170). Going back to being good is now as difficult as to keep murdering others. He is in a “river” of blood, symbolizing his ambition. He has “gone too far” into that river. Macbeth believes that he is drowning in his own ambition. He feels that he has sold his soul to the

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    Inner Conflict In Macbeth

    • 1168 Words
    • 5 Pages

    After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth is consumed by a life of evil. He is aware of the wrong he has committed of which he deeply regrets, but he is also aware that he can never turn back. Macbeth makes the mistake of relying solely on the witches’ prophecies. He begins to think that all are against him, and with that thought, he decides to kill his noble friend, Banquo, in hopes of securing his crown. “Whose being I do fear; and under him my genius is rebuk’d...…

    • 1168 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    As Macbeth doubts his choice to kill Duncan, he confesses, “ I have no spur/ To prick the sides of my intent, but only/ Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself/ And falls on the other” (1.7.25-28). Clearly, Macbeth is aware of the consequence of committing treason; however, Macbeth suppresses and ignores his guilt, so he can continue to follow his ambition thus leading to the death of innocent characters. With regards to Macbeth’s downfall, the witches tempt Macbeth with their prophecies; however Macbeth lets his greed and ambition transform into a murderer.As a result, Macbeth’s selfish desires give birth to sin, which develops into a series of murders of innocent lives, which eventually leads to Macbeth’s…

    • 1134 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Even though Lady Macbeth pushed her husband into a corner to commit the murder, Macbeth went through with it and continued doing more harm to be King, and to keep his kingship. Shakespeare portrays Macbeth as a heinous monster for wanting to keep his crown more than preserving Scotland; Shakespeare also illustrates that people are determined to do whatever it takes to be powerful, even if it means harming everyone else in the process and Macbeth is a perfect example of that, Malcolm says something about Macbeth to Macduff, “this tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tounges, was once thought honest”(IV. iii.12). Malcolm explains that Macbeth is a horrible tyrant who was at one point a virtuous and trustworthy man. Banquo was Macbeth’s best friend, and now Macbeth is planning his murder so that Macbeth can keep his kingship and prevent Banquo’s children(even future children) from taking the throne, according to the witches who gave both Macbeth and Banquo their predictions.…

    • 1034 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    taken. By looking at the surface of Macbeth, one can see that it is about a man, Macbeth, who is told a prophecy about his future: he will become king. Macbeth believes the only way for him to become king is to kill the existing king, Duncan, and claim the throne for himself. Macbeth is a tragedy, therefore it is not hard to guess that this play ends in Macbeth’s death as a result of his flaws. An example that would just scratch the surface of this play would be when the witches chant, “All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!....Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.…

    • 2141 Words
    • 9 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    If he were an enemy or had no significance to Macbeth, he may not have even considered before killing him. Macbeth concludes his thought process by describing his only motive to being his “vaulting ambition” (I, 7, 27). If he is not motivated by who Duncan is as a King or by the well being of his country, the only factor driving Macbeth to kill is his craving for power. But Macbeth does not neglect the power of his ambition, in fact the ambition is so powerful that it is…

    • 1698 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    “All hail Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter”, Macbeth’s reaction to the witches prophecy is one of suspicion though he seems to be curious to know more, which leads us to believe that Macbeth has pondered on the idea of Kingship before; Macbeth realizes that if he is to be king it would mean that King Duncan, the current king, will have to die. His…

    • 912 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    The witches in Macbeth merely act as the agents of self - determinism whom used their knowledge to plant a seed of ambition in Macbeth. Ambition is portrayed as a flaw in the play, as it causes Macbeth’s eventual downfall. There are three catalysts that fuelled Macbeth’s deadly ambition: the witches’ prophecies, Duncan announcing Malcolm as Prince of Cumberland and Lady Macbeth. It becomes evident that the witches targeted a weak-willed man with half truths to fuel his hidden ambition. Due to his strong desires to gain kingship, his morals let loose and eventually he strays onto the path of evil and corruption where he murders Duncan, Banquo and Macduff’s family.…

    • 949 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Power has started to change Macbeth by making him seem even more ruthless than before. Abusing power changes Macbeth to use his power for selfish reasons and personal gain. Macbeth decides to kill Macduff’s family because an apparition told him to beware Macduff but not his family, “The castle of Macduff I will surprise, Seize upon Fife, give to th’ edge o’ th’ sword His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls” (IV,I,171-173). This shows that Macbeth has gone from good to evil by committing heinous crimes by murdering people, which he did not need to do. Macbeth’s power corrupts him to the point of where it leads him to kill innocent people such as the family of Macduff, Banquo and…

    • 1602 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Though Macbeth already thinks of murdering his king, it is highly unlikely that he would have committed a murder whose very thought frightens him, if it weren’t for his wife’s constant questioning and inciting. His visions and hallucinations make it clear that it is her ambition driving him forward as they are proof of his self-doubt and guilt. The hallucinations of the dagger afloat with blood on its hilt, the paracusia of “Macbeth does murder sleep, Macbeth shall sleep no more” and his inability to say Amen are all symbols of his guilt. After the first murder, Lady Macbeth’s ambition seems to fade and Macbeths focal point changes. His ambition is now aimed at keeping the world from learning of his sin; He is willing to do anything, including further stain his conscience by committing and ordering executions.…

    • 705 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Macbeth knows that killing the king is an evil, and immoral act. He even acknowledges that Duncan has treated him well. Yet, he still yearns for power despite what his conscious is telling him. This is why, after he has actually killed him, Macbeth still faces emotional turmoil. By ignoring his conscious, in order to pursue his ambitions of being King, Macbeth ensures the destruction of his mental state.…

    • 1981 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Superior Essays