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Driving Ambition in Shakespeare's Macbeth Essay

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Ambition can be defined as the desire and willingness to strive towards achievement or distinction. On the contrary, driving ambition is the outright desire to achieve a certain goal, regardless of any possible consequences. In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, driving ambition caused Macbeth and his wife to murder King Duncan because of their desire for power. In an attempt to retain his power Macbeth also murdered Banquo and Macduff’s family. Through both of these cruel actions, Macbeth and his wife displayed that they are not concerned about the cost of the deed, but only final result that is achieved. This not only results in their downfall, but also has many harmful consequences to other characters. In Macbeth, Shakespeare suggests that driving ambition often causes one to ignore the means and focus only on the final goal; this causes one to participate in actions that have unfathomable consequences for both oneself and for others.
Macbeth’s driving ambition to become king leads him to murder King Duncan. Once Macbeth learns of the witches’ prophesy that he will be King of Scotland, Macbeth immediately assumes that he must murder Duncan, the current king. Macbeth’s driving ambition to fulfill this prophesy causes him to believe that “If it were done, when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well / It were done quickly” (I, vii, 1-2). Macbeth is reluctant to murder King Duncan, because Duncan was a gentle, generous, and trustworthy king. On the contrary, Macbeth believes that if he will not be held accountable for murdering Duncan, he should murder Duncan shortly. This demonstrates that Macbeth is not overly concerned about the act of murdering Duncan, but only concerned about the final result. Thus, Macbeth’s driving ambition cau...


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...esult in Macbeth’s downfall as a respected nobleman, and ultimately, his death. Lady Macbeth’s driving ambition to assist her husband in becoming king caused her to encourage Macbeth’s evil actions, which led to a guilt-ridden conscience and finally her death. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s driving ambition not only caused their downfall, but also severely impacted Malcolm and Macduff. Malcolm lost his father and had to flee the country, while Macduff must live knowing that his innocent family was brutally murdered. Driving ambition is the desire to achieve a goal, irrespective of any cost or outcome to others. Although ambition is a desirable character quality, driving ambition often leads one to his downfall, since one is not concerned about their impact on the well being of others. Thus, one’s downfall or even death may be the true cost of driving ambition.


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