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Blind Ambition In Macbeth Essay Question

In many of Shakespeare’s plays there exists relationships between characters; these relationships in many cases influence the direction in which the play goes. For example, in the “The Merchant Of Venice” the elopement of Lorenzo and Jessica is what triggers Shylock’s rage and blind desire for revenge, which sets the stage and the necessary atmosphere that is required for the climax in the court scene. Likewise in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” the everlasting relationship between Macbeth and the three witches is the foundation of the entire plot. When Macbeth meets the witches he views them as honest and believes on them quickly. The witches having established contact with the protagonist, indirectly affect and transform his beloved wife. Towards his demise Macbeth finally realises how the witches have heinously betrayed him.

From the very start of the play the witches establish how important Macbeth is to their evil scheme: “There to meet with Macbeth”. It is from this moment that a permanent link is established between Macbeth and the witches. “A drum, a drum, Macbeth doth come”. The witches use extraordinary equivocatory language when speaking: “hail to thee Thane Glamis/ hail to thee thane of Cawdor/ All hail Macbeth that shalt be king hereafter”. Macbeth is confused, he is the thane of Glamis but not of Cawdor, and he is not the king. When Macbeth receives news of his promotion he immediately believes in the witches’ prophecies: “The greatest is behind-Thanks for your pains”.

Macbeth is also very fond of the witches as they awaken in him his dormant vaulting ambition to be king. He cannot forget the meeting that he had with them: “My thought, whose murder is yet but fantastical, shakes so my very single state of man that function is smothered in surmise, and is but what is not”. Macbeth very quickly believes whole heartily without any shred of proof , it is unimaginable how the witches could manipulate one who is supposed to be “Valliant”. Macbeth trusts in the witches to an extent that he stars to suspect people who are close to him, even his brother in arms: “We would spend it in some words upon that business, if you would grant the time”. It is quite clear that Macbeth has become increasingly paranoid due to his evolving relationship with the three weird sisters.

Throughout the whole play the witches are in Macbeth’s mind corrupting him even further. Lady Macbeth is no exception: “Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top full direst cruelty.”. Notice how Lady Macbeth uses the word crown, this shows that the witches, in form of spirits, have filled lady Macbeth with ambition more vaulting than Macbeth’s one. Under the influence the witches she is driven to extreme measures: “Come thick night and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of Hell”. One would not have imagined that the witches’ power would have extended to influence humans to bow to the devil indirectly.

The witches may also appear in many different forms, this has already been witnessed by the audience: “I come, Graymalkin”/ “Paddock calls”. When Duncan arrives at Macbeth’s castle the witches are present in a way. They are present in Lady Macbeth’s fake attitude towards the King: “Your majesty loads our house: for those of old, and the late dignities heap’d up to them, we rest your hermits.”. It is noticeable that Lady Macbeth speaks somewhat like the witches in rhyme this shows the extent of the power of the three weird sisters and how solid their relationship is with the Macbeths.

The power of the witches does not cease to guide Macbeth further along the path of hell:“Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle towards my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.”. A deadly illusion is created before Macbeth in order to make sure that he does not sway from his hell-bound vaulting ambition to become king. This is the most solid proof yet that the relationship between Macbeth and the witches is the triggers the most important events in the play: the murder of the gracious king Duncan.

Having fully fulfilled the prophecy of the witches, the relationship between Macbeth and these ministers of evil continues to grow evermore leading Macbeth even closer to his demise: “How now, you secret, black and midnight hags?”. Notice the normal, familiar, even demanding tone that Macbeth uses with the witches this emphasizes how close Macbeth and the witches are, or so does Macbeth think. The witches corrupt Macbeth even further by showing him three apparitions: “Come high or low: thyself and office deftly show”.

The apparitions were the cornerstone of the witches’ evil scheme; they further trick and blind Macbeth from the truth making him think that he is invincible, and hence deceiving him: “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth”/ “Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him”. It is here where we see the true face of the relationship between the witches and Macbeth as it really is: a deceptive, manipulating and equivocating one. This is never seen by Macbeth himself, which influences the story even more.

