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"Macbeth": Losing Moral Values for Ambition

By 10leem Nov 10, 2013 1274 Words
Analyse how a conflict was used to explore a theme in the written text(s)

In ‘Macbeth’ written by William Shakespeare, the theme of the destructive nature of unchecked ambition and its negative consequences was explored through Macbeth’s internal conflict, which was between his moral values and his ambitious thoughts. Through the metaphor of sleep, Macbeth’s internal conflict showed how over ambition can lead to a lack of peace within people, causing sickness in their mental health. The imagery of blood can also be seen in Macbeth’s internal conflict, which is used as an expression of the everlasting guilt in people which results from unchecked ambition. Finally the symbolism of killing children in Macbeth’s internal conflict also shows how unchecked ambition can affect people by making them abandon their moral values to achieve their goals.

Through the metaphor of sleep, Macbeth’s internal conflict was used to explore the theme that unchecked ambition results in the destruction of people and causes negative consequences. A negative consequence seen by the metaphor of sleep in Macbeth’s internal conflict is that unchecked ambition can cause sickness and restlessness within people, harming their mental condition. At the beginning of the text, Macbeth first hears from the witches’ prophecy that he shall become king. However this does not give Macbeth the comfort which people believe comes out from power but instead starts an internal conflict between his moral values and his ambitious thoughts. While he knows it is unnatural and immoral, he begins thinking of murdering King Duncan of Scotland in order to secure his position as king. As result, Macbeth struggles to keep his moral values which are being tested by his growing desire for power. When Macbeth eventually does fall into carrying out his ambitious thoughts and kills King Duncan, he is unable to be at peace due to the fact that he knows he has committed a terrible crime against nature. As a response to his unnatural desires, he then becomes unprivileged of sleep, which is the ‘seasons of all natures’ and ‘great nature’s second course.’ After killing King Duncan, Macbeth tells his wife how he has murdered ‘the innocent sleep’, which is chief nourisher in life’s feast.’ This shows how by going against his moral values and killing King Duncan, Macbeth has murdered his sleep. Without sleep, Macbeth is unable to enjoy the luxuries of being king as he cannot rest his mind and his soul, which becomes weak and sick. Overall this shows how by trying to fulfill their ambitious thoughts, people grow ill and disturbed which causes their mental state to deteriorate. Rather than becoming satisfied, once people fulfill over-ambitious desires, their mental health becomes at risk of damaged. Being over ambitious doesn’t lead to happiness but instead can cause discomfort and uneasiness within people, leading to their downfall.

The imagery of blood used in Macbeth’s internal conflict is another way the theme of the destruction of unchecked ambition is explored, showing the negative consequences it can lead to. In the text the imagery of blood seen in Macbeth’s internal conflict becomes an expression for the guilt Macbeth feels as he struggles between his morality and his ambitious thoughts, to which he eventually succumbs to. This is a negative consequence which unchecked ambition can have on people; the ability to taint a person’s conscious with the everlasting effect of guilt. When Macbeth eventually does carry out his immoral plans to kill the king, instead of his internal conflict ending, it continues on as he is now in shock at the terrible deed he has committed. Initially Macbeth becomes so wrenched with guilt that he wonders if even ‘great Neptune’s ocean’ will be able to ‘wash this blood clean from his hand’ despite the fact that his wife tells him that ‘a little water clears them from their deeds’. Yet this is not the case for Macbeth as King Duncan’s death continues to haunt him. He becomes so ashamed in losing to his internal conflict between his morals and evil thoughts that for him ‘to know the deed were best not to know himself.’ This shows the negative consequences which unchecked ambition can have on people. Unchecked ambition has the ability to ruin a person’s inner value, which is more important than any other aspect of humans. When humans carry out actions to follow their selfish, ambitious desires, they become at risk of lowering their inner worth for themselves. Overall, inner value is much more precious and meaningful than any other qualities of humans as it is a person’s inner value which allows others and their own selves to appreciate and respect themselves.

The symbolism of killing children is another way which the internal conflict of Macbeth is used to explore the theme that unchecked ambition can lead to the destruction of people. By the end of the text, Macbeth is seen to have lost against his internal conflict between his moral values and thirst for ambition. Once Macbeth follows out his idea to kill the king, which he was initially hesitant about and against due to his moral values, his humanity starts to decay. While Macbeth was initially driven by the ambition to secure his position as king, his desire for power begins to grow. From this Macbeth becomes ruthless as after killing the king, the act of murder doesn’t seem so immoral to Macbeth. This makes it easier for him to later on attempt to kill Banquo and his son Fleance, whom Macbeth tried to kill as ‘thou shalt get kings though thou be none.’ However later Macbeth becomes so ruthless that he begins to plan murders that are not even directly helpful for his ambitions. When Macbeth hears from the witches to ‘beware Macduff’, even though ‘none from women shall harm Macbeth’, he decides to ‘give the edge of the sword to [Macduff’s] wife, his babes and all the unfortunate souls that traced him in his line.’ From killing the king, Macbeth now is so morally corrupt that he is able to kill innocent children without hesitation. From the symbolism of killing children, Macbeth is seen to have lost all innocence and purity as result of losing against his internal conflict for his immoral thoughts. Macbeth has become so morally courrpted that he is able to kill without doubt. This shows the extent that people will go to in order to fulfill their ambitions, to the point where they abandon all their moral values. Once people have gone against the moral line, they find it easier to continue acts of immorality in order for their own desires. This is how people end up losing their moral values for ambition, which is a never ending cycle of increasing greed from one ambition to another.

In the text ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare, Macbeth’s internal conflict between his moral values and his burning desire for power was used to explore the theme of the destruction of unchecked ambition. Through the metaphor of sleep, the imagery of blood and the symbolism of killing children, Macbeth’s internal conflict showed the negative consequences which unchecked ambition can have to people. With over ambition that is unchecked comes a lack of peace which causes restlessness and sickness within people’s souls, the heavy pressure of guilt on one’s conscious which has an everlasting effect and corruption within people’s humanity which results in a loss of moral values. Overall, this shows unchecked ambition has a negative effect on people which can eventually lead to the downfall of humans.

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