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The Alternate Path to Ambition Through the Macbeth Play

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The play Macbeth written by William Shakespeare showcases a multitude of different characters with distinct traits, ambition standing common to most. Most let their ambition and desires take over however, a character that prioritizes his conscience over his ambition is Banquo. 

Banquo is shown to be a noble, loyal and prudent man who shows the alternate path of ambition. Like the rest, he also has ambitious thoughts but controls them, choosing loyalty to King Duncan over infidelity: “Hold, take my sword/Merciful powers/Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature/Gives way to in repose.”This line suggests that Banquo has had ambitious thoughts about killing the king himself but refrains himself because he chooses to be loyal to the king rather than gaining power to benefit himself. In a way, Banquo is an important character in the play because he shows the alternate path that Macbeth could have chosen if it weren’t for ambition. He is also a noble and selfless man showing his nobility in his response when Macbeth proposes reward to him if Banquo helps him in the future: “So I lose none/ In seeking to augment it, but still keep/ My bosom franchised and allegiance clear/ I shall be consell’d” . Banquo’s response clearly shows how he stands his ground, not influenced by what others say prioritizing his own beliefs and conscience. Furthermore, when Duncan greets both Banquo and Macbeth, he says: “Welcome hither:/ I have begun to plant thee, and will labour/ To make thee full of growing. Noble Banquo,/ That hast no less deserved, nor must be known/ No less to have done so: let me enfold thee/ And hold thee to my heart.”Although Banquo has shown bravery that equaled Macbeth, while Macbeth is honoured with the title of Thane of Cawdor, Banquo is only treated with the King’s love and gratitude. This situation would induce jealousy in anyone but Banquo shows his noble character being satisfied with whatever little or big is bestowed upon him.

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 In addition, Banquo shows his character as being wary, wise and logical when he and Macbeth encounter the witches. While we see Macbeth’s inner turmoil, Banquo stays calm and collected thinking logically instead of letting ambition take over: “But ’tis strange/ And oftentimes, to win us to our harm/The instruments of darkness tell us truths/Win us with honest trifles, to betray us/ In deepest consequence.” 

 Banquo is aware that agents of evil often tell half truths to eventually lead to destruction. Instead of letting the witches’ words mess with his mind, he controls his ambitions and can’t be easily manipulated. Unlike many characters in the play, Banquo chooses his conscience over his ambition and can show us the alternate path to ambition. 

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