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Does anyone have a good quote about greed in Macbeth?

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zop94 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 16, 2009 at 4:43 AM via web

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Does anyone have a good quote about greed in Macbeth?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 16, 2009 at 5:10 AM (Answer #1)

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Although we can identify greed in Macbeth, the word doesn't actually appear in this play. Rather, ambition (which is after all a kind of greed) is much more prevalent. We know that Macbeth has "black and deep desires" from his first soliloquy and it is clear that Lady Macbeth, his "partner in greatness" has high ambitions for her husband too.

One of the key quotes has to be Lady Macbeth speaking to her husband and dangling future possibilities in front of him:

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promised.

In addition, Macbeth states: "I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself, and falls on the other." It is this greed or ambition that drives the play and results in such a high body count.

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted March 16, 2009 at 5:12 AM (Answer #2)

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The word "greed" doesn't appear in the play itself: though that it's certainly not irrelevant to "Macbeth" and its themes. More usually critics and scholars talk about the theme of ambition in the play, rather than greed.

But there are a few quotes that might be of use. Macbeth spends a lot of time thinking about his "black and deep desires" for power:

Two truths are told,
As happy prologues to the swelling act
Of the imperial theme.

Or you might look at what he says after Malcolm is made the Prince of Cumberland:

The Prince of Cumberland! that is a step
On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap,
For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires.

And Angus sums up quite well the uneasiness of someone who has grabbed and grabbed - and then been left in a very insecure position:

His secret murders sticking on his hands;
Now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach;
Those he commands move only in command,
Nothing in love: now does he feel his title
Hang loose about him, like a giant's robe
Upon a dwarfish thief.

Macbeth has grabbed a title which is way too big for him: as if a dwarf has stolen a giant's clothes. That, I think, is about the best indicator of Macbeth's greed and ambition, in the play.

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