Macbeth and Ambition Essay

The fall from grace; driven by ambition and power Macbeth is driven to madness by fierce ambition and power, resulting in a fall from grace in Shakespeare’s shortest tragedies, Macbeth. Macbeth’s long Journey towards possessing the throne travels through many high hurdles. With most of them resulting in murder and despair. The first hurdle, which is a sign for further hurdles, is the murder of Duncan the king. The build-up to the killing of Duncan begins with the witches prophesying that Macbeth will be king. Macbeth wants to fulfill this prophecy due to his high ambitions.

However, the prophecy is fulfilled only because Lady Macbeth leads her husband through the barriers. It is Macbeth’s wife who causes the death of Duncan. The play begins with the brief appearance of a trio of witches and then moves to a military camp, where the Scottish King Duncan hears the news that his generals, Macbeth and Banquo, have defeated two separate invading armies??”one from Ireland, led by the rebel Macdonwald, and one from Norway. Following their pitched battle with these enemy forces, Macbeth and Banquo encounter the witches as they cross a moor.

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The witches prophesy that Macbeth will e made thane (a rank of Scottish nobility) of Cawdor and eventually King of Scotland. They also prophesy that Macbeth’s companion, Banquo, will beget a line of Scottish kings, although Banquo will never be king himself. The witches vanish, and Macbeth and Banquo treat their prophecies skeptically until some of King Duncan’s men come to thank the two generals for their victories in battle and to tell Macbeth that he has indeed been named thane of Cawdor. The previous thane betrayed Scotland by fghting for the Norwegians and Duncan has condemned him to death.

Macbeth is ntrigued by the possibility that the remainder of the witches’ prophecy??”that he will be crowned king??”might be true, but he is uncertain what to expect. He visits with King Duncan, and they plan to dine together at Inverness, Macbeth’s castle, that night. Macbeth writes ahead to his wife, Lady Macbeth, telling her all that has happened. Lady Macbeth suffers none of her husband’s uncertainty. She desires the kingship for him and wants him to murder Duncan in order to obtain it. When Macbeth arrives at Inverness, she overrides all of her husband’s objections and persuades him to kill the king that very night.

He and Lady Macbeth plan to get Duncan’s two chamberlains drunk so they will black out; the next morning they will blame the murder on the chamberlains, who will be defenseless, as they will remember nothing. While Duncan is asleep, Macbeth stabs him, despite his doubts and a number of supernatural portents, including a vision of a bloody dagger. When Duncan’s death is discovered the next morning, Macbeth kills the chamberlains??” ostensibly out of rage at their crime??”and easily assumes the kingship. Duncan’s sons Malcolm and Donalbain flee to England and Ireland, respectively, fearing that hoever killed Duncan desires their demise as well.

Fearful of the witches’ prophecy that Banquds heirs will seize the throne, Macbeth hires a group of murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. They ambush Banquo on his way to a royal feast, but they fail to kill Fleance, who escapes into the night. Macbeth becomes furious: as long as Fleance is alive, he fears that his power remains insecure. At the feast that night, startling his guests, who include most of the great Scottish nobility. Lady Macbeth tries to neutralize the damage, but Macbeth’s kingship incites increasing resistance from his nobles and subjects. Frightened, Macbeth goes to visit the witches in their cavern.

There, they show him a sequence of demons and spirits who present him with further prophecies: he must beware of Macduff, a Scottish nobleman who opposed Macbeth’s accession to the throne; he is incapable of being harmed by any man born of woman; and he will be safe until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Castle. Macbeth is relieved and feels secure, because he knows that all men are born of women and that forests cannot move. When he learns that Macduff has fled to England to Join Malcolm, Macbeth orders that Macduffs castle be seized and, most ruelly, that Lady Macduff and her children be murdered.

When news of his familys execution reaches Macduff in England, he is stricken with grief and vows revenge. Prince Malcolm, Duncan’s son, has succeeded in raising an army in England, and Macduff Joins him as he rides to Scotland to challenge Macbeth’s forces. The invasion has the support of the Scottish nobles, who are appalled and frightened by Macbeth’s tyrannical and murderous behavior. Lady Macbeth, meanwhile, becomes plagued with fits of sleepwalking in which she bemoans what she believes to be bloodstains on her hands.

