How does Macbeth's ambition lead him to his tragic demise in Shakespeare's Macbeth?
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Macbeth, the protagonist and tragic hero in William Shakespeare's Macbeth, possess hamartia. Hamartia, named by Aristotle in Poetics, is a tragic flaw possessed by any tragic hero. This flaw is just that, tragic (meaning deadly).
Macbeth's hamartia is his ambition. While his ambition grows over the course of the play, it exists prior to his hearing of the prophecy of the witches. Given that he is a renowned soldier, Macbeth is known by others, who tell Duncan of his great deeds. It takes some ambition to do what Macbeth has done (at this point in the play).
Over the course of the play, Macbeth's ambition grows. He succeeds in murdering Duncan, being named the new king, and ruling the kingdom. As his success grows, so does his ambitious nature. Fearing that the rest of the witches' prophecy will come true (that Banquo's sons will be kings), Macbeth decides to murder both him and his sons (namely Fleance). Still feeling threatened, Macbeth murders Macduff's family (to send a message of his power to Macduff).
Given Macbeth's ambition has brought about the death of many, it is of no surprise that it will bring death to him as well. Essentially, if Macbeth would have allowed "chance to crown him," his ambition would not have grown and lead to his own demise.
Many people have hopes or goals that one might want to accomplish in their future. They may desire powerful positions or jobs while others my desire prosperity and riches. This is known as ambition, the spellbinding force that leads one toward success. However, ambition may result in harmful acts to get to their satisfaction. In Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, the three sisters plant the seed for his ambition. Macbeth’s own ambition led him to a trail of murders. Macbeth’s ambitions lead him to his downfall.
The seed of ambition planted in Macbeth’s heart brought about his downfall. The supernatural forces are the ‘fortune tellers’ in the play Macbeth. The witches are introduced to the audience when the battle has been “lost and won”. Even from the first moment the audience meets the witches they see that the “weird sisters’ give off an ill atmosphere and show the forces of evil. We see the witches before we see the hero and his first words echo his last. He succumbs to temptation. They make it appear that he is fated to become king. They second prediction comes true. He becomes the “Thane of Cawdor”. Macbeth speaks of the “supernatural soliciting”. The witches have a touched a chord in him. . They grow the idea of Macbeth becoming the ‘king hereafter’. Banquo insists Macbeth not to listen to the ‘instruments of darkness’ however after hearing such a prophecy Macbeth has the ambition to have the crown. After Malcom has been named “The Prince of Cumberland” Macbeth becomes furious. Malcom is King Duncan’s son, has been pronounced as the heir to the throne. Macbeth even goes in search of the witches the second time to seek the future. Macbeth wishes to assure himself of a bigger brighter future. When he hears that he will not be ‘vanquish’d’ till “great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill” he realises he can never be defeated. However Malcolm’s army use the forest as a disguise and come forward with an army. The seed of ambition that is planted leads to Macbeth’s downfall.
Regardless of the fact that Duncan is God’s anointed and appointed monarch, Macbeth is willing to kill his own relative in exchange for his tragic downfall. Driven by lust, Macbeth invites Duncan for a feast at his home, only by deceiving Duncan of the two faces Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. “Make our faces vizards to our hearts, disguising what they are.” Though Macbeth knows the evil of his actions, he is willing to trade his heart with the devil. “I am afraid to think what I have done; look on’t again I dare not.” Overcome by sadness of the death of his relative Macbeth has truly realised the extent of his actions, “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 incarnadine, making the green one red.” Though Macbeth wants to stop, he could not stop his uncontrollable ambition. “I have no spur to prick.” Despite the fact that Macbeth achieved his aim, his ambitions lead him to his demise through killing more to conserve his innocence. Macbeth ruthlessly killed the innocent guards in their sleep, excusing himself by asking, “Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man.” In killing the guards Macbeth’s ambition is evident. After the first kill Macbeth is able to kill without hesitating. Macbeth has realised that it would be easier to keep killing than to turn back. “I am in blood stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more, returning [was] as tedious as go o’er.
Macbeth’s own ambition gets in the way of his conscience which is a significant factor that contributes to his demise. Macbeth is ambition. He desires the crown. But when Duncan names as the prince of Cumberland, Macbeth knows he must act. The thought of murder occurs to him at one and he sees it as a foul deed. He wishes for me “starts to hide your [their] fires; let not light see [his] black and deep desires”. He has a conscience with great opposition between the evil and goodness in him. Macbeth has the ambition of becoming king but he uses one murder to cover up another which leads to an endless pit of murders. He thinks to himself that he is ‘so far in blood” that he cannot get out and might as well continue down the same path. Macbeth’s own ambition leads to his demise.
Ultimately, the tragedy of Macbeth depicts how ambition can bring about the downfall of a human person. Through deceptive predictions, Macbeth’s mind began to construct evil thought to attain greatness. His ambition became apparent when his allowed to be persuaded into Killing. Through his first act of murder, Macbeth had become obsessed with his power and title and continued to kill for his ambition, which inexorably brought about his finish.
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