Ambition in Macbeth
Ambition is often the driving force in one’s life. It is supposed to be the motivating factor that drives one towards success. Society also deems ambition a necessary quality of their leader. It can be said that Macbeth exhibits this quality of ambition. He is the strong, valiant warrior who has won in battle and brought victory to Scotland. However, Macbeth’s quest to acquire more power-his ambition-ultimately leads to his tragic demise. How can one allow himself to be destroyed by such a thing? Before Duncan’s murder, Macbeth questions and second guesses his ambitious tendencies and actions. Despite his anxiety, he succumbs to these tendencies and finds himself in an increasingly precarious situation, with his back against the wall and growing ever closer to his almost inevitable end.
There is no doubt that Macbeth is a noble man. He risked everything he had to protect Scotland from Norway, and single-handedly took down the treacherous Thane of Cawdor:
“Till that Bellona’s bridegroom, lapped in proof,
Confronted him with self-comparisons,
Point against point, rebellious arm ‘gainst arm,
Curbing his lavish spirit: and, to conclude,
The victory fell on us.” (1.2.54-57)
Macbeth was seen as a brave and noble man by all of his peers, and even King Duncan himself. This is why Duncan proclaimed “What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won,” (1.2.67) referring to the fact that he named Macbeth to be Thane of Cawdor. One would think that after such accomplishment and high standing that Macbeth would be satisfied with his position. However, this is not the case.
It is obvious that Macbeth has ambition, as most people who are in power do. In fact, ambition is often a necessary quality of people in such high standing as Macbeth is. However, Macbeth’s ambition does not just drive him to do great things. It in fact controls him:
“I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on th’ other---” (1.7.25-28)
Macbeth clearly realizes that his ambition is too great. It is about to make him do something that he knows is wrong, and is against everything he has supposedly stood for, yet he also knows there is nothing he can do to stop it.
Macbeth second guesses his intent to murder Duncan before he commits the crime:
“We will proceed no further in this business:
He hath honored me of late, and I have bought
golden opinions from all sorts of people.” (1.7.31-33)
He realizes that maybe he is just better off in the position he is in right now. Maybe he should wait and acquire his higher standing in a noble way. However, through the persuasion of Lady Macbeth, he commits the murder anyway.
After the murder, one can see a clear shift in Macbeth. It was as if his killing of [next page]