Ambition can force a naturally virtuous man to be enveloped by evil. Macbeth, from William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, began as a courageous Scottish general who fought for King Duncan with no mercy. But once the witches lured Macbeth with the possibilities of his prophecies, ambition took over and drove him to become power hungry and greedy. On his journey to becoming king, his noble qualities contradicted his tragic flaws. He was courageous and valorous yet struggled with his superstition and ambition. His ambition overwhelmed the rest of his qualities, and led to his downfall as king. He’s not the first to struggle with ambition, it can be observed in day to day life.
In Macbeth, ambition was intertwined as each of the character’s flaws. For example, Macbeth was given three prophecies from the Weïrd witches. They claimed Macbeth would become Thane of Cawdor and, eventually, the king. His eagerness appears early on when he begins thinking about the possibilities that come with his prophecies. Macbeth describes that, “two truths are told as happy prologues to the swelling act of th’imperial theme (I.iii.140-141.). “The “happy prologue” is the prophecy where he becomes the “Thane of Cawdor.” Since this rendered true, now then assumed the third prophecy would become true, where he becomes king. The discussion of “the swelling act of th’imperial theme” is in fact addressing the larger matter of Macbeth’s ambition. He realizes that in order to fulfill his prophecy of being king, he will have to commit violent acts, such as killing King Duncan. This quote hints at his growing ambition and foreshadows his later actions even though, currently, he shows weariness about acting upon the prophecy since he does not want to commit any violent acts.
As Macbeth began formulating his plan to kill King Duncan, he began to second guess himself. However, his ambition overwhelmed his lack of security. He compared his motivation to kill Duncan and his ambition to a rider and his horse. Macbeth explained, “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’other (I.vii. 25-28).” He describes being unable to take action as being a rider not being able to use his spurs to make his horse go faster. He does, however, have ambition, which he compares to a horse and its rider overestimating their ability to leap over an obstacle, and ending up falling down. This quote explains the tension between Macbeth not wanting to enact on his plan, and his acknowledgement that his ambition has led him down a treacherous path.
Ambition is a menacing trait. It can be seen in many crimes of today. For example, in a recent court case Commonwealth vs. Michelle Carter, Michelle Carter, 17, convinced her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, 18, to commit suicide. She texted him things such as “the time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it,” and “you better not be bull shitting me and saying you’re going to do this then purposely get caught.” Similarly to Macbeth, her ambition led to her wanting someone dead. She was determined to succeed in having Roy commit suicide, and she continued to taunt and encourage him until he would do so. This ambition eventually led to him locking himself inside his truck and dying of carbon monoxide. As usual, there were consequences for her ambition, and she was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and was sent to prison for 12 months.
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