Ambition’s Corollary in Macbeth

Categories: Macbeth

Ambition is the strong desire to do or to achieve a certain action. However, without there being a balance of ambition and rational thinking, this desire can lead to an unfortunate and miserable aftermath. Macbeth, a tragedy written by William Shakespeare during the early 1600s, conveys that unchecked ambition can bring danger, destruction and affect an individual’s well being. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are both overly ambitious and are willing to do anything for power. Shakespeare uses Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to warn others that if they cannot pull away from ambitious goals; one can be hindered by moral constraint and a sense of guilt that ultimately leads to the deterioration of one’s physical and mental health.

At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth who is characterized as a strong and independent woman challenges traditional gender roles. Lady Macbeth is willing to do anything for power and would have no remark. Deliberately throughout the play, Lady Macbeth comes to a realization and the guilt of killing King Duncan is consuming her conscience.

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The guilt and the motif of blood are further depicted by the deletional Lady Macbeth’s line while sleep talking, “ Out, damned spot, out, I say! One. Two. Why then, ‘it’s time to don‘t. Hell is murky. For, my lord, for, a soldier and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call out power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”

Lady Macbeth’s gradual accumulation of guilt and mounting madness are clearly shown through this evidence in the passage as Lady Macbeth becomes obsessed with her imagined blood stain on her hand.

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This further exemplifies the deterioration of her mental state. The line “Hell is murky” suggests that Lady Macbeth has already seen hell. Even the gentlewoman remarks, “She has spoke what she should not” . In addition, the act of sleep talking may be a reflection of her increasing insanity, as she does not speak in verse. It is unusual for a major character in Shakespeare’s play to speak in a different manner other than an iambic pentameter. The doctor echoes this sense of impending doom expressed by Lady Macbeth as he says, “Foul whisperings are abroad. Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles.”  Lady Macbeth’s guilt makes it impossible for her to hide the horrors that she and Macbeth have committed. Her conscience is rebelling against the unnatural fiend that ambition has turned her into. Lady Macbeth, once she begins to put into actions the once-hidden thoughts of her mind, is crushed by shame and remorse.

Ambition plays a similar role in Macbeth’s corruption of character and his purity. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth was very hesitant and did not make his own decisions. Lady Macbeth shows usurpation of the dominant role in their marriage by ruling her husband and dictating his actions. However, once Macbeth gained power he haltingly changed into a power-hungry individual. Macbeth speaks, “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on the other” . Macbeth is honest with himself, and he admits that there’s no good reason to kill Duncan since he is good at his job of being a king. Macbeth just sought that power for himself. A power hungry individual will not stop at anything due to their ambitions. But eventually, when the power-hungry person come to a realization, they will feel the guilt of killing.

Guilt also affects Macbeth in addition to Lady Macbeth. Macbeth says with a sense of fatality, “ I am sick at heart… My way of life is fall’n into the sear, the yellow leaf, As horror, love and, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have; but in their stead curse, not loud but deep…” . Macbeth’s ambition led to the appearance of this ghost of Banquo, the embodiment of his regret, the culmination of all the damage done to his mental state through ambition alone. This example of the corruption of one’s morals and character coincides with the theme of the story, that ambition leads to destruction once unhindered by moral constraints, as the theme manifests itself through Macbeth’s evolution and corruption of character. Macbeth wants to be powerful and is willing to sacrifice anything to achieve his goal. By contrasting Macbeth with others in the play, such as Banquo, Duncan, and Macduff, who also want to be great leaders but refuse to allow ambition to come before honor, Macbeth shows how naked ambition, freed from any sort of moral or social conscience, ultimately takes over every other characteristic of a person.

In conclusion, the theme of Macbeth that ambition brings danger, destruction eventually hinders one’s moral constraints is established through the effect of ambition on the protagonist of the story. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth want to be great and powerful and they sacrifice their morals to achieve that goal. They transition from normal and benevolent individuals to people driven by their desire to claim power by any means necessary ultimately creates a sense of guilt within Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Unchecked ambition, as Macbeth suggests, can never be fulfilled, and therefore quickly grows into the monster that will destroy anyone who gives into it.

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Ambition’s Corollary in Macbeth. (2021, Apr 22). Retrieved from

Ambition’s Corollary in Macbeth

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