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The notion of ambition as Macbeth’s theme is discussed in this essay. In the story of Macbeth, it is clear that ambition is the major key to success. Ambition is the reason for Macbeth’s downfall. He is offered the determination by the mystic power of the witches. Lady Macbeth, his wife, then pushes the determination. After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth has added enough determination himself to cause his own destruction. We can see a clear building of desire throughout the play.
Macbeth discovers first his true power and his determinations by the witches, which meet him with three unusual titles. Thane of Glamis, which Macbeth is fully aware of. Thane of Cawdor, which is true at this point, but which Macbeth has not been told of. Then there’s King, which has not yet become true. The witches are the ones who plant the actual idea of killing Duncan into Macbeth’s mind. It must first be understood that in the Elizabethan Age, the witches would have been taken very seriously. It is indicated that “certain wizards in whose words Macbeth put great confidence” (Bloom’s Literature). This lets us know that Macbeth put his trust into these witches because witchcraft was a part of their culture back in this age. King James even wrote a book on this ideal subject. Shakespeare foreshadows Macbeth’s corruption through his meeting with these three witches. His thoughts are compared to Banquo’s, whose morality, it seems, will not let himself turn to evil. Banquo is skeptical of the witches, and tries to warn his friend, who seems to accept what they say. Without this supernatural prophesy the thought of killing the king would have never crossed Macbeth’s mind. The thought is then reinforced when Macbeth learns that he is Thane of Cawdor, as the witches foretold.
Now that Macbeth has the thought of becoming king inside of him, his is still not capable of killing Duncan. His morality keeps him from performing any such task. He is also fully aware of the destructive power of his ambitions. In act I, scene vii, he tells us, “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting determination, which O’erleaps itself and falls on the other. (vii 25-28)”
He knows this will be his downfall. His actions are only pursued by the persuasiveness of his wife, Lady Macbeth, who is even more determined than Macbeth himself. She is so determined that she is willing to sacrifice her femininity and all human feelings for her desire for power. The actions of his own wife are crucial to Macbeth’s downfall. She supports his determinations and abolishes his graciousness.
“For the bloody deeds Macbeth must commit to secure the throne, he is condemned to remain an unlawful king, consumed by a misguided faith in false prophesies and the evil agents who deliver them (Bloom’s Literature).” Once the death of Duncan has occurred Macbeth is gaining even more ambition and desire for power. Lady Macbeth will soon slowly start to drift away by part of Macbeth’s downfall. He then becomes paranoid even more. He feels like he must kill Banquo in order for himself to safe. “Macbeth tries to kill Banquo and Banquo’s son to prevent their line from ruling Scotland, and after killing Duncan, Macbeth hears a voice condemning his deed. The voice Kenneth hears foretells his death and that of his children. Kenneth is killed by Fanella, whose son he had ordered executed, just as Macbeth is killed by Macduff, whose children he murdered. When Kenneth fails to emerge from his chamber, according to Hollinshed, his servants “knocked at the doore softlie, then they rapped hard thereat”. Perhaps this sound suggested to Shakespeare the knocking at the south gate at Macbeth’s castle Inverness after Duncan is murdered.” The next victims are Macduff’s family, and at this point his paranoia has turned into black-heartedness, and he will do anything at all to keep himself safe. Each murder kills more and more of Macbeth’s morality, and builds his ambitions. At the point in which his wife dies, Macbeth seems to care very little, and after her death, seems not to care at all.
Macbeth, as everyone expected, was then overthrown and killed. With his own ambitions, his wife’s ambitions, and prophesies of the witches, Macbeth caused everything to crumble and fall apart in his own hands. We now can clearly see that ambition not achieved through our own ability leads to destruction.
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