To show the audience how the relationship between Macbeth and the witches is important to the plot of the play he breaks down their relationship at the climax of the play: “I looked toward Birnam, and anon methought the wood began to move”. The first brutal betrayal by the witches came at a time when Macbeth was already in turmoil due to the death of his partner in greatness. It is at this moment when an epiphany strikes Macbeth and shows him the true nature of the witches in which he placed so much of his trust: “I pull in resolution, and begin to doubt the equivocation of the fiend that lies like truth”.

Even at when he is so near to his moment of death Macbeth still carries little belief of what the witches had previously told him: “Thou wast born of woman; but swords I smile at, weapons laugh to scorn brandished by man that’s of woman born”. This proves how intact the relationship between Macbeth and the weird sisters was; even after discovering that they betrayed him Macbeth still clings to the one prophecy that he hopes to be true. This fool’s hope is ripped away by Macduff: “Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped”. The solid, seemingly unbreakable relationship between Macbeth and the witches has finally broken down completely proving that it was futile from the start.

This play is no exception to the fact that relationships are important and affect the story of Shakespeare’s plays. If it was not for the doomed relationship between the witches and Macbeth the play might not have been a tragedy at all. This bond between Macbeth and these minsters of evil serves as the cornerstone of the entire play and a crucial catalyst to the plot. It could be said that the relationship was forged before the fatal meeting and started to decide the fate of the plot and of Macbeth.

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Blind Ambition in Macbeth

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Throughout the play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, the reasoning of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is completely subverted and undermined by their insatiable ambition. Macbeth was at first reasonable enough to keep his ambition in check, however it eventually became to strong for even Macbeth and therefor over powered him. To the contrary, Lady Macbeth was overcome by her ambition from the very beginning. Reasoning was abandoned after the decision to kill Duncan was made.

At that point we see no serious questioning of the motives of the three witches when they told their cunning and misleading predictions. Macbeth even went as far as to ask for their advise a second time – this second time would of course lead to his downfall. The decision to kill Duncan also signified the last serious attempt at moral contemplation on the part of Macbeth. Throughout the novel we see that the Macbeth’s ambition completely subverted their reasoning abilities and eventually lead to their downfall.

Macbeth, whom initially was a very reasonable and moral man, could not hold off the lure of ambition. This idea is stated in the following passage: “One of the most significant reasons for the enduring critical interest in Macbeth’s character is that he represents humankind’s universal propensity to temptation and sin. Macbeth’s excessive ambition motivates him to murder Duncan, and once the evil act is accomplished, he sets into motion a series of sinister events that ultimately lead to his downfall. ” (Scott; 236).

Macbeth is told by three witches, in a seemingly random and isolated area, that he will become Thank of Cawdor and eventually king. Only before his ambition overpowers his reasoning does he question their motives. One place this questioning takes place is in the following passage: “- Two Truths are told, As happy Prologues to the swelling Act Of the Imperial Theme. – I thank you, Gentlemen. – 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 tat Suggestion Whose Horrid Image doth unfix my Heir And make my seated Heart knock at my Ribs Against the use of Nature? ” (Shakespeare; I, iii, 125-135) Even as he questions their motives, he does not come to the logical assumption that these three evildoers are in fact pushing him down a path filled with evil and despair. He says that their visit “cannot be ill, cannot be good” and goes on to explain why it cannot be either of these two things. At least we see here that his ambition has not completely overtaken him.

Not only does Macbeth at first question the motives of the witches, he also eventually questions the moral implications of killing Duncan. In the excerpt: “He’s here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan Hath borne his faculties 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. (Shakespeare; I, vii, 12-16) We see Macbeth present an argument against killing his beloved king. We see that his ambition is present because he does seem to be ready to refute the title of King and in fact accepts the title of Thane of Cawdor. The expert: “- If Chance will have me King. Why/ Chance may crown me. (Shakespeare; I, iii, 141-142)” is an excellent example of Macbeth’s ambition. However his ambition is not overbearing, because he still considers the meaning of the supernatural soliciting instead of just accepting its seemingly optimistic prophesies.

