Ambition in Shakespeares’ Macbeth Essay

Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” explores the struggles and effects of possessing a dire sense of ambition and an overbearing lust for power. Through characters such as Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and The Witches, Shakespeare is able to show how these adverse features ultimately bring a disastrous conclusion in a person’s life and the world one lives in. Evidently, the play carries with it, ambition and a greed for power as a key factor and incentive for the characters. In the words of Lady Macbeth, “Thou wouldst be great; Art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it:” (1. 5. 8-20), ambition per se cannot be great without that underlying wickedness alongside it.

The play sets with a foreshadowing of events, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (1. 1. 9), an indication by the witches that certain mores of the world are going to turn upside-down. This proceeding is triggered by the witches’ scheme of inflicting Macbeth’s ambition. Prophesying Macbeth’s enthronement as Thane of Cawdor and “King hereafter” causes Macbeth to contemplate and eventually take action, betraying the king of Scotland. As a result of this, the world’s natural order is lost, “Tis said, they (horses) ate each other” (2. 4. 8), consequently reversing nature’s motif. * As the prophecies make it’s way to Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is introduced into play. Her sense of ambition, attended by cruelty, is seen in an instant with a soliloquy declaring her intentions “Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full, Of direst cruelty” (I, v, 40-43). Shouldering a corrupt rationale, Lady Macbeth manipulates her husband into chasing the ill-fated prophecies of the witches. Hence, she is perceived to be mentally strong, adhering to a conscience that does not falter despite committing murder.

As the tragedy progresses and the ruthlessness augments, her power-hungry exploits causes her to slowly deteriorate. Her ambition has taken the best of her and the extent to which she is able to cope with the oppressiveness becomes more and more of a struggle, “What, will these hands ne’er be clean? ”(5. 1. 42). As a result she loses her state of faculty, ultimately costing her, her life. * * Macbeth, on the other hand is the distinct medium in which Shakespeare conveys the notion of unchecked ambition and lust for power.

In the beginning of the play, he is introduced as a brave, valorous soldier who is loyal to King Duncan, “For brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name – disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel” (1. 2. 16-17). * However, as the prophecies are told and the devious manipulation manifests, his ambition is triggered and aroused, ultimately altering the attributes of his humanity, from a noble man to an oppressive tyrant. He acquires a selfish and corrupt state of mind that causes him to act irrationally, killing people who could potentially jeopardize his innocence and position as king.

His change of heart symbolizes the culmination of his ambition and desire for power, which plays a critical role in planting the seed of his downfall and eventual demise. * * A man’s ambition should not be attended by with immorality or a lust for power; rather it is intended to coexist with discipline and moderation. William Shakespeare demonstrates this immensely through his characters downfall, degradation and chaos. While aiming for the stars can primarily generate success and happiness, the tragedy of “Macbeth” exemplifies that too much can result otherwise.