Before Macbeth’s opponents arrive, Macbeth receives news that she has killed herself, causing him to sink into a deep and pessimistic despair. Nevertheless, he awaits the English and fortifies Dunsinane, to which he seems to have withdrawn in order to defend himself, certain that the witches’ prophecies guarantee his invincibility. He is struck numb with fear, however, when he learns that the English army is advancing on Dunsinane shielded with boughs cut from Birnam Wood. Birnam Wood is indeed coming to Dunsinane, fulfilling half of the witches’ prophecy.

In the battle, Macbeth hews violently, but the English forces radually overwhelm his army and castle. On the battlefield, Macbeth encounters the vengeful Macduff, who declares that he was not “of woman born” but was instead “untimely ripped” from his mother’s womb (what we now call birth by cesarean section). Though he realizes that he is doomed, Macbeth continues to fght until Macduff kills and beheads him. Malcolm, now the King of Scotland, declares his benevolent intentions for the country and invites all to see him crowned at Scone. Lady Macbeth acts as Macbeth’s superior while the murder of Duncan occurs.

Lady Macbeth has high ambitions for her husband. She understands that Macbeth has a lust for the throne. However, she fears that her husband would have trouble when attempting to murder Duncan and covet the throne because she regards Macbeth as “full o’ the milk of human kindness”. Since Lady Macbeth knows that her husband would never be able to perform such a task, she decides to control the procedures of the murdering of Duncan. She demands that “direst cruelty’ contaminate her. She congregates everything that is evil inside her body in order to perform the evil deed of murdering Duncan.

If Lady Macbeth is absent from the story, the murder of Duncan would not take place. This is so because during many parts of the story, Macbeth possesses uncertainty of whether it is righteous to take the life of such a great king in order to feed his hunger for power. Despite Macbeth doubting whether or not he should accept the murder of Duncan, he is always convinced by his wife weaknesses and uses his weaknesses to harass him into killing Duncan. This can be observed when, at one stage, Macbeth criticises the idea of killing a good king and believes that the killing should not proceed, his wife forces him to kill by saying ffensive words.

She questions Macbeth’s love for her, she questions Macbeth’s masculinity and she criticises Macbeth’s desire to be king. These three statements offend Macbeth. Because Macbeth wants to prove his manhood, his love for his wife and his desire to be king, he agrees to murder Duncan. Also, after the murder, Macbeth is worried and conscious of his guilt. On the contrary, Lady Macbeth is calm about the murder. She orders Macbeth to “wash this filthy guilt” from his hands. Lady Macbeth is portrayed as the dominant one out of the couple as Macbeth’s actions are esponses to Lady Macbeth’s orders.

Macbeth is unaware of his behaviour during the murder of Duncan. It is Lady Macbeth who gives him the instructions. Therefore, it is obvious that Lady Macbeth acts as Macbeth’s superior during the murder of Duncan. In committing the murder of Duncan, Macbeth is somewhat influenced by the witches. The motivation to become king originates from the prophecies of the witches. The concept of having a good chance to covet the throne is brought to Macbeth when the witches address Macbeth as “Thane of Glamis”, “Thane of Cawdor” and “King hereafter”.

The final address is the prophecy that Macbeth will be king. The witches’ prophecies are also the beginning of Macbeth’s long Journey towards possessing the throne. Macbeth believes in the prophecies of the witches. This is so because the witches are supernatural characters that have special powers. These special powers allow them to perform deeds that humans cannot perform. The members of the audience learn about the witches’ powers when they send wind to force a woman’s sailor husband to face a tough Journey because the woman has upset the witches.

Because the witches possess unnatural powers, it is rational to elieve that they can see the future. Hence, it is logical for Macbeth to have absolute trust in the witches’ prophecies. Due to the fact that Macbeth believes in the witches’ prophecies, his motive to become king is brought up by the witches. He may have thought of taking over Duncan’s throne, but it is the witches that give him the concept that he has the chance obtain the throne. Therefore, the witches somewhat influence Macbeth’s murder of Duncan. Macbeth’s ambitions do not drive him a significant distance towards committing the murder of Duncan.

His “Vaulting ambition” to ecome king contributes a little to his murder of Duncan because he needs a “spur” to push him into murdering Duncan. His ambitions alone do not get him to kill Duncan because at one stage, Macbeth decides that his ambition to be king is to be achieved by luck. He even gathers that chance may crown him without his efforts. Without the support of other stimulants, it would be difficult for Macbeth to murder Duncan. Macbeth’s ambitions only put him on the road towards getting the throne. His ambitions also indicate the direction that he will be travelling towards.

