Macbeth Ambition Quotes

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suman1983's profile pic

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In Act I, Sc. v Lady Macbeth speaks about Macbeth’s ambition: “Though wouldst be great;Art not without ambition, but withoutThe illness should attend it:” (I.v.18-20) This important quote enables us to understand Macbeth’s nature which is “too full o[f] the milk of human kindness”. Lady Macbeth’s provocation enlivens the evil residing in Macbeth and his ambition receives a new dimension: “I have no spurTo prick the sides of my intent, but onlyVaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itselfAnd falls on the other.” (I.vii.25-28) Later in Act II, Sc. iv Ross considers the hollowness of an ambition, which can destroy a person’s life: “Thriftless ambition, that wilt ravin upThine own life's means!” (II.iv.28-29) Undoubtedly, Ross’s comment is ironic in nature as at the end of the play Macbeth too would lose his life for his “vaulting ambition”. 

N.B. The line numbers may vary according to editions. The above line numbers are provided according to the Arden edition of Macbeth.

malibrarian's profile pic

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In addition to re-reading the play, you can find quotes at the eNotes link provided below to help you find lines from the play related to ambition.  But here are a few to get you started:

Macbeth (after hearing the witches' prophecies for him):
"If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me without my stir." (Act I, scene iii)

Lady Macbeth (after Macbeth killed Duncan and seems weak from the experience):
"Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures; 'tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil." (Act II, scene ii)

Macbeth (trying to prepare himself to kill Duncan):
"I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself, and falls on th'other...." (Act I, scene vii)

I hesitate giving line numbers are every edition of Macbeth will have different line numbers. It would be best if you looked up the quotes by their act and scene numbers to find where they are located in the edition you are using.

smurf300000's profile pic

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a good one would be, "your hand, your tongue, look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't". lady Macbeth says that to Mr Macbeth, she is trying to say look  and be pure in the eyes of the king and his men "look like" the choice of word being like, is  a simile, this tells us that Macbeth is definitely not innocent. "serpent". coming from Adam and Eve, the serpent meaning the devil, so this shows us that lady Macbeth is trying to influence him, to murdering the king.

so all this shows us that lady macbeth is driving her ambition onto macbeth. the shakespearean audience would of being shocked, because at the time, they were living in a patriarchal society, meaning that men were more dominant and superior than women.

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