Ambition: The key to self-destruction
Ambition is normally seen as a positive quality in an individual, but it can in
fact spiral out of control. In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, readers witness this
exact situation; ambition is what leads to Macbeth’s destruction. This trait can
also be referred to as his hamartia. The dangerous growth of ambition begins
when the witches present to him a prophecy, continues when Lady Macbeth
pushes him until, finally, he has built up enough to drive himself to destruction.
To begin with, the first instance in which ambition presents a danger is
when Macbeth gets encouraged by the witches’ supernatural promises. After he
hears the witches declare ...view middle of the document...
v. 51) to
become King, he is incapable of killing Duncan. His morality keeps him from doing
so for a little while. He also understands the dangerous power of his ambition. A
good example to show this is when Macbeth says, “I have no spur / To prick the
sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself / And falls
on th’other –“ (I. vii. 25-28). Lady Macbeth uses the ambition that exists in him to
convince him and push him to perform the task. The ambition continues on
growing in him. Macbeth is clearly past the point of no return when he states, “I am in blood; stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er” (III. V. 136-138). Macbeth, who has also killed Duncan’s
attendants, gotten Banquo murdered and gotten so out of hand, has now been
pushed far enough. Lady Macbeth has done her job – but the result is not quite
what she expected.
Lastly, we are hit that Macbeth has gained enough ambition to lead himself
to his own downfall. In fact, he doesn’t even need Lady Macbeth anymore; he
starts excluding her from his plans to “fix things”. Macbeth becomes feared by all
and is no longer the good character he was in the beginning. Ross speaks of the
vaulting ambition that can lead to this destruction when he says, “Gainst nature
still! Thriftless ambition, that wilt ravin… up thine own life’s means!” (II. Iv. 27-29).
At this point, he does not know it is Macbeth who has slain Duncan (he is
speaking of Duncan’s sons, who are said to have been the killers). His statement
applies to Macbeth nonetheless, because he is foreshadowing of...