“Despite their many accomplishments, ambitious people are only slightly happier than their less-ambitious counterparts, and they actually live somewhat shorter lives.” In Macbeth, William Shakespeare explains the unnatural and harsh realities that Macbeth encounters due to his drive to gain power. Shakespeare tells the story of Macbeth’s fight to rise and the tragedy of his fall at the hands of excessive ambition. Macbeth’s hope is established in the beginning of the play when he receives a prophecy from three witches that he will become king. This will drive him and his wife Lady Macbeth to become murders. Macbeth excessive ambition leads to his downfall, shedding light into his inability to make moral choices.Order now
For example, Lady Macbeth reads the letter,written from Macbeth, detailing the prophecy told by the witches. Without hesitation, she immediately has thoughts of murder. This poses a problem because Macbeth does not want to kill an innocent man. He foresees the possible consequences, feels awful at just the thought, and decides not to become a murderer. Lady Macbeth becomes upset and becomes murderous enough for the both of them. To persuade him to kill King Duncan, Lady Macbeth continuously judges his masculinity,
Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great,
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it. (Shakespeare 1.5.15-20)
Macbeth certainly wanted to become king, but his ambition was not strong enough for certain action. His wife coerced him into the thought of needing to be king very soon, leading him to make decisions he was not comfortable making.
Moreover, Macbeth’s ambitious efforts are hardly satisfied once he becomes king. His actions to achieve his royal status continue to haunt him, making him unhappy. He describes the burden that lies on his conscience as the inability to cleanse the blood of his murder victims,
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 in incarnadine,
Making the green one red. (Shakespeare 2.2.77-81)
The allusion on the blood expresses Macbeth’s disturbed mind not allowing him to put to rest the choices he made to be the next heir of the throne. This validates that Macbeth cannot
be completely happy that he has become king.
In addition, Macbeth came to the realization that his reign was going to be short lived and his efforts to become king were pointless. The consequence to his actions, slowly arrives as he knows he would soon be killed. Macbeth surrenders his ambitious fight and hopelessly awaits his death,
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (Shakespeare 5.5.20-31)
With this in mind, it confirms the negative thoughts Macbeth originally wanted to prevent. With concentration on his moral standards Macbeth would have fulfilled the prophecy nobally. In time, patience would lead to a long and happy reign. Revealing that excessive ambition, rushed his fate to conclusively the end of his life.
As shown above, ambition to accomplish a goal is not a problem at large. Although, once your goal is achieved on account of excessive ambition, this becomes a problem. Macbeth did not follow his instincts that lead to his unhappiness, short reign as king, and death. In short, Shakespeare utilizes this tragedy to express the need to be ambitious, but warns the reader to be aware of the consequences that may come with being overly ambitious.