His ambition does not become overbearing until it is fueled by Lady Macbeth’s own ambition. Macbeth’s ambition is in sharp contrast to Banquo. Banquo comes across as much more hesitant to accept the witches prophesy. This contrast was created for a specific reason – to highlight Macbeth’s tragic flaw. “One critical perspective views Banquo’s function as essentially symbolic: he is portrayed as a man who, like Macbeth, has the capacity for both God’s grace and sin; but unlike the protagonist, he puts little stock in the Weird Sisters, prophecies and does not succumb to their temptations.

Banquo’s reluctance to dwell on the witchs’ predictions therefore underscores, by contrast, the nature of Macbeth’s descent into evil. ” (Scott; 238) Banquo does not have the same overbearing ambition as Macbeth and therefor is able to reason with the situation. Banquo’s logic is most prevalently seen in the following quote: “That trusted home Might yet enkindle you unto the Crown Besides the Thane of Cawdor, But ’tis Strange: And oftentimes, to win us to our Harm. The Instruments of Darkness tell us Truths, Win us with honest Trifles, to betray’s In deepest Consequence Cousins, a Word, I pray you. ” (Shakespeare; I, iii, 118-124) Banquo speaks this quote immediately after Macbeth is told that he will be the new Thane of Cawdor. It is a stark warning that shows evidence of logical deduction and reasonable thinking on the part of Banquo. Had he been a far more ambitious man, he may have worried about his own prophecy – about the future glory of his children and their children. Not only was Macbeth overtaken by his ambition, Lady Macbeth was also overtaken. Unlike Macbeth, however, Lady Macbeth was overtaken by her ambition immediately.

As she read the letter sent to her by Macbeth, which spoke of the new title and the witches prophecies she immediately decided that they must do whatever is necessary to become King and Queen. Again we see that ambition subverts reasoning. She does not even question the motives of these three evil sisters or the moral ramifications of killing Duncan like Macbeth does. Instead she almost immediately decides that Duncan has to be dealt with. This break down in reasoning was very damaging to both Macbeth and his wife. Here we see what an adverse affect it had on Lady Macbeth. As husband and wife grow apart in their own torments, Lady Macbeth discovers what it is to invite an ‘unsexing’ which amounts to demonic possession: the slight human compunction which prevents her murdering Duncan grows into a curse upon her unwomaned body, and she finds that ‘a little water’ will not clear her of this deed” (Blakemore; 1310) In conclusion, throughout the play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, the reasoning of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is completely subverted and undermined by their insatiable ambition.

Macbeth was at first reasonable enough to keep his ambition in check, however it eventually became to strong for even Macbeth and over powered him. To the contrary, Lady Macbeth was overcome by her ambition from the very beginning. Reasoning was abandoned after the decision to kill Duncan was made. At that point we see no serious questioning of the motives of the three witches when they told their cunning and misleading predictions. Macbeth even went as far as to ask for their advise a second time – this second time would of course lead to his downfall.

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The decision to kill Duncan also signified the last serious attempt at moral contemplation on the part of Macbeth. Throughout the novel we see that the Macbeth’s ambition completely subverted their reasoning abilities and eventually lead to their downfall. Bibliography 1. Blakemore Evans, G. (Editor). The Riverside Shakespeare. 1974. Houghton Miffin Company. Boston, Massatsus. 2. Scott, Mark W. (Editor). Shakespeare for Students. 1992. Gale Research Inc. Detroit, Michigan. 3. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. 1990. Doubleday Book and Music Clubs, Inc. Great Britain

Author: Kimber Trivett

in Macbeth

Blind Ambition in Macbeth

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