There are many different forms of battle, some of which cannot be won. When fighting against yourself, how is it possible to win? Shakespeare's fourth and shortest tragedy, Macbeth, is a fine example of how even the most romanticised heroes have to fight their innermost desires, when ambition rears its ugly head.
While no hero is perfect, betrayal and cold-blooded murder are not expected of Macbeth when he is first encountered in the play. After fighting a fierce and bloody battle for King and country, Macbeth, riding with his close companion, Banquo, is confronted by three witches who inform him of a prophecy, stating he will be King hereafter (I,iii,53). These witches are used by Shakespeare to foreground a major discourse in the play; the willingness of the human mind to accept appearances if they fit the mould of certain desires.
Upon hearing the prophecy, Macbeth writes home to his wife, signifying that he wants to believe the withered and wild creatures (I,iii,41). Lady Macbeth then formulates a scheming plot to kill the current King, but wishes Macbeth to commit the atrocity. Macbeth, torn between his loyalty to King, wife and self, internally wrangles with his desires and moral conscience.
If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly. If the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch,
With his surcease, success, that but this blow
Might be the be-all and end-all here. (ed 6-7)
But in these cases
We still have judgement here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which being taught return
To plague the inventor.(ed 10-11) He's here in double trust:
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed. Then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angles, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off. (ed 21-25)
I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which overleaps itself
And falls on the other. (ed. I,vii,1-27)
The loyal Macbeth, hero and willing servant once so sure of where his loyalty lay, is tempted to forsake it all in order to achieve his deepest desire: ultimate power. As he...