Insecurities, Ambition, and Guilt as The Causes of Macbeth's Downfall

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1418 |

Pages: 2|

8 min read

Published: Jan 15, 2019

Words: 1418|Pages: 2|8 min read

Published: Jan 15, 2019

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Causes of Macbeth's downfall
  3. Macbeth's insecurities
    Macbeth's ambition
    Macbeth's guilt
  4. Conclusion


In media like books, movies, plays, etc. there is always a reason behind why a specific character goes from having a powerful and a wealthy status to a weak status with guilt and despair within them. In the play, Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Macbeth, a Scottish general , hears a prophecy that one day he will be King of Scotland according to three witches he met. Consumed by ambition and persuaded by his wife, Macbeth kills the former king of Scotland and takes the throne for himself and by the end of the story, Macbeth is full of guilt and left with no hope which all leads to his death. Macbeth's downfall to being a weak person with a sad and despair personality is caused by many reasons throughout the play. Macbeth's misery and eventual downfall are caused by his insecurities, ambition, and his guilt.

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Causes of Macbeth's downfall

Macbeth's insecurities

Macbeth is satisfied with his life and he did not think about becoming king of Scotland or has any intentions to. However, after hearing the witches' prophecies, “All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!” (Macbeth 1.3.50) “All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!” (Macbeth 1.3.51) “All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Scotland!” (Macbeth 1.3.52), Macbeth becomes somewhat drawn into the prophecy. He also shows interest in them when he commands the witches to tell him more about the prediction, “Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more…” (Macbeth 1.3.72-80). This explains how Macbeth starts this other side of him which is to become a betrayer. He believes in the witches' words without any questioning and becomes very excited. However, this excitement leads him to become impatient, which is one of the causes of his downfall.

Another insecurity of Macbeth is shown in act 1, scene 7 when Macbeth falls for Lady Macbeth's suggestions. In act 1, scene 5, Lady Macbeth reads out the letter sent by Macbeth, “They met me in the day of success…” (Macbeth 1.5.2-15), she is more excited and happy than Macbeth himself and she begins to plan on what she can do for Macbeth to be crowned king. In act 1, scene 7 Macbeth tries to let down Lady Macbeth, “We will proceed no further in this business” (Macbeth 1.7.31-35) but Lady Macbeth persuades him by questioning his strengths and using such language towards Macbeth. At the end of the scene, Macbeth says “I am settled, and bend up” (1.7.79-82) and agree with Lady Macbeth. This is one of Macbeth's largest insecurities whereas he loves his wife so much that he agrees with her to commit a crime. Although he knows it is not right to betray the king, he is letting his thoughts down and depending more on what people are telling him what to do like his wife, who is manipulating him and is willing to kill her baby just so Macbeth can become king “Does unmake you…” (Macbeth 1.7.44-49). This is a weakness in Macbeth where he is listening to what others tell him what to do instead of listening to himself which is also how he is led to his downfall in the end.

Macbeth's ambition

Throughout the whole play, Macbeth gains power every time he achieves his goal. Now that he is King, he has more power than ever which allows him to kill anyone who threatens his kingship. After becoming Thane of Cawdor in act 1, scene 2, Macbeth is still humble and respectable. However, when he hears the witches' prophecies in act 1, scene 3, he realizes the ambition within himself. He suddenly feels somewhat powerful and realizes how contented and rich his life is going to be. But even after the prophecies, Macbeth is still loyal to the King and has no intention to kill and replace him. However, when Macbeth tells his wife Lady Macbeth about what he heard, she has the opposite reaction as him. Lady Macbeth suddenly feels eager to become the queen of Scotland and for her husband to become King. She is so elevated, she makes a plan to kill the King without any hesitation, and when Macbeth approaches, Lady Macbeth fully persuades him to use his ambition to gain power and position in act 1, scene 7. After killing Duncan in act 2, scene 1 Macbeth is crowned king of Scotland in act 2, scene 4 which makes him realize he has more power than before. He is also feeling confident and pleased with the achievements he has reached. However, he is also scared and intimidated when he begins to view Banquo, his noble friend as a threat to his throne after he realizes that Banquo's sons will be King too. Macbeth's thoughts show the anxiety he has about his throne being taken by Banquo's sons and he is intimidated to kill Banquo and his son, Fleance. In act 3, scene 3, Macbeth orders his murderers to kill Banquo. This scene shows the loyalty and respect Macbeth has lost and how his ambition is taking the best of him.

The last murder he commits is when he kills Macduff’s family in act 4, scene 2. After hearing that Macduff is preparing to fight him, Macbeth decides to capture and burn Macduff's wife, children, and servants to warn Macduff and make him realize how much more powerful he is than Macduff. Each time he commits a murder, he realizes his power and ambition are very high and he is somewhat satisfied with the fact that he is very powerful and rich. He is also becoming obsessed with gaining more power by killing those who might expose him. Even after killing Macduff's family, Macbeth wants to kill Macduff as well and be given more power than before. Although Macbeth is becoming more and more powerful, he does not know that this much power would suddenly be a cause of his downfall. As a result of their ambition, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are in distress and incomplete guilt over what they have done. They have both realized the consequences of their decisions when they really should have thought about it before committing all these crimes.

Macbeth's guilt

Lady Macbeth is in so much guilt and emotionally in pain, that she supposedly kills herself. Lady Macbeth is also a reason why Macbeth loses all hope in remaining his place on the throne. The last cause of Macbeth’s downfall is his guilt towards the whole situation. Because of his guilt, Macbeth does not have enough confidence and strength when fighting Macduff. Macbeth is feeling guilty even before killing Duncan. In act 2, scene 1, Macbeth's soliloquy, “Is the dagger which I see before me” (Macbeth 2.1.33-61) exposes his guilt towards the situation. Macbeth was hallucinating and was seeing a floating dagger in front of him, he knew he was hallucinating because every time he would reach out to grab the dagger, it would move further away from him. He confirms his hallucination when he says “Which was not so before. There's no such thing. It is the bloody business which informs Thus to my eyes.' (Macbeth 2.1.47-49) which means that he knows there is no dagger in front of him but the murder he is willing to commit is making him think he sees one. This soliloquy shows how Macbeth feels about killing Duncan and how much guilt he has within him.

Another scene that shows Macbeth’s guilt is in act 3, scene 4 when he sees Banquo’s ghost at the banquet. The ghost that Macbeth sees is also a hallucination which means that he is guilty. When Macbeth first sees Banquo’s ghost, he asks everyone in shock “Which of you have done this?” (Macbeth 3.4.53) which means that he is scared and afraid of what he has done to Banquo. Macbeth continues with remaining shock and acting very strange in front of the guest and the end, the guest leave due to Macbeth's behavior. This scene is about how Macbeth is guilty of murdering Banquo and because of his guilt and despair throughout these specific scenes, Macbeth ends up with almost nothing and is worthless.

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In conclusion, the main cause of Macbeth's downfall is himself. His insecurities are that he is easily persuaded by people like his wife, in the end, he is mentally and physically bothered by his ambition, and he is mentally let down by his guilt. Macbeth's status starts to rise every time he gains more and more power but because he does not earn the throne fairly, his downfall is his fate throughout the entire story and because he feels like he has nothing by the end of the play, his last and only pathway is death.

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Cite this Essay

Macbeth: a successful soldier in the army of King Duncan. (2023, January 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Macbeth: a successful soldier in the army of King Duncan.” GradesFixer, 12 Jan. 2023,
Macbeth: a successful soldier in the army of King Duncan. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Macbeth: a successful soldier in the army of King Duncan [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Jan 12 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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