However, his ambitions take him nowhere. Hence, it is true that his ambitions do not drive him a significant distance. In committing the murder of Duncan, influential factors including Lady Macbeth, the witches and Macbeth’s own ambitions each have different amounts of influence on Macbeth. The dominance of Lady Macbeth is the most influential factor of Macbeth’s murder of Duncan, followed by the witches and of becoming king, while the witches’ prophecies notify Macbeth that there is a large probability for him to become king.

Lady Macbeth’s dominance over her husband is the most influential factor for Duncan’s murder because she is the one who gets Macbeth up and working, without his lady, it seems unlikely that Macbeth would kill Duncan. Macbeth’s murder of Duncan is influenced by the dominance of his wife, the witches and his own ambitions. The main theme of Macbeth??”the destruction wrought when ambition goes unchecked by moral constraints??”finds its most powerful expression in the plays two main characters. Macbeth is a courageous Scottish general who is not naturally inclined to commit evil deeds, yet he deeply desires power and advancement.

He kills Duncan against his better Judgment and afterward stews in guilt and paranoia. Toward the end of the play he descends into a kind of frantic, boastful madness. Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, pursues her goals with greater determination, yet she is less capable of withstanding the repercussions of her immoral acts. One of Shakespeare’s most forcefully drawn female characters, she spurs her husband mercilessly to kill Duncan and urges him to be strong in the murder’s aftermath, but she is eventually driven to distraction by the effect of Macbeth’s repeated bloodshed on her conscience.

In each case, ambition ??”helped, of course, by the malign prophecies of the witches??”is what drives the ouple to ever more terrible atrocities. The problem, the play suggests, is that once one decides to use violence to further one’s quest for power, it is difficult to stop. There are always potential threats to the throne??”Banquo, Fleance, Macduff??”and it is always tempting to use violent means to dispose of them. Because we first hear of Macbeth in the wounded captain’s account of his battlefield valor, our initial impression is of a brave and capable warrior.

This perspective is complicated, however, once we see Macbeth interact with the three witches. We realize that his hysical courage is Joined by a consuming ambition and a tendency to self-doubt??” the prediction that he will be king brings him Joy, but it also creates inner turmoil. These three attributes??”bravery, ambition, and self-doubt??”struggle for mastery of Macbeth throughout the play. Shakespeare uses Macbeth to show the terrible effects that ambition and guilt can have on a man who lacks strength of character.

We may classify Macbeth as irrevocably evil, but his weak character separates him from Shakespeare’s great villains??”Iago in Othello, Richard Ill in Richard Ill, Edmund in King Lear??”who are all strong enough to conquer guilt and self-doubt. Macbeth, great warrior though he is, is ill equipped for the psychic consequences of crime. Before he kills Duncan, Macbeth is plagued by worry and almost aborts the crime. It takes Lady Macbeth’s steely sense of purpose to push him into the deed. After the murder, however, her powerful personality begins to disintegrate, leaving Macbeth increasingly alone.

He fluctuates between fits of fevered action, in which he plots a series of murders to secure his throne, and moments of terrible guilt (as when Banquds ghost appears) and absolute pessimism (after his wife’s death, when he seems to succumb to despair). These fluctuations reflect the tragic tension within Macbeth: he is at once too ambitious to allow his conscience to stop him from murdering his way to the top and too conscientious to be happy with himself as a murderer. As things fall apart for him at the end of the play, he seems almost and he displays a kind of reckless bravado as his enemies surround him and drag him down.

In part, this stems from his fatal confidence in the witches’ prophecies, but t also seems to derive from the fact that he has returned to the arena where he has been most successful and where his internal turmoil need not affect him??”namely, the battlefield. Unlike many of Shakespeare’s other tragic heroes, Macbeth never seems to contemplate suicide: “Why should I play the Roman fool,” he asks, “and die / On mine own sword? ” (5. 10. 1-2). Instead, he goes down fghting, bringing the play full circle: it begins with Macbeth winning on the battlefield and ends with him dying in combat. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth.

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Vol. 100. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. Mack, Maynard. “The Many Faces of Macbeth. ” Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993. 183-196. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Michael L. LaBlanc. Vol. 80. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. McGrail, Mary Ann. “Macbeth: What Does the Tyrant? ” In Tyranny in Shakespeare. Lanham, Md. : Lexington Books, 2001. 19-46. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 100. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.


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