The Corruption of Humans Caused by Ambition in the Tragedy of Macbeth, a Play by William Shakespeare

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Ambition is often the driving force in one’s life. It can have an extremely dominant impact on not only yourself, but also many people in your surroundings. You have the ability to control if the outcomes either have a lasting negative or positive effect. When a goal requires determination and hard work to complete, personal morals often take a back seat to the aspiration of accomplishing the goal. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it is clear that like many other great leaders, Macbeth exemplifies the necessary leadership virtue of ambition. Macbeth’s ambition does not just drive him to do great things. It in fact controls him. The playwright explores the idea of how an individual’s ambition can cause them to deceive others, make irrational decisions and destroy oneself.

From the study of Macbeth in class this year in Act 1 Macbeth, who is not naturally inclined towards committing evil deeds, conceives thoughts of being crowned King alongside a character foil named Banquo who perceives the corrupt and unjust implications of his best friend’s ambitions. Obsessed about the idea, Macbeth has lost a sense of direction in his moral compass, continually discussing his thoughts with his righteous close friend, Banquo and his wife, Lady Macbeth after trusting in the three witches prophecies “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!”

In Act 2 we see just as dangerously ambitious Lady Macbeth, takes advantage to emasculate Macbeth, persuading him to commit regicide by depriving Macbeth of his masculinity. She fears that Macbeth is too full of “Th’ milk of human kindness,” to take the necessary steps to handle a little bloodshed.

Yet we continue to witness throughout Act 2 without moral constraints Macbeth’s deep desire for power and advancement corrupts his allegiance to the King and commits regicide not long after his manhood has been challenged by his wife Lady Macbeth.

Ever since he received the prophecies that promised him power, Macbeth’s mind has been descending into a disoriented state as times passed. In the duration of Acts 1 and 2, Macbeth, under the influence of Lady Macbeth and his own blind ambition, has changed from being a rational, level-headed man to one of questionable integrity. With Macbeth’s coronation, not only does his inner turmoil affect his mentality, but also his behaviour and senses.

The motif of blood is seen throughout the play, highlighting the decaying effect of unchecked ambition on Macbeth and Lady Macbeths’ sanity, encountering their victims in hallucinations, leading them to sleep walk and have these ‘moments’. For example, in Act 3 Scene 4 just after Fleance survives his mother and his father Banquo’s murder Macbeth hosts a feast with his friends and family for proclaiming himself as king. Macbeth is haunted by Banquo’s ghost as he sits on the throne and vanishes multiple times taunting the Scottish general.

Macbeth got too greedy and wanted more power, which led him to murder innocent people in order for him to keep his throne. Scotland is immersed in more chaos by Macbeth’s quest to maintain his position as king. Ruthlessly murdering Banquo. 

William Shakespeare dramatic play has several illustrations of imagery, mainly the imagery of blood. The imagery of blood is very important in this play because it symbolises guilt. In the Tragedy of Macbeth, William Shakespeare utilises the blood motif to establish the continuous feelings of guilt felt by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and to distinguish the alterations in the characters. The purpose of blood is to exemplify guilt. Shakespeare uses blood as a way to convey their murder and remorse. The following quotes are instances of blood imagery representing the shame Macbeth and Lady Macbeth feels after killing blameless people. Shakespeare displays the powerful imagery of blood in Act 2 scene 2, “What hands are here! Ha! They pluck out mine eyes. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red”. In this scene, the imagery of blood shows Macbeth’s lack of ability of removing the blood from his hands. The change of the ocean colour from green to red shows the utmost regret inside of Macbeth after murdering King Duncan. He begins to believe that no amount of water can rinse his hands, then forcing himself to conceal his feelings and thoughts of guilt to prevent suspicions between other characters. 

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The Corruption Of Humans Caused By Ambition In The Tragedy Of Macbeth, A Play By William Shakespeare. (2021, Dec 28). Retrieved July 17, 2024 , from

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