Ambition is the force and desire that drives an individual to gain power. This strong craving for authority is often seen as a positive trait, but when ambition gets out of control it can ultimately lead to one’s moral disintegration. In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the brilliant writer reveals how this form of ambition can completely ruin every aspect of a person’s life. Macbeth’s unrestrained ambition eventually leads him to dishonesty, betrayal of his friends, and loss of compassion for the people around him.
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The continual dishonesty and deceit displayed by Macbeth is a result of his desire and ambition to be all powerful. Macbeth shows these qualities by lying about killing Duncan’s guards and then blaming the guards for the murder of Duncan, when the assailant was actually Macbeth. The deceiving man lies to Macduff when he claims, “For ruin’s wasteful entrance: there, the murderers, / Steeped in the colors of their trade, their daggers / Unmannerely breeched with gore” (2.3. 112-114). Macbeth explains how the murderers of Duncan lay dead on the floor with bloody daggers in hand, which is completely false. He lies to Macduff and the nobles by putting the suspicion on the groomsmen, and taking the blame off of himself so that he can remain in favor to become king. Once again, Macbeth shows this negative change in character by lying to Banquo. Speaking to Banquo and his son, Macbeth says, “When therewithal we shall have cause of state / Craving us jointly. Hie you to horse. Adieu, / Till you return at night” (3.1. 34-35). Here, Macbeth states that Banquo will return after his ride, when in reality Macbeth organized for his murder to take place. The elimination of Banquo and his son gets rid of Macbeth’s suspicion and allows him to more sufficiently retain the crown.
Macbeth commits bloody acts and betrays his fellow lords in order to quench his thirst for power. By assassinating Duncan, the reader realizes that the once honorable man is now willing to unforgivable things to stay on top. Shortly after the murder of Duncan, Macbeth informs his wife, “I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?” (2.2. 14). The king realized that the only way he could step into complete power was to eliminate the obstacle that was preventing him from doing so, which was Duncan’s presence as king. This bloody act tells the reader that Macbeth has turned nearly savage as a result of his unrestrained ambition. The king displays the ultimate form of betrayal by having Banquo murdered. After the assassination of Banquo has occurred, the Murderer says to Macbeth, “My Lord, his throat is cut; / That I did for him.” (3.4. 16). Macbeth hired people to commit the murder for him, and ordered the Murderers to do it in such a way by slitting the innocent man’s throat. Macbeth enjoys Banquo as a person, but is worried that his faithful character will exist as a threat to his power, and that he would stop Macbeth from taking the throne if he found out about Macbeth’s killing of Duncan. As a result of this suspicion and paranoia, Macbeth takes the life of Banquo to ensure that he will be a problem. The king’s unrestrained ambition leads him to the betrayal and murder of his friends.
Through his continual longing for authority, the king has lost all compassion for others, and no longer cares about anyone but himself. Through his actions, Macbeth even expresses a loss of benevolence towards his wife. While speaking with Lady Macbeth’s doctor, Macbeth asks, “Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased, / Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, / Raze out the written troubles of the brain,” (5.3. 40-42). Lady Macbeth is deathly ill under an extremely serious medical condition. While Macbeth speaks with his wife’s doctor, he insists on asking if her mental state can be fixed because she has a diseased mind. By disrespecting his wife, the reader notices how Macbeth does not really care about his wife or her illness. Rather, he is more focused on the war and making sure that his rise to power is going as planned. Macbeth also shows his lack of compassion by murdering the wife and children of Macduff. Macbeth says in anger, “The castle of Macduff I will surprise; / Seize upon Fife; give to th’ edge o’ th’ sword / His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls” (4.1. 150-152). Speaking with insanity, Macbeth states how he will attack the castle of Macduff and kill his family. This immoral, bloody act was committed because Macbeth wanted revenge on Macduff for fleeing to England. Macbeth felt that this was not right, so he diecided to have Macduff’s wife and children murdered. Macbeth kills these innocent people as a result of his loss of compassion which is a product of his uncontrolled ambition. Macbeth has lost compassion for other people due to his eagerness for power.
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Macbeth’s hunger for authority led him to become dishonest, a traitor, and lose all sense of compassion for others. Macbeth’s ambition and strong desire for success eventually gets the best of him and causes him to act in foolish and desperate ways. Ambition is seen as a positive quality in character, but when it gets out of hand it can result in immoral and unethical actions being made.
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