The Tantalus Cup of Ambition

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Today’s world associates ambition as a good characteristic to withhold in order to succeed. But ambition and setting goals, even though both may lead to success, are totally different concepts. One will set plans and steps to take to reach goals; but when ambition is rooted in one’s mind, the means may neither be as significant nor present than the ends. Shakespeare emphasized the latter in his tragic play, Macbeth, by criticizing how Macbeth fulfilled his prophecy to become king of Scotland without a moral plan. Shakespeare manipulates the development of main antagonists to validate his view of ambition being evil.
Macbeth’s hallucinations symbolize the dangerous aspect of unchecked ambition. In the events preceding King Duncan’s murder, Macbeth sees “A dagger of the mind, a false creation / Proceeding from the heat-oppressèd brain” that leads him to King Duncan’s room (Shakespeare Act II Scene iii Line 50-51). Macbeth is fearful and guilty of the impending murder, but with his “fatal vision” that is not “sensible / To feeling as to sight”, he musters enough audacity to commit (Act II Scene iii Line 47-48). Macbeth’s ambition prompts him to not only imagine objects, but also to execute crimes out of invitations: “I go, and it is done. / The bell invites me.” (Act II Scene iii Line 75). The invitation from the bell signifies ambition’s annexation of Macbeth’s mind, and throughout the tragedy, it progressively becomes the only thing in Macbeth’s “conscience”.
When ambition makes Macbeth reckless, ambition in Lady Macbeth led to deterioration of her mental health. Shakespeare made sure to point out that ambition is also dangerous in its ability to terrorize in its aftermath. By Act V, Lady Macbeth’s ambition has fleeted; horror ...

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... good characteristic to withhold. He wanted the future to learn from Macbeth, and from his other works, such as Julius Caesar, where ambition was used by the main antagonists and characters to achieve invincibility. If Shakespeare’s argument of ambition being evil is valid and its ability to ruin even the most virtuous and honorable men and women, then Malcolm, Macduff, Fleance and all other characters are capable of repeating mistakes that Macbeth made, if the play had continued on. Humanity in today’s world is also capable of replicating the atrocities in Macbeth. Tantalus must break the siphon that drains away conscience and morals to be satisfied, to be proud of his achievements, and to keep ambition at bay. Then, and only then, Tantalus’s thirst will be truly quenched.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. New York: Washington Square Drama, 1992. Print.
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