I am trying to come up with examples of ambition in Shakespeare's Macbeth. I can't find many examples of Lady Macbeth saying anything that would signify her ambition.  I can find plenty of her...

I am trying to come up with examples of ambition in Shakespeare's Macbeth. I can't find many examples of Lady Macbeth saying anything that would signify her ambition.  I can find plenty of her thinking things that are ambitious. I was wondering if I could get some help with some examples of her saying something ambitious so that I can prove it in my essay?

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shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a story about the intoxicating power of ambition and the danger of that ambition when left unchecked. Lady Macbeth is the driving force behind the ambitious plan to kill King Duncan and establish Macbeth on the throne. However, as a woman, she has to be careful about how she presents her plans. She cannot take the decisive action on her own, so she has to rely on manipulation and sneakiness.

To demonstrate Lady Macbeth’s ambition in the play we don’t have to look far. Early in the play Macbeth himself is indecisive about that witches’ prophecy that he will be king. Lady Macbeth, however, is enthralled by the idea—it consumes her. Look at her first lines to Macbeth act 1, scene 5, when he returns home:

Great Glamis! worthy Cawdor!

Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter!

She is saying that although he is currently the thane of Cawdor and Glamis, he will soon be greater than both of those titles, meaning he will soon be king. This is her ambition for him.

Later, in act 1, scene 7, Macbeth wavers in his resolve and tries to back out of the plan to kill King Duncan:

We will proceed no further in this business.

Lady Macbeth, however, will have none of that. She immediately responds by questioning his manhood.

Art thou afeard

To be the same in thine own act and valour

As thou art in desire?

By asking him if he is afraid, she is trying to motivate him to go through with the murderous plan. This is ambitious on her part. Since we know how the play will end and what will happen to Lady Macbeth, hindsight tells us that she should have listened to Macbeth instead of allowing herself to be consumed by her own ambition.

It is easier to see Lady Macbeth’s ambition in her soliloquies, since these represent her thoughts to the audience and are not heard by other actors. To discern her ambition when she is speaking to other characters we have to read between the lines a little bit.

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