How do strong feelings of ambition affect key characters in Macbeth and Animal Farm?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that ambition is part of the primary motivation in Macbeth and in Napoleon.  It is difficult to envision either without this element of motivation and the desire to covet what they see.  Macbeth does not immediately display this ambition in an immediate manner.  Rather, it is something that comes with time and through prodding from Lady Macbeth.  Yet, once this becomes evident with his murder of Duncan, his ambition becomes what drives him to commit more morally depraved acts and to further his descent into depravity.  Ambition is what drives him and Macbeth recognizes this far too late at the end of the narrative, when ambition has robbed him of any semblance of a moral structure or order to the world and to his own sense of being. It is this aspect of revelation that makes Macbeth different than Napoleon.  Similar to Macbeth, there is a recognition of a moment for leadership and control, one in which ambition is needed.  When Napoleon takes control of the puppies to be his own secret enforcement squad, it is an instant where this ambition is evidenced.  Throughout the narrative, such as with the chasing off of Snowball or the forced confessions and executions, Napoleon recognizes that his own ambition and desire for power is what will enable him to gain and consolidate more power and control.  Unlike Macbeth, there is little in way of remorse or failure in Napoleon's exercise of power through ambition.  Rather, he profits and prospers because of it.  Perhaps, it is this notable difference where the modern Orwell differs from the classical Shakespeare in their conception of what it means to be a human driven by ambition.


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