How does Shakespeare resolve the conflict of Ambition versus Honor in Macbeth? 

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conflict between ambition and honour is the most central theme of the play, and personified in the character of Macbeth. At the beginning of the play, we see Macbeth as a noble and valiant soldier greatly esteemed by his peers and by the king. Unfortunately, he lets himself be corrupted by his ambition to be king which turns him into a scheming murderer. However, Shakespeare takes great pains to stress that murder is abhorrent to him; he is almost unhinged by his crimes and becomes more and more desperate. This would not have been the case had he been truly evil. Therefore it might be said that his former goodness of nature is never wholly submerged; and, crucially, in the final showdown with Macduff, something of his old sense of honor returns when he declares he will never give in, and will fight to the death. At this point it should be remembered that he has literally lost everything, there is no hope for him yet he resolves to fight on. At the very end of his life, therefore, we see something of his old warrior's courage return. It is probably not enough to erase the impression of his earlier corruption, but at least it is a strong reminder of the truly noble man that he once was.