In Shakespeare's Macbeth, how is Macbeth seen as ambitious in Act One, scene 3, in light of "rapt withal" and "My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical"? Please provide analysis to support...

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, how is Macbeth seen as ambitious in Act One, scene 3, in light of "rapt withal" and "My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical"? Please provide analysis to support the evidence.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Act One, scene three of Shakespeare's Macbeth, there are several statements that allude to Macbeth's ambitions to be king. After the witches have made their predictions for Macbeth, Banquo makes note of the strange preoccupation that has come over his friend:

My noble partner

You greet with present grace and great prediction

Of noble having and of royal hope,

That he seems rapt withal. (57-60)

Banquo notices that the witches' prophecies have had a noticeable effect on Macbeth. They have predicted a new title (which will soon be given to him as he becomes the Thane of Cawdor) and "king hereafter," meaning that he will ultimately become king. Instead of brushing these words off, perhaps believing the witches are just crazy old women, Macbeth becomes preoccupied as he envisions what those words might mean to him. Banquo's reaction is quite different: the witches' predictions promise a wonderful future for his son, but Banquo does not take their words to heart like Maceth does.

Looking closely at his reaction, it is easy to see that Macbeth's mind is already at work, which shows his ambition to become king based on  the witches' visions of the future.

In lines 150-153, Macbeth secretly reflects on his thoughts:

My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,

Shakes so my single state of man that function

Is smother'd in surmise...

He is saying that "murder" is only an idea at this point, nothing else. The remainder of the quote indicates that merely the thought of killing shakes him up, but that everything he thinks about or considers doing is caught up in imagining "what if?" In other words, he is saying that murder is nothing but a thought—but it is his thought and it indicates that he is already considering it in his mind, before his hands have done anything: his consideration also reflects his ambition—his desire to believe the witches' words, and long for a place on Scotland's throne.

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