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Essay/Term paper: Macbeth: ambition is root of all evil

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Macbeth

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Macbeth: Ambition is Root of All Evil

It is said that ambition is the key to success. In the case of Shakespeare's
Macbeth, it is the key to his downfall. He is presented with the ambition by
the supernatural power of the witches. Lady Macbeth, his wife, then pushes the
ambition. After the murdering of Duncan, Macbeth has gained enough ambition
himself to cause his own destruction. We can see a clear building of desire
throughout the play.

Macbeth is first introduced to the limits of his power and his ambitions by the
witches, who greet him with three titles: Thane of Glamis, which Macbeth is
fully aware of; Thane of Cawdor, which is true at this point, but which
Macbeth has not been told of; and King, which has not yet become true. The
witches are the ones who plant the actual idea of killing Duncan into Macbeth's
mind. It must first be understood that in the Elizabethan Age, the witches
would have been taken very seriously, and that witchcraft was a part of their
culture. King James even wrote a book on the subject. Shakespeare foreshadows
Macbeth's corruption through his meeting with these three witches. (I,iii).
His thoughts are compared to Banquo's, whose morality, it seems, will not let
himself turn to evil. Banquo is skeptical of the witches, and tries to warn his
friend, who seems to accept what they say. Without this supernatural prophesy,
the thought of killing the king would have never crossed Macbeth's mind. The
thought is then reinforced when Macbeth learns that he is Thane of Cawdor, as
the witches foretold (I,iii).

Now that Macbeth has the thought of becoming king inside of him, his is still
not capable of killing Duncan. His morality keeps him from performing any such
task. He is also fully aware of the destructive power of his ambitions. In act
I, scene vii, he even tells us:

I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other -

He knows this will be his downfall. His actions are only pursued by the
persuasiveness of his wife, Lady Macbeth, who is even more ambitious than
Macbeth himself. She is so ambitious that she is willing to sacrifice her
femininity and all human feelings for her desire for power (I,v). The action's
of his own wife are crucial to Macbeth's downfall. She strengthens his
ambitions and destroys his nobility.

Once the death of Duncan has occurred Macbeth is gaining even more ambition and
desire for power. Lady Macbeth will soon become less and less part of Macbeth's
downfall. He soon becomes very paranoid. He feels he must kill Banquo in
order to be safe (III,i). The next victims are Macduff's family (IV,ii). At
this point his paranoia has turned into black-heartedness, and he will do
anything at all to keep himself safe. Each murder kills more and more of
Macbeth's morality, and builds his ambitions. At the point in which his wife
dies, Macbeth seems to care very little, and after her death, seems not to care
at all.

Macbeth is, as expected, overthrown and killed. Through his own ambitions, the
ambitions of his wife, and the prophesies of the witches, Macbeth has caused
his own destruction and downfall. We can now clearly see that ambition not
achieved through our own ability leads to destruction.


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