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The Downside of Ambition Explored in Macbeth

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Macbeth is a play written by Shakespeare that is set in eleventh century Scotland. It details the life of the Macbeth, a brave and noble man who is described as ‘Bellona’s bridegroom’ (1.3.54), specifically the events after he meets three supernatural creatures who tell him about his fate. The reader should see Macbeth as a great man whose ambition for security leads to his downfall. Ambitions and manipulation from his wife cause him to commit Duncan’s murder, but this particular murder does not relate to Macbeth’s downfall. This man’s ambition for the crown turns into ambition for security after he becomes king, causing him to kill more to keep his unrightful kingship safe. There are a lot of supernatural occurrences in this play, but Macbeth is not wholly influenced by the prophecies or apparitions. Shakespeare wanted the modern viewer to see how ambition and over-confidence can lead man to his downfall. Macbeth represents this perfectly.

The murder of Duncan was committed due to the urging of Lady Macbeth, after the Witches merely brought the thought to the mind. Macbeth’s ambition does not play a big part in this murder because it is just starting to develop, thus this does not lead to his downfall. Macbeth was not thinking about ruling Scotland until the Witches prophesied to him about it. Macbeth might have thought about becoming king in the past through his reference to ‘my dull brain was wrought with things forgotten’ (1.3.148-149), but he has pushed the thought out of his mind. Only after the prophecy does Macbeth start to think about the murder. Macbeth does not think lightly of his chance of becoming king after the second prophecy about becoming the thane of Cawdor comes true. Ambition, for the crown, is not a ma...

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...y decided by him. The Witches only prophesied and showed him apparitions; they did not force him to act on it. One can conclude that Shakespeare wanted the modern viewer to see how ambition and over-confidence can lead man to his downfall. By documenting the stages in Macbeth’s life before and after the murder, we see an initially great man who is killed because he was too involved in his world of ambitions. This play serves as a warning not to believe in everything that is said about the future, and to not be overcome by dark ambitions. Being aware of this, Macbeth is no longer only a play about a Scottish general whose actions drive him to his demise, but also a lesson to the viewers to not be overcome by their ambitions.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1915. Google Books. Web. 3 Sept. 2015.
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