Macbeth: A Warning of Consequences of Unchecked Ambition

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Macbeth: A Warning of Consequences of Unchecked Ambition essay
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Ambition, as defined as the desire to accomplish a task or reach a goal, is often times seen as desirable due to the sentiment that this trait would allow for more productivity and an increased quality of life. However, as all constructs in the universe fundamentally are, without there being a balance of ambition and rational thinking, ambition is capable of corrupting a character.

This consequence of imbalance is explored by legendary poet and playwright William Shakespeare in his piece Macbeth, a play whose plot is based around the titular character’s Macbeth’s descent to malice following his surrender to the primal desires associated with ambition by committing an act of murder. Through his analysis of the effects of ambition on his dynamic protagonists, Shakespeare conveys the message that ambition, if left unchecked by one’s sense of morality, will lead to the deterioration of one’s character. The effect that ambition has on the character of Macbeth is one of corruption of his purity. In the beginning of the play, the titular character is given three prophecies from three enigmatic figures that were introduced as witches, one of which declaring the eventual kingship of Macbeth. Their prophecy sparks ambition within Macbeth, a desire to claim his supposed rightful throne from his comrade, King Duncan, an acquisition that comes at the price of the king’s life. Killing the king is not directly described in the play, but is evidently done nonetheless by Macbeth’s bold declaration, “I have done the deed” (2.2 19).

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Unhindered by his moral compass, Macbeth’s murder elucidates how raw ambition corrupts the individual. Originally pondering and questioning the morality of his choice, when finally succumbing to the desire to claim his throne, Macbeth kills his comrade, King Duncan. His malicious deed incites further similar actions from him, such as ordering the murder of his friend, Banquo, another exhibition of his evident transition to madness as a result of ambition. Conveying the theme in these actions, Shakespeare provides a direct example, although hypothetical due to its nature as a work of fiction, of what would happen if one were to give in to his desires without worrying about his consequences, by showing the descent to madness. Moreover, this shift in attitude also sees Macbeth using more aggressive and violent in his approach to solving his conundrums, rather than the calculating attitude he had at the beginning of the story, untainted by malicious thoughts of murder and mischief. Out of fear of his friend Banquo’s prophecies rise to power, Macbeth orders two murderers to kill him, declaring, “It is concluded. Banquo, thy soul's flight, If it find heaven, must find it out to-night” (3.1 161-162). Yet again, this quote exemplifies the very evils implanted into Macbeth following his exposure to his prophecy and subsequent increase in ambition because his new character following this shift can be best described as evil, especially due to the stark contrast to his docile and mildly benevolent self as presented and introduced earlier in the story, indicating a corruption once devoid of a moral compass. His ambition led to the appearance of this ghost of his friend Banquo, the embodiment of his regret, the culmination of all the damage done to his mental state through ambition alone.

This example of the corruption of one’s morals and character coincides with the theme of the story, that ambition leads to destruction once unhindered by moral constraints, as the theme manifests itself through Macbeth’s evolution and corruption of character. Ergo, Macbeth’s overwhelming ambition and his surrender to it lead to a transition from an otherwise benevolent character to a tyrannical ruler of malice. Ambition plays a similar role in Lady Macbeth’s corruption of character and in her actions. Being the one to provoke and ignite Macbeth’s ambition to greater heights, causing him to murder his comrades and dearest of friends, ambition had a similar effect of corrupting the character of Lady Macbeth by implanting in her the desire to seize power. Intense desire is displayed in her lines, “Was the hope drunk Wherein you dress'd yourself? hath it slept since? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale At what it did so freely?”(1.7 39-42). Since Lady Macbeth alone is not able to seize power, she degrades and convinces Macbeth to commit his acts, which leads to his deterioration of character. Lady Macbeth’s diction, more specifically the informal tone and brevity of her lines, also implies a sense of urgency, which in itself indicates a strong desire and thus ambition. The implications of such ambition elucidates the overwhelmingly negative effects of ambition on one’s character by driving Lady Macbeth to her logical extremes in terms of rationality, especially given the lack of morals present in her character.

Shakespeare’s overtone is tantamount to the theme of the play, which is that ambition is dangerous should there not be a moral compass. Lady Macbeth’s dialogue’s thematic significance lies in the ‘danger’, in this case being the implications of Macbeth’s actions through the influence of Lady Macbeth, an influence that exists solely due to the lack of morality from Lady Macbeth. This theme is further emphasized in Lady Macbeth’s devastating sense of guilt in later scenes, when she is sleepwalking, a phase in which she can be true to herself, fully allowing herself the freedom of expression, in which she states, “Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!” (5.1 53-55), Similar to Macbeth, Lady Macbeth’s ambition is elucidated in her guilt, as this indicates mental damage and regret over her actions, ones that she now deems unnecessary and unjustified, seeing the consequences of her own ambition.

The consequence associated with ambition reflects the theme as it shows the destruction wrought by unchecked ambition, which in this scenario, is Lady Macbeth’s overwhelming guilt’s destruction of the psyche. It can thus be conclusively stated that ambition not only corrupted the character of Macbeth, but also that of his wife, Lady Macbeth, as evidenced by her burning intent to seize power by any means necessary and her subsequent descent to hysteria In conclusion, the theme of Macbeth that ambition brings danger and destruction in its wake once unhindered by moral constraints is elucidated through the effects ambition has on the protagonists of the story, from the transitions from normal and benevolent individuals to people driven by their desire to claim power by any means necessary, ultimately creating a sense of guilt within Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Although the play depicts ambition in a negative light, it would be irrational to assume that any form of ambition would be dangerous and destructive. Without the presence of such a trait, productivity in any environment would cease, as would any progression of society. Conclusively, as all traits should, ambition needs to find a balance with one’s moral compass in order to truly thrive, but without this balance, the plot presented in Macbeth would serve as an indication of what is to come.

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Expert Review
This essay embarks on a thought-provoking exploration of ambition's dichotomous nature as portrayed in Shakespeare's "Macbeth." The author artfully delves into the characters' transformations through ambition-driven actions, unraveling the unsettling consequences of unchecked ambition. The analysis demonstrates a commendable grasp of the play's themes and characters, emphasizing the corrupting influence of ambition on Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The essay's structure is generally clear, although some sections lack smooth transitions, resulting in moments of confusion. Moreover, the argument would benefit from a deeper engagement with textual evidence and more varied sentence structures for enhanced clarity. Overall, a well-constructed analysis of ambition's complexities within the context of the play.
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What can be improved
Transitions: Strengthen the flow between paragraphs and ideas for a more cohesive narrative. Textual Evidence: Incorporate more direct quotations to substantiate claims and provide a deeper textual analysis. Sentence Structure: Vary sentence structures to enhance readability and emphasize key points. Counterarguments: Address potential counterarguments to strengthen the analysis and showcase a comprehensive understanding of the topic. Introduction and Conclusion: Fine-tune the introduction to more effectively introduce the essay's scope and significance. Similarly, conclude by summarizing key insights and their implications on the broader understanding of ambition.
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Macbeth: A Warning of Consequences of Unchecked Ambition essay

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