Role of Ambitions in Macbeth Play

Published: 2021-09-10 02:55:09
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‘Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts.’ This idea expressed by Napoleon Bonaparte can be usefully explored while examining the character of Macbeth in William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth.
Macbeth, a Scottish nobleman, who was at the opening of the play, a very successful and respected military leader, through his ‘vaulting ambition’ changed to the extent that he committed the outrageous crime of regicide in order to becom e the king of Scotland. This led to more atrocities and to his eventual downfall due to a combination of factors. These include his greed, ambition, over-confidence and the initial strong influence of his wife, Lady Macbeth.One idea that I found interesting in the text is the way that Macbeth changes due to the influence he gains from the witches and his wife. The witches first influence him by stirring his inner ambition. Macbeth’s ambitious nature starts to emerge at the witches’ prophecy “All Hail Macbeth! Thou shalt be King hereafter.” Another prominent influence is from his wife Lady Macbeth. Macbeth’s changes are aided and abetted by his wife who is shown to be a ruthless and ambitious character. The extreme ambition of Lady Macbeth, which is perhaps even greater than that of her husband, is best shown from her soliloquy, “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! Make thick my blood.” She calls into question his manhood and aggressively pushes him to commit the act: “When you durst do it, then you were a man.” These influences have great effect on Macbeth’s character change. However, it is Macbeth’s underlying ambition that truly causes him to change. He cannot resist the temptation suggested by the words of the three witches, which is shown through his soliloquy, “Why do I yield to that suggestion…?’ When Macbeth’s ambition is getting overpowering, he loses his rational thought and does not realise that the witches are forces of evil who are adept at destroying lives. Macbeth’s power-hungry ambitions are also revealed when he admits to having, “Black and deep desires.” Through the character’s soliloquies, Shakespeare shows me that it is ultimately Macbeth’s ambition, his evil conscience that makes him start the tragic change, while other people’s influence can fuel his ambition for power. By describing Macbeth’s initial change, Shakespeare makes me realise the importance of outside influence. Negative influence can change a person’s life dramatically. In today’s world, we have read of young people who have grown up under the influence of criminal or dysfunctional parents or ‘friends’ and even though they may dislike some of their actions, they end up behaving just like the people with power over them. This is seen in gang families or children with abusive parents where they go to repeat their parent’s behaviour in their own children.
Another idea that I found interesting in the text is how Macbeth’s ambition and over-confidence contributes to his downfall. Macbeth’s ambition and over-confidence eventually leads to his downfall. With the gain of power, Macbeth is getting over-confident, which lead him to eventually disregard the witches’ final prophecies and even to challenge fate and fortune. On the other hand, Macbeth’s evil deed causes him to suffer from fear and guilt. The fact that he keeps seeing Banquo’s ghost shows me his fear, anxiety and inner turmoil. Later in the play, Macbeth descends into paranoia and despair. His worried words include “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, // Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,” meaning that life is meaningless and every day is just passing by just like other days. This is opposite to the easy future life that he talks about with Lady Macbeth before murdering Duncan and gaining power. Later, when Macbeth is close to defeat, he says, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player // That struts and frets his hour upon the stage // And then is heard no more: it is a tale // Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, // Signifying nothing.” Macbeth is comparing life to a poor actor who does not act well and makes him miserable. He is in despair and finds no meaning or purpose in life as his power is in ruins and his wife is dead. Towards the end of the play, when English forces and Macduff charge towards the castle, he chooses to die fighting with his crown and status as king of Scotland, rather than surrender and allow himself to be publicly humiliated by being put on display. This shows his desire to go back to be a warrior again and he wishes to at least die ‘with harness on our back.’
Shakespeare shows me that this tragic ending is the result of ambition and greed for power. In todays world, greed for power is still the cause of government corruption. People can easily lose themselves in seeking the real meaning of their lives if their hunger for power prevails. “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
After reading the novel, I think that Shakespeare has presented me with the strong message that everybody has inner ambition and that uncontrolled ambition can corrupt even the best of people. He presents the idea that if somebody’s passion of ambition overtakes them, they are likely to commit bad acts, especially with Macbeth’s weak personality giving way to the temptation of power. It is the ambition, the greed for power that cause his changes.
Many people yearn to have this element to create a world fit for them. Corruption of power is something brought upon by greed to obtain what a person desires. Once these people get a taste of a corrupted view, nothing else matters except what they seek to gain. When people gain power, their interpretation of control is altered. Control becomes easier to obtain and it corrupts their minds. Their personality becomes threatening and they can control others’ lives through evil. A powerful person in our world would be able to gain their greatest desires of money and goods by simply lying, bribing, stealing and sometimes even killing. I have seen this type of corruption in our modern society in many governments, even ones that many people view as very democratic and law-biding states. I think that Lady Macbeth is also fighting a constant battle of man vs evil because the evil she had started is making her more and more paranoid after the deed of killing the King (Duncan). By killing Duncan, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth destroy the natural order of things and bring Scotland to chaos. I believe that this idea of ambition and corruption is interesting and I think that it is shown in many cases around the world. A clear example in today’s world is the dictatorial leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, who orders use of public money for the expansion of the country’s military might. This is at the expense of the health and welfare of millions of his people.
In this compelling drama, William Shakespeare has presented to me drastic changes that Macbeth goes through due to his over-ambition causing his corruption. Macbeth gradually changes from displaying ‘great’ qualities with the positive ambition of serving his king and country with honour and bravery to committing ‘bad acts’ when his corrupted ambition takes over. Although there are a number of reasons contributing to his change, like the strong influence of the witches and his wife, it is ultimately the ambition and the greed for power that cause his change. Through the changes in Macbeth, we are given a clear message that uncontrolled ambition for power can corrupt even the noblest of men. This message is still relevant to us as we go further into the world and our lives, showing that moral values are important to everybody because we are all human. I would recommend this play to other Year 12 students who enjoy a thrilling, captivating play full of rich language which provides an exciting insight to the moral values that make up our society.

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