The tragedy, ‘Macbeth’, composed by William Shakespeare is a play of manipulation and blind ambition. This is clearly depicted through the character of Macbeth, a great man fallen from God’s grace. Initially, Macbeth’s is presented as a character with noble qualities, who earns himself the trust of King Duncan and admiration of his people. However, the meeting with the weird sisters takes a toll on his personality for the worse, as they ambiguously prophesise that Macbeth will become King of Scotland.
Upon hearing this, Macbeth takes fate into his own hands and embarks on a journey of blind ambition. Ultimately, Macbeth’s character deteriorates and is destined to fall. Therefore, through the dramatic elements of the play, we anticipate the downfall of valiant Macbeth as a ramification of the fatal flaw of blind ambition. Blind ambition comes at the cost of our humanity. Macbeth aligns himself with the supernatural elements, which are associated with darkness and evil.
Originally, Shakespeare introduces Macbeth as a great man, as depicted through the similes of “Yes, as sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion” and “Signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine…” This reflects Macbeth’s bravery, as he is bequeathed the gift of stars by King Duncan. Quite soon, however; we witness how he morphs into a two-faced, conniving snake, as illustrated through this simile “Look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under it. ” The audience immediately recognises the disparity between the dark supernatural elements and the elements of goodness and light.
We expect the power play will be evoked through the illusions and half-truths through the paradox of “Fair is foul, and foul is fair. ” A strong illusion that Shakespeare evokes to dramatise the mental state of Macbeth is the dagger soliloquy, “Is this a dagger which I see before me. ” Whilst we see him in inner conflict over his intention to assassinate King Duncan, we recognise that he will not deviate from the path of darkness as he calls on the stars as seen through the apostrophe “Stars, hide your fires, Let not light see my black and deep desires’.
This establishes that Macbeth represents darkness and this contrasts to Duncan, as he is a symbolism of light. Through the apostrophe, “Come spirits, unsex me”, we perceive that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth align themselves to the supernatural world for power, and in return they are stripped off of their humanity. Shakespeare dramatises these events to challenge us to consider of ramifications of blind ambition. Taking destiny into one’s hands for self gain may lead to self annihilation, and unnatural chaos ensues. Once regicide is committed, Macbeth is overwhelmed by nausea, as he has “murdered sleep. He then realises the magnitude of his sins, as it is emphasised through this hyperbole “Will all Great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? ” This imagery is juxtaposed with the litotes of “A little water will clear us of this deed. ” Therefore, pathos is established between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, as they are anointed by blood through the act of regicide, “My hands are of your colour”. Dramatic irony is established as we know that this couple can never be extricated from guilt. With little remorse, he embarks on a journey of self destruction and mass murder.
There is no salvation for him, and this is clearly demonstrated through the metaphor “Stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more. ” He repeats his mistakes as he continues the assassinations of the innocent, and his sins further escalate when he slain Macduff’s family. However, the further they continue on the path to darkness, the more plagued they are by the blood seeping from their hands, “Out, damned spot! ” Macbeth also hallucinates and is haunted by Banquo’s ghost. This can be demonstrated through the imagery “Quit my sight!
Let the earth hide thee” Unnatural chaos ensues as a result of King Duncan’s death and Macbeth’s unnatural deeds due to blind ambition. This is evoked through the disorderly image of and “Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles. ” Until another great being can overthrow tyrannical Macbeth, then the violation of nature’s order will not be restored. Shakespeare invites us to consider the law of ‘cause and effect’. Blind ambition overrides Macbeth’s rational mind and any sense of inherent moral sensibility. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are left tormented as they cannot sustain inner peace and sleep, “Sleep no more! which leads them to the brink of insanity. Furthermore Macbeth acknowledges that Duncan is at peace in the liberation of death, and he dramatises the inner conflict and insecurity through the paradox “To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus. ” This foreshadows the downfall of Macbeth and soon he will be released from his torment. Blind ambition robs Macbeth’s foresight and without realising it, it puts a strain on his and his wife’s marriage. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s mental deterioration is emphasised through their severed relationship.
As a result of blind ambition, Lady Macbeth resorts to suicide. She lives in fear, as she is constantly plagued from the murder. Therefore, death is her release. Shakespeare invites us to evaluate our behaviour and challenge us to take responsibility for our own actions. As a result of blind ambition, Macbeth is trapped in an illusion of perception versus reality. He consolidates his relationship with the supernatural elements. The witches present three apparitions, which include the “armed-head”, “bloody child” and the “boy with a crown and a tree from his hand. This directs Macbeth to the road of self-annihilation, and through the half-truths, dramatic irony is established and this serves to heighten tension, as the audience expects the downfall of Macbeth. Macbeth is struggling to find the purpose to live, as exemplified through litotes of “Out, brief candle”. He compares his life to a “brief candle” that is easily blown out by the wind and it connotes that human life is uncertain. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,” Macbeth laments on the loss of his future, as he comes to term of his inevitable demise.
Therefore, Macbeth is associated with pathos, and as an audience, we do pity his pathetic being. In the climax of the play, Macbeth is confronted by noble Macduff and it is revealed that the witches’ ambiguous prophecies were half-truths and Macbeth was so wrapped up in his own illusion that he could not see through it. As a result, it led to his downfall. The catharsis is established when Macduff defeats Macbeth and claims justice to Scotland. Shakespeare writes to raise awareness that some things are not what they appear to be.
By the end of the play, we witness the downfall of Macbeth as a result of blind ambition. Blind ambition robs Macbeth of his humanity and foresight, and because of this, Macbeth’s character has deteriorated, as his deterioration is manifested through acts of massacres. In the end, Macbeth does not fully redeem himself, although he does hold regret for the heinous deeds he has committed, and therefore, he dies an undignified death. Hence, Shakespeare invites us consider the natural cycle of ‘cause and effect’ and how acts of blind ambition can lead to deadly consequences.