How ambition is a main theme in macbeth and how it ultimately destroyed him.

Essay by twigster16High School, 12th gradeA-, May 2005

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Ambition is the Undoing

All hail, MacBeth, hail to thee, thane of Glamis.

All hail, MacBeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor

All hail, MacBeth, that shalt be king hereafter.

These three prophecies, made from three old witches, interject that MacBeth will be thane of Glamis (which he is), thane of Cawdor and the King hereafter.

When Ross and Angus bring him news that confirmed the second prophecy that MacBeth has been made thane of Cawdor, he is amazed that the witches spoke the truth and he immediately thinks of the third prophecy- himself becoming king and contemplates the possibility.


Two truths are told - as happy prologues to the swelling act of the imperial theme.

This supernatural soliciting, cannot be ill, cannot be good; if ill, why hath it given me earnest of success, commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor:

If good, why do I yield to that suggestion- Who's horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs, against the use of nature? Present fears are less than horrible imaginings; my thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man that function is smother'd in surmise, and nothing is but what is not.

Ash :

We see that ambition and desire is immediately aroused in MacBeth, as the first and second prophecies have been correct.

Me: Two truths are told!...

The desire to be king is yearning in MacBeths mind and he desperately wants to believe that he will be, but he sees a terrible way to achieve it,

Me: horrid image..

by murder and treason, Although he is dreadfully afraid of the consequences, torn between a struggle of good and evil he agonises over the thought until he his conscience turns him away from such evil deeds and for now overcomes his ambition.

Me: If chance will have me King, why, chance may crown me, without my stir

Ash :

Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor!, thy letters have transported me beyond this ignorant present, and I feel now the future in the instant.


My dearest love, Duncan comes here to nite.

Ash :

And when goes hence?


To morrow, as he purposes.

Ash :

O! never shall sun that morrow see. Your face, my thane, is as a book where men may read strange matters. To beguile the time, look like the time; bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent underneath. He that's coming must be provided for ; and you shall put this nights great business into my dispatch; which shall to all our nights and days to come, give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.

Me: we will speak further

Ash :

Only look up clear; to alter favour ever is to fear. Leave all the rest to me.

Me: Lady MacBeth is immediately concerned with MacBeth's hesitant nature, and sees it as an obstruction in his climb for further success,

Ash : He is too full of the milk of human kindness!

She knows that MacBeth's kindness will overcome his ambition and becomes determined to assist in the fulfilment of the third prophecy, she will not leave her husbands future glory to chance and will rely on he own aspiration and take matters into her own hands to ensure that MacBeth becomes the King of Scotland.

Me: If it were done when tis done, then 'twere well, if it were done quickly; if the assassination could trammel up the consequence, and catch with his surcease success; that but this blow might be the be-all and the end-all. Her, but here, upon this bank and shoal of time, we'd jump the life to come. But in these cases we still have judgement here; that we but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague the inventor; this even-handed justice commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice to our own lips . He's here in double trust : First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against deed ; then, as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife himself. Besides, this Duncan hath borne his facilities so meek, hath been so clear in his great office, that his virtues will plead like angels trumpet-tongued against the deep damnation of his taking-off; and pity, like a naked new-born babe, striding the blast, or heavens cherubin, hors'd upon the sightless couriers of the air, shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, that tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only Vualting ambition, which o'er-leaps itself and falls on the other.

MacBeth is preoccupied in a quarrel between his moral sense and the foul ambition that torments his mind, he has many reasons not to carry out the murder.