The Dark Side Of Human Nature in Macbeth

As Yoshida Kenko said "Ambition never comes to an end." In the famous play Macbeth by Shakespeare, ambition is an imperative factor to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's sinful behaviors. Macbeth's ambition was provoked by the three witches, but when he hesitated, Lady Macbeth reproach him and ensured Macbeth follows his ambition. This reflects the dark side of human nature from the play, it's about the expansion of ambition, and challenging the bottom line of morality. It uses the change of Macbeth's ambition to prove human nature is extremely dangerous, and it uses the moral test of the protagonists to show how dark human nature is.

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, the characters Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have a strong desire to be crowned. They are determined to make every effort to achieve this goal, including deceiving and killing their closest relatives. Macbeth's ambition sprouted from what three witches had said to him, and since then his ambition has expanded. The witch's words provoked Macbeth's ambition and desire for power, which led to his unremitting pursuit of power and destiny.

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"Two truths are told/As happy prologues to the swelling act/Of the imperial theme." (1.3 130-133) When Macbeth said this, he realized that the witch's prophecy had been fulfilled, and immediately began to wonder whether it meant that the witch's third prophecy, that he would become king, would also be true. He expressed a strong desire for the idea, although he knew that if he got that position, he would have to make terrible acts of violence.

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All these embodied Macbeth's ambition and foreshadowed his subsequent actions.

Lady Macbeth gave Macbeth the greatest encouraged to motivate him to assassinate Duncan in order to realize her ambitions with her husband. Lady Macbeth firmly held his mind when Macbeth was most perplexed by the witch's words. Lady Macbeth said, "Thou wouldst be great/Art not without ambition, but without/The illness should attend it."(1.5 5-7) Lady Macbeth knew that Macbeth had ambitious dreams, but she thought he was unwilling to act cruelly to realize them. This not only shows that Lady Macbeth has her own ideas, but also shows that she knows her husband very well.

When Macbeth remembered the witch's prophecy of Banquo's son exceeding his unsettled ambition leads him to murder Banquo' family. "To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus."(3.1 50-51). Macbeth was still unsettled after becoming king, he feared he would lose his position and was frustrated by the lack of heir, which made him feel meaningless as a king. This reveals that although he realized his ambition and murdered Duncan, he did not bring him peace, but made him more anxious.

Ambition can manipulate people's desires, which is reflected in the fact that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have made the same mistake by killing all the people they think pose a threat to their ascent to the throne, but in the end they were all dead. Ambition can be the greatest motivation for a person to succeed, but it can also kill a person. It comes from the darkness of human nature. It can not only make a person, but also kill a person.

Macbeth is also a play about moral. As Macbeth realized after he killed all the people who hindered his success, whether they were relatives or friends. Despite Duncan's glory to Macbeth, Macbeth killed Duncan against morality and made irreparable mistakes. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth started their assassination plan one night in order to gain their rights."I'll go no more/ I am afraid to think of what I have done/ Look on't again I dare not." (2.2 51-52) From what he said, he was repenting and hoping for forgiveness. But he had to choose between right and wrong. He chose wrong by killing Duncan, which had irreparable consequences.

Lady Macbeth was condemned by conscience after her successful assassination of Duncan. It was a test of morality. Over time, Lady Macbeth became guilty and even mad about her assassination of Duncan. "These deeds must not be thought/ After these ways ; so, it will make us mad" (2.2 33-34)Lady Macbeth said if they continued to indulge in what they had just done, they would go mad. These are some signs that Lady Macbeth will eventually go mad with guilt. In helping Macbeth killed Duncan, she made a choice between good and bad, just like Macbeth, which was also a test of morality. Macduff is ready to fight for his family and seek revenge for Macbeth's killing of innocent people. His wife and children became victims of the struggle for power, and he was determined to avenge their moral guilt. Macduff said, 'Oh, I could play the woman with mine eyes and braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens, cut short all intermissions/ front to front bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself/ within my sword's length set him/if he 'scape heavens forgive him too! '(4.3 237-241) Eventually, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth died, and Malcolm, the new monarch, promised that there would be no more tyrants, that Malcolm would repay those who suffered and that a new beginning would come again.

Macbeth is a drama based on morality. All the murders that Macbeth committed in order to ascend the throne led to the collapse and destruction of Macbeth. All his mistakes were exposed and led to his death. Morality is the test of a person. When a person shows the darkest side of his human nature, he will forget his moral bottom line and make unforgivable mistakes.The excessive expansion of ambition and Macbeth's condemnation of his own morality finally led him to death. Macbeth's ambition not only helped him win the throne successfully, but also led him to death because of his overblown ambition. From a moral point of view, Macbeth is undoubtedly an example of failure. Human nature is fragile, it can hardly resist the test and temptation. Human nature is greedy and vain. Greed is because you want more. Hypocrisy, on the other hand, is afraid that others will know that they have too little. However, everyone should have their own ambitions, but they should not let their ambitions expand freely and never go against their own moral standards. Never challenge the limits of human nature.

Works cited

  1. Shakespeare, W. (1606). Macbeth. First Folio.
  2. Coursen, H. R. (1997). Ambition and equivocation in Macbeth. Literature and Psychology, 43(3), 11-24.
  3. Bradley, A. C. (1904). Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. London: Macmillan.
  4. Eccles, M. (1984). Macbeth: A Study in Criticism. London: Chatto & Windus.
  5. Kirsch, A. (2005). Shakespeare and the Experience of Love. Cambridge University Press.
  6. Kolin, P. C. (1993). Macbeth: New Critical Essays. Routledge.
  7. Leech, C. (2016). Shakespeare's Tragic Skepticism. Palgrave Macmillan.
  8. McEachern, C. (2017). Macbeth: Language and Writing. Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare.
  9. Miller, A. (2003). Tragedy and the Common Man. Viking Press.
  10. Wells, S., & Orlin, L. (2013). Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide. Oxford University Press.
Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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The Dark Side Of Human Nature in Macbeth. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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