From Ambition to Insanity
By: Sahar Mann
Ambition is defined as a strong desire to do or achieve something.
Yet if one is overly ambitious, they become obsessed with their goal and
do everything in their strength to protect it. When ambition is used to
gain power it is abused and corrupted, causing destruction in one's
mind and the natural order. William Shakespeare explores the concept
of unchecked ambition in his play Macbeth which reveals power thirsty
humans as they overuse ambition, sacrifice lives to protect their power,
and at the end suffer extreme consequences.
Macbeth's uncontrollable ambition to gain power began with a
prophecy given to him by the witches. The prophecy "All hail, Macbeth,
that shalt be king. . . ." (1.3.50) Unlocks his lust for this grand title. Given
this prophecy, Macbeth feels entitled to the position of the king of
Scotland. However, when Duncan appoints Malcolm Prince of
Cumberland, Macbeth begins to have "black and deep desires." (1.4.50).
He must overcome this choice made by Duncan, and immediately
Macbeth thinks of murder to obtain the role of king. Yet Lady Macbeth
fears Macbeth ". . .is too full o' th' milk of human kindness. . . ." (1.5.17)
to act on these dark thoughts. Instead she asks spirits to
"Stop up th' access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose. . . ." (1.5.44-46)
Lady Macbeth asks nature to take away her emotions so she can
perform cruel deeds to achieve the power she is striving for without
feeling any guilt towards her actions. The great lust for power held by
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth leads them to act recklessly towards their
Once Macbeth and Lady Macbeth gain the power they desired,
they continued their sadistic actions to maintain this power. After
murdering Duncan, Macbeth does not hesitate to organize these cruel
actions because he no longer consists of human emotions; "[his] nature
seems dead. . . ." (2.1.51). His vicious actions to preserve his power
begin with the murder...