The Dominant Theme Of Ambition In Shakespeare’s Macbeth

1277 words - 6 pages

The Shakespearean play, Macbeth, is one of the most famous works of English literature to have ever been written. It is also Shakespeare’s shortest and bloodiest tragedy. The ruthless nature of the plot can be attributed directly to the overflow of ambition in the play’s characters. The theme of ambition is the driving force of the play as it has the greatest effect on the story itself. The impact of ambition is exhibited through the actions of Lady Macbeth, Macduff, and predominantly, in the main character, Macbeth.
Although Macbeth’s dreadful tyranny is largely credited to his own ambition, it actually all starts with Lady Macbeth’s iniquitous hopes for power. When Macbeth first hears his ...view middle of the document...

It is easy to see that Lady Macbeth’s devious plotting made it possible for Macbeth to capture the throne. It is her ambition leaked into Macbeth that causes Scotland to end a period of good rule and fairness and to enter a period of oppression and death. Despite being concealed, as no character would suspect that a woman could be so insidious, it is still Lady Macbeth that triggers the malevolence in Scotland. Her ambitions are the roots of all Macbeth’s tyranny, the root of the play’s entire conflict.
Following Macbeth’s loathsome rise to power, Macduff demonstrates the dominance of ambition in his heroic pursuits to thwart the oppressive reign. From the start of the play, Macduff stands as a lone nobleman opposing Macbeth’s rise to power. Eventually, Macbeth is named the king, and Macduff’s life is put in danger. He flees from his home, leaving his wife and children behind for better or worse. Macbeth’s tyranny ultimately brings the death of Macduff’s family which had been completely innocent. When Macduff hears of this slaughter, he blames himself. He cries, “Sinful Macduff, they/were killed because of you! As wicked as I am,/they were slaughtered because of me, not/because of anything they did. May God give their/souls rest” (4.3.230-234). The pain of this grave loss causes Macduff to grow a vindictive aspiration to kill Macbeth. His sole purpose becomes to kill Macbeth so that the corruption in Scotland can be extinguished. When Macduff confronts Macbeth at the end of the play, he tells him, “…Either thou, Macbeth,/Or else my sword, with an unbuttered edge/I sheathe again undeeded. There thou shouldst be;/By this great clatter, one of greatest note/Seems bruited. Let me find him, Fortune,/And more I beg not” (5.8.23-28). Macduff has no motivation for personal gain. Instead, he is only driven by an ambition that sprouted from his desire for revenge. If not for this powerful ambition, Macduff would not have personally encountered Macbeth, and there would be no one left to remove him from the throne. Essentially, Macduff’s vengeful ambition killed the protagonist and brought the play to a close.
The theme of ambition is most emphatically epitomized by the play’s main character, Macbeth. In the beginning of the play, when the witches prophesy to him, he is amazed that the throne of Scotland is promised to him. His heart becomes gripped by his ambition to have more power from this point on. Initially, he asks himself, “If good, why do I yield to that suggestion/Whose horrid image doth unfix my...

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