The Tragedy of Ambition in Shakespeare's Macbeth

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The Tragedy of Ambition in Macbeth

Shakespeare's tragic play, Macbeth, shares common themes with many other stories and actual events. Many scandals, both historic and current, can be linked to greed, ambition, and abuse of power. Typically, the key figures are motivated by, and are inevitably destroyed by, ambition. This is also the case in Macbeth, where ambition leads to the downfall of the once great character, Macbeth.

William Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth, is a play about a man's ambition to become king. Since the first part of the witches' prophecy, "All hail Macbeth! Thane of Glamis"(I.i.52-53)! was already a fact, and the second part was fulfilled almost as soon as the witches pronounced it, "All hail Macbeth! Thane of Cawdor"(I.i.54-55), Macbeth begins to think the part, "All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King, / hereafter"(I.i.56-57)! might also come true because, "supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good" (I.i.151-152). Encouraged by his wife, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth murders King Duncan while he is a guest in Macbeth's castle. As a result, Macbeth becomes king of Scotland.

According to his critical essay on Macbeth, "Shakespeare and the Hazards of Ambition," Robert N. Watson comments asserts that ambition becomes the enemy of all life, especially that of the ambitious man himself, in this play (Watson 31). Shakespeare puts on displays a man's lifelong aspiration that seems to be fulfilled, but at the cost of his mental and emotional well-being. Macbeth's desire to gain wealth and status completely overpowers him, reducing him to something less than human. Macbeth becomes ever more ambitious as his wife goads him and the witches tease him with more prophecie...

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...them to walk away with a win. Sometimes this is found out and the athletes are stripped of their honors; other times, the drugs are found in the athlete's corpse. In either case, as with Macbeth, blind ambition can lead to a downfall, or even to death.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Dominic, C. Catherine. Shakespeare's Characters for Students. Detroit - New York - Toronto - London: Gale Research, 1997.

Garber, Marjorie. "Macbeth: The Male Medusa." Shakespeare's Late Tragedies, ed. Susan L. Wofford. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1996, 74-103.

Scott, W. Mark, ed. Shakespeare for Students. Detroit - Washington, D.C.: Gale research, 1992.

Staunton, Howard, ed. The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare. New York: Gramercy Books, 1979.

Watson, Robert N. Shakespeare and the Hazards of Ambition. Cambidge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984
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