Explain the quote "Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be what thou art promised" from Macbeth. How does it show Lady Macbeth's ambition?

This quote from act 1, scene 5 of Shakespeare's Macbeth shows Lady Macbeth's reaction to a letter she received from Macbeth about his meeting with the three witches and their prophecy to him. According to Shakespeare's source for Macbeth, Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Lady Macbeth had her own ambitions, and she was "burning in unquenchable desire to bear the name of a Queene."

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With the line "Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be what thou art promised" from William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth reacts to a letter she's just received from Macbeth. In the letter, Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth about his encounter with the three witches, and he tells her...

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With the line "Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be what thou art promised" from William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth reacts to a letter she's just received from Macbeth. In the letter, Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth about his encounter with the three witches, and he tells her about the prophecies that they've made to him. Macbeth writes that one of the prophecies, that he would be thane of Cawdor, has already come true and that the witches saluted him with "Hail, King that shalt be!" (act 1, scene 5, lines 8–9).

Macbeth's ambitions to be king have been rekindled by the prophecy, and he's already thinking about how he can make the prophecy come true. Macbeth knows Lady Macbeth's mind, and he knows that she shares his ambitions. Lady Macbeth's response to the letter, "and shalt be what thou art promised," means that she fully intends to see that the prophecy, "Hail, King that shalt be!" is fulfilled.

Because Macbeth is such a short play—the shortest of Shakespeare's tragedies—and the plot moves very quickly, Shakespeare apparently decided not to spend any time on a "backstory" that would explain Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's ambitions for Macbeth to be king.

According to Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland—a source that Shakespeare used for many of his historical characters—when King Malcolm II of Scotland died, Macbeth was one of the prime contenders for the throne because he was descended from royalty, and he was an accomplished and respected military commander.

Macbeth was considered "somewhat cruel of nature" (Chronicles, 264), however, and he was passed over in favor of Malcolm's son, Duncan—the King Duncan in Shakespeare's Macbeth—because the people considered Duncan "soft and gentle of nature" (Chronicles, 265) and preferred to make Duncan king instead of Macbeth. This caused Macbeth to harbor considerable resentment against Duncan and increased Macbeth's ambitions to be king.

In the Chronicles, Holinshed tells the story of the three witches and their prophecies and how Macbeth came to be thane of Cawdor, in much the same way that Shakespeare tells the same story in Macbeth.

There's one passage from this section of Holinshed's Chronicles which Shakespeare uses as the basis of Lady Macbeth's character and which explains Lady Macbeth's powerful reaction to Macbeth's letter, along with her unceasing efforts in act 1, scene 5 and act 1, scene 7 to persuade Macbeth to murder Duncan:

The words of the three weird sisters also (of whom before ye have heard) greatly encouraged him [Macbeth] hereunto, but specially his wife lay sore upon him to attempt the thing, as she that was very ambitious, burning in unquenchable desire to bear the name of a Queene.
(Chronicles, 269)

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Lady Macbeth speaks these lines in Act I after reading a message from her husband, Macbeth. Earlier in Act I, Macbeth and his friend and fellow military leader, Banquo, come across three witches out on the heath after a battle. The witches give both men prophecies; Macbeth is told he will become Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland. Minutes later, some men sent by the current King, Duncan, inform Macbeth he has been named Thane of Cawdor after the former thane was found to be a traitor (he will be executed and his position reassigned by the monarch). Following this encounter, Macbeth sends a message ahead to his wife back at their castle at Inverness, and in this note, he reveals the prophecies to her. What we see in this quote is Lady Macbeth's immediate reaction to this message.

Lady Macbeth first repeats information we already know: that Macbeth is now both Thane of Glamis (his old title) and Thane of Cawdor (his new title). Lady Macbeth then states that Macbeth "shalt be/ What thou art promised" (I.v.16-17). This means that Lady Macbeth takes the prophecy at its word and implies that she is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that it does indeed come true. Lady Macbeth's choice of words here - "shalt be" -- reflects her belief that either his position as king is guaranteed by fate/destiny or that it will be because he, she, or both he and she will make it so. This hearkens back to a comment Macbeth makes in Act I, scene iii, after hearing the prophecies: "the greatest is behind" (I.iii.123). That statement indicates that Macbeth believes the prediction that he will be "king hereafter" is actually true. 

Lady Macbeth's comment in these lines indicates that she has ambition in the sense that she wants her husband to be king and she wants to be queen. It is somewhat unclear what her personal ambitions are, but it is clear that she wants her husband to be in power, and, of course, she will benefit from that power, as well. Immediately after these lines, Lady Macbeth continues her famous soliloquy, in which she reveals her fear that Macbeth is too kind and too meek to actually go through with murdering the king in order to quickly ensure his own rise to the throne. She also reveals more about her own ambition in the part of the soliloquy where she laments that she is a woman and wishes to rid herself of her feminine qualities so she could simply kill Duncan herself. This indicates that her ambition for power is strong but she also is aware of the limitations placed on her by her gender. The only way her own ambition can be satisfied is through Macbeth, so she must support his rise to power to have access to her own.  

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