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 Duncan’s murder could be completed without any negative consequences, like getting caught, he still would have to live with guilt.
This forebodes the death of Macbeth and also Lady Macbeth by suggesting that they will not be able to kill the King and live a normal, guilt free life afterwards. Lady Macbeth then creates irony as she mocks Macbeth for thinking this way, she refers to him as a ‘coward’ and insists that this murder is necessary. This part of the play is extremely significant as we realise just how harsh Lady Macbeth is and how far she would really go. She removes any maternal characteristics that she may have had by explaining that her lack of pity would extend so far, that she would murder a baby. “Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out”.
Although it is true that Lady Macbeth is a big part of the play and adds a lot of interest, her character is revealed through her unkind attitude with Macbeth, careless feelings towards the lives of others, and her guilty conscience. Lady Macbeth is very pushy when it comes to the murder of Duncan and Macbeth’s hesitations towards it. She gives this comment to Macbeth, “Oh, never shall sun that morrow see! Your face, my Thane, is as a book where men may ready strange matters. To beguile the time, look like the time, bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue.
If it wasn't for the influences of the people surrounding him, he would have lived happily as Thane of Cawdor, an honourable title in itself. The downfall of Macbeth was ignited by the actions by those around him, mainly the witches and his wife Lady Macbeth, and eventually, his ambitions took over. Macbeth never had the intention of killing his king, but was ultimately persuaded that it was the correct thing to do. The three witches planted the seed of ambition within Maceth. They were the driving force behind Banquo and King Duncan's killing.
He talks it over with his wife, and is pressured onto killing Duncan. The main reason Macbeth is pressured into killing Duncan is because he has vaulting or blind ambition. Vaulting or blind ambition is when someone has a mindset of something, and without thinking they spring at the first opportunity that they have. Blind or vaulting ambition can be a good thing, because it basically means that you will stop a nothing to achieve your goals. Blind ambition can also encourage those around you to fulfill their goals.
In the quote she states, “You are too full of the milk of human kindness to strike aggressively at your first opportunity. You want to be powerful, and you don't lack ambition, but you don’t have the mean streak that these things call for.” Lady Macbeth embeds a fear into Macbeth’s soul, that she can persuade him into doing almost anything. Lady Macbeths constant persuasion leads Macbeth into the idea of killing the king so he can become king himself. He must get his hands dirty and kill the one he loves in order to be loved by many. “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself And
Like all tragic heroes Macbeth demonstrates he is doomed to make errors in judgment when he allows Lady Macbeth to convince him to commit murder in order to gain the crown. In addition we know that at the beginning Macbeth is good. He was rewarded the respected title Thane of Cawdor after the execution of the previous Thane. It is easy to identify with Macbeth as he is pushed by Lady Macbeth to commit the murders and faces the external and internal conflicts typical of a tragic hero. Another aspect of the tragic hero is that they are responsible for their own fate.
Macbeth truly debuts the play with auspiciousness, which in a sense, makes his downfall so much more tragic. Macbeth's ambition takes control of his noble qualities however, and creates a destructive path for both himself and Scotland as a whole. The seeds of his ambition are planted even before the Witches's first prophecy. While the Witches are predicting Macbeth's future it is evident that the notion of Duncan's murder has already crossed his mind: MACBETH: [Aside.] This supernatural soliciting Cannot be ill, cannot be good.
People do not want to admit when they are defeated, just like Macbeth in this scene. The subject matter in Macbeth seems to be the desire to be great at any expense, and the panicky world that one can create for them when they try to achieve greatness at all costs. Denial is present as well as a lack of regard for anyone but Macbeth and his desires. Wives and sons are killed just to avoid something that is not certain. Only at the end do the witches’ predictions come true with the defeat of Macbeth.
As such Macbeth is morally vulnerable to them. The ways in which Shakespeare’s language gives us the imagery that the witches are so evil is when it quotes the oxymoron: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” This quote is important because it introduces the idea of deception which will be picked up in the imagery further through the play. Macbeth from the beggining of Act 1, scene 2, is always associated with blood. At first this is a positive view of imagery as it quotes: “Bellona’s bridegroom.” We get the impression that Macbeth is a “Noble hero,” other quotes such as: “ For brave Macbeth, he deserves that name” or “ O, valiant cousin, worthy gentleman,” show us that Macbeth is presented as a man that is one in a million. Further through the play however the image of blood is used to soak “ Devilish Macbeth,” a quote such as: “Untitl’d tyrant, bloody-sceptr’d” show this.