The Role of Power and Ambition in Macbeth’s Downfall

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About this sample


Words: 1267 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Apr 21, 2022

Words: 1267|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Apr 21, 2022

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play that depicts a once noble man who instigates his downfall by committing treason against his own country. The play harmonises the idea of a man who is destroyed by his own need for power and striking ambition to obtain it, as well as that of his peers. There are significant roles that demonstrate virtue in the downfall of Macbeth, one of which being the three witches, manipulating their power to set the course of events following. Lady Macbeth was also greatly impacted by ambition for hierarchy and used her power over her husband, causing his descent. Macbeth also began to obtain power trough ruthless advancements. Consequently, the core values of morality and nobility keeping him from his comedown were vastly corrupted. Ultimately, Shakespeare wanted to convey the pivotal role the themes of power and ambition have and the direct result being Macbeth’s downfall.

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The three witches planted the seed of ambition in Macbeth’s mind, which started and continued his journey to descent. Macbeth’s first gain of power is at the beginning of the play, soon after he kills a traitor of Scotland. The encounter with the witches predicts this, and it gave him reasoning as to why Macbeth should believe them. The audience sees as the first step leading to his demise as he was given a glimpse of hope through the witches’ prophecies, “all hail Macbeth, thou art shalt be king hereafter”. The witches gave Lady Macbeth chance to shape her husband into an autocrat and aided in his debacle soon after Macbeth came into power. Advising him to “Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care” was presented as a ploy to make him overly-confident, and the audience now has reason to believe why the witches can not only bring Macbeth power, but take it away from him as well through their capability of deceit. The ending scenes establish the importance of the roles of the witches as major characters in the play, and their power to manipulate Macbeth into committing bloody crimes reflects the plays crossover between reality and the supernatural and how great a power the witches hold to be able to persuade the vulnerable man. Evidently by the influence of the Sisters’ sayings, Macbeth transforms from a noble fighter to an unempathetic tyrant overwhelmed with desire for power, eventually leading to his death.

Through her ambition, Lady Macbeth used her power over Macbeth to talk him completing the unjust acts and conclusively aiding in his downfall. Just like the witches, Lady Macbeth is imperative to the doing of Macbeth’s crimes. She has a great deal of power over her husband and uses it to her advantage, which is perceived by the audience as a very ‘manly’ quality. Because of this, Macbeth feels a sense of shame towards himself which results in doing anything to prove himself. This is a turning point in the play. “When you durst do it, then you were a man” is Lady Macbeth’s way of using the influence she has over her husband to obliviously hold her doubts against him. Due to this mocking, Macbeth feels he must murder King Duncan in a final attempt to prove himself and his manhood. Macbeth shows resent and guilt, wanting to “go no further in this business” but with his wife’s ambition, she conveniently faints when Macduff begins to question the murder. It is at this point where the audience sees the degree of ambition she holds, and what she will sacrifice to follow through with the gain of power. Lady Macbeth identified an opportunity to become queen and took action to seize upon it. Relentlessly pursuing it, she pushed her husband to do the same with the power she holds on him and thereupon, it brought the tragedy that not only destroyed Macbeth, but her too.

Growth of ambition is a key reason a violent tyrant emerged from Macbeth’s noble persona, as he began to obtain power through ruthless advancement. Shakespeare intended to communicate Macbeth’s change throughout the play. A man with once high morals, “still having judgement here that we teach”, turned into a merciless killer “not afraid of death and bane”. Killing King Duncan to gain power led to unintentionally consequences for Macbeth. Ambition then led him to kill his trustworthy and lifelong friend Banquo, and the audience observes that this turning point shows how Macbeth now values power over loyalty. He felt required to kill more people to secure his spot as king, which led to him being overthrown by a group of nobles. The play demonstrates the different ways Macbeth is slowly killing himself as he obtains more power and the attitudes suggest this; that the killing of his own sanity and his previous choices that gave him the respected title of Thane was sparked by murdering the king. Macbeth’s egocentric choices were heavily influenced by the power he was gaining, and the killing of his own sanity can be perceived literally as he triggered a chain that led to his own murder.

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Shakespeare conveyed that ambition and power were the reason the consequences of treason came about Macbeth. The three witches plant the seed of aspiration for the crown for Macbeth, as does Macbeth’s ambitious wife, exerting power over him and guiding him to follow her manipulation. Macbeth also conducted his own downfall due to his thirst for power and ambition for advancement. Ambiguously suggesting that the more power the person has the more corrupt their influence is, Shakespeare proposes that the main protagonists Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and the three witches all contributed to Macbeth’s downfall through the key role of power and ambition. However, at the same time, he leaves it up not the audience to determine how much each is to blame.

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The Role of Power and Ambition in Macbeth’s Downfall. (2022, April 21). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
“The Role of Power and Ambition in Macbeth’s Downfall.” GradesFixer, 21 Apr. 2022,
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