Sunday, September 15, 2019

How Influential Is Macbeth’s Ambition? Essay

In ‘Macbeth’, a play set in Scotland, William Shakespeare wrote a tragedy of one man’s ambition. It is the shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and has a very fast pace. It tells the story of Macbeth’s ambition to be king, and the chain of damage he causes by pursuing this ambition. This ambition is the fatal flaw that causes his ultimate downfall. Once Macbeth’s lifelong ambition seems to be fulfilled, it causes consequences that his mind cannot handle. The play shows that one may get easily influenced by other people when he/she is over- ambitious. Ambition is something that everyone can identify with, and ‘Macbeth’ is a compelling study of how ambition can destroy you, so the audience are automatically interested in Macbeth’s character. When we are first introduced to Macbeth, he is already ambitious. But by being tempted to the extremes by two sources of external evil – the witches and his wife, his ambitions are only increased by making them seem like they could be a reality. The witches and Lady Macbeth, whom are both truly evil figures, influence Macbeth heavily throughout the play, and both exploit his ambition to become king. Their influence is the reason Macbeth’s ambition spirals so out of control and ends in tragedy. Our first impression of Macbeth is of a heroic, famous, popular man who is well liked by the king – In Act 1 Scene 2 Duncan refers to Macbeth as â€Å"noble Macbeth†. We first meet Macbeth in Act 1 Scene 3, when he and Banquo have arrived to meet the witches. Macbeth’s first words; â€Å"So foul and fair a day I have not seen† immediately associate him with the witches, because they say in Act 1 Scene 1; â€Å"Fair is foul and foul is fair†, so evil is brought to mind. Macbeth is connected with the supernatural in the audience’s mind from the onset. This is the first thing that is not consistent with Macbeth’s image of a war hero. In this scene, the witches declare that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and also king of Scotland. Macbeth strongly believes the witches words, especially after the first part of the prophecy comes true, he begins to think the second part may also come true. Their prophecies influence his ambition as seen in an aside, when he begins to consider murdering Duncan, the current king of Scotland. The aside follows closely Macbeth’s desires and doubts – he does not know whether these prophecies are good or bad, but he dearly wants to be king. â€Å"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?†. However, we can sense that Macbeth doesn’t actually want to murder Duncan, as he is horrified by these murderous thoughts. But Macbeth cannot stop thinking about what the witches have said, showing that he is considering the idea and is drawn to it, and that he has ambitions to be king within him already. In Act 1 Scene 5, Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth, also influences Macbeth’s ambition. She is revealed to be very driven and ruthless, and she clearly wants Macbeth to be king. She says; â€Å"Art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it†, meaning that Macbeth is not without ambition, but lack of ruthlessness that is needed to become king. She influences him to kill Duncan. She also encourages him to conceal his feelings, telling him to; â€Å"Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under’t†. Lady Macbeth is telling Macbeth to look respectful and welcoming and happy on the outside, but to hide his plotting and scheming and evils inside. Lady Macbeth’s ability to influence her husband leads us to believe that she is the primary cause for the destruction of Macbeth. She is the biggest encouragement to his ambition, since she uses her husbands trust to change her own future. In Act 1 Scene 7, evidence that Macbeth has a human side and is very worried is found in a long soliloquy – a speech where Macbeth is alone on stage so we can again see what Macbeth is thinking. He is worried about his eternal soul, and what his punishment will be in heaven if he kills Duncan. He thinks of reasons why he should not kill Duncan, and comes to the conclusion that the only reason he is doing it is because of his strong ambition. When Macbeth decides not to continue with their plan to murder Duncan, Lady Macbeth urges him to act on his desires and ambition or he will think of himself as a coward. She exploits his ambition by questioning it when she says; â€Å"Art thou afeard/ To be the same in thine own act and valour As thou art in desire?† She manipulates him further, calling him a coward and insulting his manhood, knowing that Macbeth will want to prove himself. This shows that Lady Macbeth is somewhat responsible for Macbeth’s downfall because, she drives him to go through with the murder and makes up the details of the plan to kill Duncan, while Macbeth was considering not even going through with the it. Although Macbeth had the thought of killing Duncan, he would not have acted on that thought unless Lady Macbeth persuaded him. Lady Macbeth is a sly person, able to manipulate her husband, and this ability to manipulate Macbeth makes her partially responsible for the destruction of Macbeth. She makes sure he will perform the deed by taking an active role in preparing for the murder: framing the two chamberlains and cleaning up afterwards. As Macbeth worries about failing to carry out the plan, Lady Macbeth tells him to screw up his courage and they wouldnt fail. Encouraged by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan who stays as a guest in his castle. Macbeth then becomes king of Scotland. Although Macbeth becomes king, he cannot have peace. His endless ambitions lead him into misery. Being obsessed by the witches’s prophecies, he even tries to control his future. He remembers the witches’s predictions that his friend Banquo’s sons will be kings of Scotland. Macbeth considers Banquo and his son Fleance as threats to his security as King. Although outwardly friendly to Banquo, Macbeth is jealous and fearful of him. Plagued by worry and to prevent this from happening, Macbeth orders three men to kill Banquo and his son. Macbeth’s desire to gain wealth and status completely overpowers him. He becomes more ambitious than his wife, and finds himself drained and drained of emotion, as we see in Act 3 Scene 1. â€Å"He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour to act in safety. There is none but he Whose being I do fear; and under him My genius is rebuked, as it is said Mark Antonys was by Caesar. Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown, And put a barren scepter in my gripe, Thence to be wrenched with an unlineal hand, No son of mine succeeding †. Throughout the play Macbeth is undermined by his insatiable ambition. Macbeth was at first reasonable enough to keep his ambition in check, however it eventually became too strong for even Macbeth and therefore over-powered him. Reasoning was abandoned after the decision to kill Duncan was made. At that point we see no serious questioning of the motives of the three witches when he is told of their cunning and misleading predictions. The decision to kill Duncan also signified the last serious attempt at moral contemplation on the part of Macbeth. Throughout the novel we see that the Macbeth’s ambition completely subverted their reasoning abilities and eventually lead to his downfall. Macbeth, whom initially was a very reasonable and moral man, could not hold off the lure of ambition. Macbeth’s excessive ambition motivates him to murder Duncan, and once the evil act is accomplished, he sets into motion a series of sinister events that ultimately lead to his downfall. We see this when he says; â€Å"I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er†. Macbeth is saying that he is so accustomed to the idea of murder that he will now be able to wade through a sea of blood. This is very ironic, as previously in the play, Macbeth had feared that he would never be able to wash the blood from Dunca’s murder off his hands. During the course of the play, Macbeth changes from a person with some moral sense to a man who will stop at nothing to get and keep what he wants. Although we are presented with his deterioration from good to evil, we can see his human side throughout the play, which makes it a tragedy. Once Macbeth’s ambition has ‘set the ball rolling’, events happen quickly in the play as it gathers momentum. This intense ambition leads to his downfall.

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