Ambition In Macbeth

  • Category: English
  • Words: 1360
  • Grade: 100
Ambition to Lead
Becoming the President of the United States would be a great honor and accomplishment, but getting there would be a very difficult journey. It would be a road on which a candidate would hope to make the right decisions. This ambition, this aspiration, this challenge, would be a very good judge of character. In Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Macbeth, Macbeth has an ambition to become a leader, the King. However, unlike Macbeth, the ambitious presidential candidate plans to get there maintaining good morals. Uncommon to other villains, Macbeth does not enjoy doing evil. He has not totally renounced the idea of morality, although it is apparent that his ambition is stronger than his conscience. Macbeth's ambition eventually leads him to follow sorcery, to murder, and to become fearless; these actions all cause his tragic downfall.
Macbeth has always had the ambition inside him, but it has never been released. It is not until the evil witches brainwash Macbeth that he slowly turns senile. Before Macbeth meets the witches, he is characterized as being very loyal and honorable. The witches tempt Macbeth with their prophecies, which make Macbeth's heart and mind fill with ambition and his hunger for power to grow.
At the beginning of the play, the witches predict that Macbeth will soon become the Thane of Cawdor and eventually the outright King. They tell Macbeth this simply to ignite what would end up being a burning desire for power. His ambition causes him to turn against his morals, and he wants to be King so badly that he listens to three witches and their prophecies. Not only does he listen to the witches, but he also believes them despite the fact that they are evil. The witches' prophecies enthuse Macbeth, and he wants to hear more and more. The hidden ambition inside him is bursting at the seams and is ready to show its ugly face. Ross soon arrives and confirms that Macbeth is to be Thane of Cawdor (1. 3. 106). His ambition once again overruns his conscience and leads him to pursue the witches' foresights. "Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor: / The greatest is behind," says Macbeth (1. 3. 118-119). He is ready to pursue his greatest title. . . King of Scotland.
At first, Macbeth wants to become King and is willing to wait for the title, but his ambition and his wife hurry the events of his destiny. At this present stage, Macbeth still has a conscience, and he is very hesitant about killing the King, but his weak nature over powers his conscience. Here, we can see that Macbeth is not a cold-blooded monster in that the very idea of killing King Duncan, his king, cousin, and guest, horrifies him. Later, in Act II, he tries to tell Lady Macbeth that he will not go through with the murder. The character of Lady Macbeth is therefore required to provide Macbeth with the extra willpower to fulfill his royal ambitions. Macbeth is almost forced by Lady Macbeth to murder Duncan. At first, Macbeth rejects the horrific act, but eventually he succumbs to evil for his ambition is far too great. After committing the murder, Macbeth seems delirious and says, "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / clean from my hand?" (2. 2. 62-63). From this, we can already see that he is remorseful for what he has done. His conscious may be guilt-ridden, but his ambition still gets the better of him. Once Macbeth kills to acquire the crown, the other crimes seem inevitable. In order to keep what he has taken, Macbeth learns to lie and kill as a way of life, and seems to have mastered the art of keeping up appearances. His values and morals become totally banished, since his ambitions and the preservation of them become his primary priority.
However, when he becomes King, his ambition grows like never before. With his newly found power, Macbeth begins to gain strength that he has never possessed. He starts to take charge of his own actions, and Lady Macbeth loses her control over him. Macbeth no longer needs her to make his decisions for him, and at this point, he does not even hesitate to make rash decisions. This becomes evident, as he plans the murder of Banquo and hires the murderers without consulting his wife at all. His ambition once again leads him to murder. He is not satisfied with being King of Scotland anymore; he wants to be a father of a long lineage of kings. In Act 3, scene i, Macbeth sends two men to murder Banquo and Fleance. Fleance escapes from the murderers, but Banquo is killed. Banquo's ghost appears at the feast and sits in Macbeth's chair. When Macbeth sees this, he loses all traces of sanity he still possessed. Macbeth goes into a frantic episode, yelling and shrieking in fear and shock. This marks the climax of the play and the downfall of Macbeth's ambition. From here on, his ambition only harms him. It puts him into a trance, and he is oblivious to everything.
Macbeth's ambition reaches its height, but he is still ignorant to the fact that he is falling from power. "Call 'em [the witches], let me see 'em," Macbeth says (4. 1. 63). "Tell me, thou unknown power--" (4. 1.68). He again wants to know even more from the witches. He is not satisfied with his current stature; his ambition is still raging and needs more nourishment. The witches give Macbeth four apparitions to satisfy his ambition. Macbeth, now satisfied, goes back to Dunsinane fearless, for his ambition has heard only what it wanted, not what the true meaning meant, thus helping to further his fall from power.
In Act IV, Macduff goes to inform Malcolm of Macbeth's tyrannical rage, and they go to war with Macbeth. Macduff and Malcolm join together to win back Malcolm's rightful place on the throne. The final apparitions begin to fall into place, and Macbeth realizes at the end, how far he has gone, and how he has misinterpreted the prophecies. He knows he has brought about his own end, but the courage he was praised for as a warrior burns brightly, as a candle flickers brightly before it is snuffed out, and he chooses to fight on, to defend what he has brought about, and dies a warrior's noble death. By choosing to go on fighting, his ambition does not die until his last breath; he fights for his honor and shows the courage and determination he possesses.
Macbeth's ambition, though it is what brings him to his height of power, is also what leads to his tragic downfall. Without this ambition, Macbeth would never have been able to achieve his goal as King of Scotland or have been able to carry out his own evil deeds. In these instances, ambition helped Macbeth fulfill most of his aspirations. Had he not been so consumed with becoming King and remaining powerful, he would not have continued to kill innocent people in order to keep his position. It was because of these killings and his overbearing ambition that he was overthrown and was killed himself. He is so captivated by his own ambition that he cannot escape the wrath it brought against his own well being. Unfortunately, his great ambition destroys him and his relationship between his wife, friends, and King Duncan. He is simply tempted by the witches and Lady Macbeth to commit these acts with his only motive being personal glory and achievements.

Work Cited
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Glencoe Literature: The Reader's Choice. Program Consultants Beverly Ann Chin et al. British Literature. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2000. 270-351.
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