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How does the following quotation refer to the statement, "To what extent is Macbeth...

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wanderista | TA , Grade 11 | Valedictorian

Posted September 4, 2013 at 7:50 AM via web

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How does the following quotation refer to the statement, "To what extent is Macbeth responsible for his own downfall?"

I have no spur, To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself And falls on the other. (1.7.1)

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted September 4, 2013 at 11:01 AM (Answer #1)

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This is one of the most revealing and damning of all staements in the whole of the play 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare. It is a quotation which does indeed refer to the statement

"To what extent is Macbeth responsible for his own downfall?"

because for hundreds of years experts and critics have been arguing about the extent of MacBeth's culpability for the murder and for his own tailspin down into potential madness. In fact, the jury is still out, and that is why we have to look so carefully at the playwright's own language and to scrutinise and analysis the dialogue in context, so that we may form an opinion. Every reader and playgoer will have a valid response and your opinion is just as valid as anybody else's - porvided that you study the play - because we are all coming at it from different angles. You bring a different set of life experiences to the text to another person.

The lines

'I have no spur, To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself And falls on the other. ' (1.7.1)

suggest owning the decision, turning a back on counsel, advice and conscience and in Elizabethan times turning one's face away from God deliberately was seen as the deepest most evil offence against the Holy Spirit. The decision is like a horse, needing no spurring onwards, having a mind of it's own. The evil path is intentional, riding on personal gain and ambitious plans.

One complication however, is that those suffering psychosis, can often act in a coldly rational way and seem to all others and colleagues around them, perfectly lucid and sensible until the last minute!

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