An Analysis of Macbeth’s Ambition
“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principals which direct them.” – Napoleon Bonaparte. Ambition can be defined as the desire and willingness to strive towards achievement or distinction, the motivation in one’s life, it is one of the key sources to success but ambition can blind one from determining what’s right and what’s wrong. On the contrary, driving ambition is the outright desire to achieve a certain goal, regardless of any possible consequences.
When ambition goes unhindered by a sense of morality and, humanity it can be a corrupting influence destroying people and, nations. In “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare Macbeth’s ambition led to destruction of himself. Through the use of dramatic elements such imagery and characterization Shakespeare conveys an important theme about ambition in Macbeth.
If a picture can tell a thousand words, than imagine the importance of an image upon a play such as Macbeth.
I was thought that in any literary work it is exceedingly important that the author can effectively manipulate a reader’s feelings towards a character from the inside out. In Macbeth, that achievement is accomplished beautifully by Shakespeare. Through his practical use of imagery, Shakespeare shows us a deeper look into how ambition can destroy man when unchecked by moral values. The use of imagery is widespread throughout “Macbeth”; it is most dominant in clothing imagery, light and darkness imagery, and blood imagery. Through these images, Shakespeare shows the development of Macbeth’s ambition. Using clothing imagery, Shakespeare develops Macbeth’s ambition. This is seen, as, imagery of clothing which shows us Macbeth’s ambition and the consequences thereof. We see this ambition, through Banquo, when he says, “New honours come upon him, Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mould but with the aid of use.”
( I, iii ) what this quote is representing is that new clothes do not fit our bodies, until we are accustomed to them just like a new pair of shoes they must be broken in to comfort. Throughout the entire play, Macbeth is constantly wearing new clothes that can one can interpret as titles, that are not rightfully his, and do not fit. Hence, his ambition. This ambition, as we see, is what leads to his demise. When Macbeth first hears the prophecy that he will be King, he does not see how it can be so, “to be king stands not within the prospect of belief” (I, iii,) However, Macbeth’s ambitious nature becomes more visible when he considers murdering King Duncan to claim the throne, “If it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly” (I, vii,). His ambition is extremely influenced by Lady Macbeth from questioning his mind hood to manipulating with his mind, she convenes him to commit this crime, and lay his claim to the throne.
He is hesitant Macbeth states, “I have bought Golden opinions from all sorts of people, who would be worn now in their newest gloss, not cast aside so soon” (I, vii,). Macbeth puts two things in comparison with one another; being recently named the Thane of Cawdor to a new set of clothes. His has doubt on whether or not he is ready to be king; hence he isn’t ready for a new set of clothes that do not lawfully belong to him. He believes that the “clothes” they have should be worn for a little while longer. Lady Macbeth doesn’t necessarily support that idea convincing Macbeth otherwise, and he process carrying out the murder of King Duncan. This is the start of his ambitious nature. As Macbeth first had beliefs of not being ready to be king drastically differs when he becomes king from the Macbeth that defeated the invading armies in the beginning of the play to a tyrant drunk in power due to his ambition.
This is evident when Angus says “his title hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief.” (V, ii,). His ambition drove him to attain new honours that do not fit him, as they belong to other people, through the use of imagery Macbeth is being pictured as a little, a deceitful and, dishonorable man, depraved and inhibited by garments. His paths of ambition that he took to become king lead him into being a vain, vicious, and pitiless man; climbing over the dead bodies of his trusted friends and kinsmen to a power he is unfit to hold and grasp With Shakespeare’s use of dark and, light imagery, we see an evolvement in Macbeth’s ambition becoming deeper and deeper. The imagery of light and darkness is associated to the conflict between good and evil, also connecting with symbolism in the play light represents good and darkness correlates with evil. The use of light and dark is seen all throughout the play; the witches, who symbolize evil as well, these three witches are the embodiment of evil itself, they set their first meeting with Macbeth for the “set if sun” (I, i).
In every scene the witches appear in there is a reality of darkness from lightning and, thunder to the natural darkness around them. In Act five scenes one, Macbeth refers to the witches as “black and midnight hags.” Banquo warns Macbeth against trusting the words of the witches, whom to Banquo are “The instruments of darkness.” (I, iii) In announcing Malcolm as the next hire to the thrown; his successor Duncan equalizes nobleness with the stars Macbeth, in an aside calls on the stars to “hide their fires” so that light will not be able to see his “black and deep desires.” (I, iv) this is when he starts to have the mind set and schema of what it is that must be done for him to attain kingship, his ambition is starting to drive him and fuel him to take on the indispensable actions needed. Ambition starts to take over and fill his mind, body and, soul and asking for the darkness of night to hide the evil thoughts that are infusing his mind.
In act one scene four, Lady Macbeth calls on “thick night” to wrap itself in a thick blanket of darkness so that she will not be seen in the act of a dirty deed, for the night to make her stronger and for her womanly features to be thrown aside in order for her to purse the crown by evil means. Before Banquo is murdered, Macbeth calls on the “sealing night” to “Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day” (III, ii). He says, “Good things of day begin to droop and drowse while nights black agents to their prey do rouse” darkness convers his evil deeds. After Duncan’s murder Ross ask the old man why “darkness does the face of earth entomb, when living light should kiss it” implying that evil temporarily dominates good but not in the long run. In act five sense five Macbeth equates light as a “brief candle” and of life as “a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage… it is a tale” he also makes a statement that can be viewed as his reflection of his awareness that the sun or light will always gain the upper hand in its clash with darkness and evil, Macbeths ambidextrousness and, ambition are the agents of darkness that lead him to his ruin.
