Ambition in Macbeth
In Macbeth, a play set in Scotland, William Shakespeare wrote a tragedy of a man’s ambition. In the play, Macbeth is described as a man who has ambitions of becoming king. After the first part of the prophecy by the witches whom he has met returning from battle comes true, he begins to think the second part may also come true, “supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good.” The witches have predicted that Macbeth would first become Thane of Cawdor and then king of Scotland. Encouraged by his wife, Lady Macbeth, he murders King Duncan who stays as a guest in his castle. Macbeth then becomes king of Scotland.
According to his critical essay on Macbeth, “Shakespeare and the Hazards of Ambition,” Robert N. Watson comments that ambition becomes the enemy of all life, especially that of the ambitious man himself, in this play. In Macbeth, Shakespeare interprets a man’s lifelong ambition that seems to be fulfilled, but causes consequences that his mind cannot handle. Macbeth’s desire to gain wealth and status completely overpowers him. Macbeth becomes more ambitious as his wife and the witches make him question himself and his desires. Lady Macbeth is the biggest encouragement to his ambition, since she uses her husband’s trust to change her own future.
In Act I, Scene iii, the witches and their prophecies influence Macbeth’s ambition as he begins to consider murdering Duncan, “ If good, why do I yield to that suggestion/ whose horrid image doth unfix my hair/ and make my seated heart knock at my ribs,/ against the use of nature?” Macbeth strongly believes witches’ words. Also, the apparitions who are called by the witches influence Macbeth by making him believe that he is invincible in Act IV, Scene I, “rebellion’s head, rise never, till the wood/ of Birnam rise, and our high- placed Macbeth/ shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath/...
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