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Ambition in Macbeth Essay


Ambition is a common downfall for those who seek power. In literature, authors use characters to demonstrate the harmful effects of ambition. Shakespeare, in his play Macbeth, develops the character of Macbeth, who changes from a good-hearted person to evil because of his corrupting power and unchecked ambition.

In Act I, Macbeth debates with himself on whether or not to kill Duncan. He considers that, even if Duncans murder could be completed without any negative consequences, like getting caught, he still would have to live with guilt. He states why he should not kill Duncan; "First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, / Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, / Who should against his murderer shut the door, / Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan / Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been / So clear in his great office, that his virtues / Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against / The deep damnation of his taking off." (1.7.14-21) Macbeth proves very uncertain in his thoughts and did not have any legitimate reasons for killing King Duncan and obtaining the throne except for his own ambition and greed to become king. With the witches prophecies mulling over in his mind, and knowing that he was not the successor of the throne, he knew he had to take matters into his own hands. With the support and persuasion of Lady Macbeth, he kills King Duncan and gains his kingship.

When Banquo makes his vow to find out who killed Duncan, Macbeth knew he had to silence him. After Macbeth is named king, he seeks out hired murderers to kill Banquo and his son, Fleance. Macbeth does this because he is afraid that Banquo will get in the way of his new title and Fleance, because he is prophesied to be king. Macbeth chooses to do this deed with no regard, although he knows better than to kill the innocent, showing Macbeths transformation and the effects of ambition.

At this point, in Act IV, Macbeth is blind with ambition and numb to feelings and morals. He resorts to killing Macduffs family because of insecurity brought on by the witches telling him to beware of Macduff. "The very firstlings of my heart shall be / The firstlings of my hand. And even now, / To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and / done: / The castle of Macduff I will surprise, / Seize upon Fife, give to th edge o th sword / His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls / That trace him in his line." (4.1. 167-174) Thus, Macbeths ambition has gone as far as killing innocent women and children.

Desire of power and control can often be a good thing if ones intentions are good. On the other hand, the extent to which Macbeth went to keep his power is what is wrong. Once one uses violence to keep their power, it is hard to stop.

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