The Role of Ambition in Macbeth’s Demise

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Words: 634 |

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4 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2021

Words: 634|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Nov 8, 2021

Ambition plays a significant role in everyday life, as it can affect our decisions and actions. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth perfectly demonstrates this concept. Macbeth’s overwhelming desire for power overrides his ability to realize moral boundaries, which in turn develops the theme of ambition and how it can lead an individual to their demise. This is demonstrated through Macbeth’s irrational actions, his deceiving of others as well as his developing pride and independence.

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Firstly, Macbeth’s desire for power influences him to an extent in which he takes irrational action. This is exemplified through the act of Macbeth killing Duncan. Moments before entering Duncan’s sleeping quarters, Macbeth says, “hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear / Thy very stones prate of my whereabout. / And take the present horror from the time. / Whiles I threat, he lives. /. Macbeth’s desire to become king pushes him past the acceptable moral boundaries to kill Duncan. Ambition overrides all other senses, leading Macbeth to take this irrational decision. Secondly, Macbeth demonstrates irrational action once again through plans to murder Banquo. He knows Banquo is growing suspicious of him for murdering Duncan and so while talking to Lady Macbeth, he turns aside and says, “come seeling night, / Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day, / And with thy bloody and invisible hand, / Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond / Which keeps me pale! /. Macbeth’s growing ambition for power leads him to this irrational act without a second thought. Macbeth’s new constant paranoia suggests how ambition is beginning to cause negative effects on him. Lastly, another instance of irrational action is when Macbeth’s frustration that Macduff flees to England leads him to murder Macduff’s family. While inside the witches’ cave with Lennox, Macbeth turns aside and says “The very firstlings of my heart shall be / The firstlings of my hand /. This action suggests the turning point in Macbeth’s ambition as well as his demise. It completely overrides all other sense of moral boundaries, leading him to act merely out of fear and revenge.

Secondly, Macbeth’s deceiving of others demonstrates the degree in which he is willing to go to satisfy his desire for power. For instance, Macbeth begins to deceive Duncan by using their close relationship to keep him unaware of anything Macbeth would do. While speaking with Macbeth at the feast, Duncan exclaims how “he is so valiant, / And in his commendations I am fed; / Let’s after him. / Whose care is gone before, to bid us welcome: / It is a peerless kinsman”. Macbeth acts in such a deceiving way that Duncan is unaware of anything he is scheming, which further supports how Macbeth’s ambition clouds his judgement and allows him to cross society’s moral boundaries for his gain in power. Secondly, to ensure Duncan’s murder is not traced to him, Macbeth deceives everyone by framing Duncan’s chamberlains. While speaking with the others after having discovered Duncan’s body, Macbeth explains “o, yet I do repent my fury, / That I did kill them /”. Having already killed Duncan, Macbeth’s ambition for power obliterates any thought of doubt, which leads him to kill the servants. This action suggests he does so out of fear of being caught, which demonstrates how ambition has a negative effect on him. 

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Lastly, Macbeth deceives Lady Macbeth by not revealing his true intentions on dealing with Banquo. She asks Macbeth what his intentions are concerning Banquo, and he replies she should “be innocent of the knowledge, / Till thou applaud the deed. / Macbeth wants absolute power and his ambition for it suggests that he walks that path alone without anyone else. His increasing isolation with Lady Macbeth demonstrates a negative effect in which ambition has on him, which contributes to his eventual downfall.  

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The Role Of Ambition In Macbeth’s Demise. (2021, November 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
“The Role Of Ambition In Macbeth’s Demise.” GradesFixer, 10 Nov. 2021,
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