Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Macbeth book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Please give some quotes from Macbeth in relation to guilt, betrayal and ambition.

Expert Answers info

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

This is rather an extensive question, as you have highlighted three major themes of the play that of course can be discussed at great length through reference to a number of different quotes. I then will offer one example for each of the three themes you have specified.

Clearly, one of the most famous examples of guilt comes in Act II scene 1, following Macbeth's murder of Duncan. Note how Macbeth is tormented by what he has done:

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.

The way that Macbeth feels his hands are irrevocably stained with the blood of Duncan acts as an important symbol of his guilt.

As regards the theme of betrayal, you might like to consider how Macbeth's betrayal of his liege and then of his country is portrayed. In Act IV scene 3, the presentation of Scotland by Macduff clearly shows how Macbeth has betrayed his position and responsibilities, and how Scotland suffers as a result:

Each new morn,

New widows howl, new orphans cry; new sorrows

Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds

As if it felt with Scotland, and yell'd out

Like syllable of dolour.

Macbeth's betrayal of his king is shown to have had cataclysmic effects on the entire nation.

Lastly, the theme of ambition is of course best captured in Macbeth's soliloquy in Act I scene 7, when Macbeth discusess the prophecy he has been given and what his response to it should be. Note how he concludes this important soliloquy:

I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself

And falls on th'other--

Macbeth here uses a metaphor to describe the way that ambition can be a "spur" that can lead to tragedy, as in the case of a horseman who leaps onto a horse so strongly that he actually goes straight over the horse and lands on the other side.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial