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Ambition and Guilt in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

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This essay is going to talk about the ways in which William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, wrote in 1606, is stil valued today in the forms of ambition and guilt. Three hundred years later ‘Macbeth’ is still valued and this is because everybody feels ambitious and guilty at some point in their lives and Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ has captivated this beautifully for the past, present and future audiences. The audience’s react so well to plays like ‘Macbeth’ as they have felt the way the characters feel just in simpler forms, and they feel like it is okay if they relate to fictional characters.

Ambition is a main part of Macbeth and in everyday life, as everybody has a strong desire to achieve and do major things in life. The role of ambition is mainly played by Macbeth when he wants to become king after he hears the witches’ prophecies, in Act 1, Scene 3, he states that ‘two truths are told as happy prologues to the swelling act’ this means Macbeth is realizing that the witches’ prophecies are right and he starts to wonder if he will become king this is evident in life when things start coming true after you dream or think about them. In Act 1, Scene 7, Macbeth says the lines ‘I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which overlaps itself and falls on th’other’ he uses this to describe being unable to motivate himself to take action by comparing himself to a rider who cannot use his spurs to motivate his horse to go faster. In Act 3, Scene 1, after becoming king Macbeth starts to feel restless and insecure and he states that ‘to be thus is nothing, but to be safely is thus’ this means that he is afraid to lose his position and is afraid as he has no child to take over when he dies, this quote also reveals that murdering Duncan has not brought any piece to him.

Shakespeare has also made guilt play a major role in Macbeth, this is one of the main reason the play still being valued as people feel guilty at some point in their life. Shakespeare is also teaching his audience that doing something bad and having a guilty conscience has some bad consequences. After Macbeth kills King Duncan he goes back to Lady Macbeth and says to her in Act 2, Scene 2, ‘will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?’ this implies that even though he has murdered people before, he feels bad, this is like when somebody does something bad and they cannot change that it happened. Macbeth also feels guilty after he gets the murders to kill Banquo, this is shown when he sees Banquo’s ghost at the banquet in Act 3, Scene 4, and says ‘thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold’, he says those words as he is trying to convince himself that Banquo is not actually dead and that he was not having a vision. One of the most famous guilt lines in this play is when Lady Macbeth has gone mad in Act 5, Scene 5, she says ‘what’s done cannot be undone’, and this is meaning that the act of violence and death cannot be undone. This reinforces that guilt and whatever you do cannot be undone.

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Ambition And Guilt In Shakespeare’s Macbeth. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from
“Ambition And Guilt In Shakespeare’s Macbeth.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021,
Ambition And Guilt In Shakespeare’s Macbeth. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Mar. 2023].
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