Evil and darkness are written all over this play, Macbeth no longer needs something to be of inspiration to him to further his ambition he keeps on going and going until he gets tired and morning comes again, not for him he keeps lady Macbeth in the dark hiding secrets and his plans from her she soon begins to look like that innocent flower without the serpent underneath who wishes to go back in time to tame that ambition both her and her husband hand to control it, to have saved Duncan’s life the darkness in Lady Macbeths soul is replaced with regret. In act five, scene one, Lady Macbeth’s guilt starts to prey on her causing her to sleep walk, her gentlewoman says “Why, it stood by her: she has light by her continually, tis her command.”
Lady Macbeth needs the light by her as she is sleeping because she fears the consequences of the evil she has done, the darkness is what she fears, the darkness from her dirty deeds puts her state of mind in a dark place she tries to use the candle as this false light to keep her stigma, and culpability away from destroying her. The light is a representation of the peace, and truth she wants back into her life. Macbeth was innocent at first, however when act three, scene two comes around the block; he is no longer dependent on his wife’s pushiness to lead him on, but on the darkness of his own driving ambition
Shakespeare uses an abundant amount of brutal imagery in correlation to blood to develop Macbeth as a character and his growing ambition from start to finish as Macbeth is in a deep battle with himself; his innate prestige fighting with his ambition. All humans know that blood is closely associated to violence, however in Macbeth blood comes to symbolize something greater; guilt and ambition. Deaths and brutal killings happen very fast, the bodies are discarded but the blood of the innocent do not wash away, instead the blood remains on the hands of evil, it stains. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth can never wash the blood; guilt of their evil deeds from their hands it is impossible.
The imagery of blood in Macbeth is important because it signifies what the innocent victim’s life has left behind, also symbolizing how true humanity and morality in Macbeth has been lost. In shedding the pure blood of the “God” like Duncan and the loyal Banquo, Macbeth’s hands have become stained with the sins of his bloody dirty deeds. Macbeths ambition lead him to transform in to humane that lacks a clean heart, with a dark soul, no compassions, it leads him to go from wanting power to deepening on it and needing it, his vaulting ambition drives him to places where no human with a good soul would ever want to go. A deep, dark, and, scary place full of killing, blood, pain, and guilt. As consequence of all their evil doings through their guilt Macbeth sees ghosts of Banquo and Lady Macbeth envisions spots of Duncan’s blood that will not wash away “Out, damned spot! Out, I say… Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him” (IV, iii).
With the use of blood imagery we see how Macbeth through his ambition goes from a loyal and noble man whom was well respected at the beginning of the play, to an ominous, disreputable man in the end. Macbeth went from a thane to a king very quickly as a thane he was very respected and honorable as Duncan said “O valiant cousin, worthy gentlemen!” (I, ii), but with his kingship came change “Devilish Macbeth, by many of these trains hath sought to win me into his power” (IV, iii) through blood the transformation is clear… Macbeth bleeds blood honorably in war defending his country; Scotland “For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name— Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel, Which smoked with bloody execution, Like velour’s minion carved out his passage till he faced the slave;”
(I,ii) Macbeth’s next encounter with blood is when it is upon the dagger that he hallucinates of, while contemplating on killing Duncan, through this imagery of blood Macbeth convinces his mind to commit the deed right after the heinous murder of Duncan through blood we see the great change in Macbeth that has occurred, when he kills two innocent souls. “O yet I do repent me of my fury, that I did kill them.” (II, iii). He slays the guards with no hesitation or empathy showing us that Macbeth has lost control over himself, his is drunk in his ambition and will not stop no matter what no longer he can be controlled by Lady Macbeth or anybody else for that matter. Through the imagery of blood one can infer that ambition is the driving force of this play, Macbeth presents ambition as a dangerous quality for any human to have, and ambition goes hand and hand with morality and humanity which Macbeth lost over the course of the play through his multiple evil doings. Having a moral code and humanity is needed and very valuable in positions of power than sightless, dark ambition.
How does Shakespeare use soliloquies to present the characters of Macbeth and Hamlet? A soliloquy is a comprehensive and unremitting dialogue spoken by a single person. The speaker is presenting […]
“How does Shakespeare present Macbeth as a disturbed character in Act 1 of Macbeth?” William Shakespeare wrote the play “Macbeth” in 1606. It, as the title suggests, follows the story […]
Traditional literature, such as the works of Shakespeare, often leaves the reader with unanswered questions. The whole style behind every rendition of Shakespeare’s Macbeth can be various due to the […]
Say not in grief; “he is no more”, but live in thankfulness that he was. Kings men and friends, today, with heavy hearts we bid adieu to a remarkable man. […]
Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in the 16th century as tribute to king James the first. At the start of the text king Duncan made me believe that anyone could be a […]
The tragedy of Macbeth, written by William Shakespeare in the 1600s, continues to be one of Shakespeare’s darkest, most powerful tragedies. The play, set in Scotland, depicts the rise and […]
The stories of “Macbeth” and Frankenstein are two texts depicting the life and tragic flaws of the two main characters, which bring them to an eventual downfall. Despite the different […]
Lady Macbeth’s Unsex Me Soliloquy Analysis In 1.5. 36-53 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth delivers a sullen soliloquy which expresses her ambitious yet murderous thoughts, invoking dark spirits to, first, […]
Ambition is a strong feeling of wanting to be successful in achieving a goal (Encarta Dictionary). An example of an ambition is in the play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare. The […]
“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principals which direct them.” – […]