What is Shakespeare saying about ambition in Macbeth?

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In Macbeth, it is difficult to determine what Shakespeare is saying about ambition. On one hand, ambition in and of itself does not seem to be all that bad, but on the other, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's ambition quickly turns to violence.

For an example of benign ambition, take Banquo, who acts ambitiously when meeting the witches:

My noble partner
You greet with present grace and great prediction
Of noble having and of royal hope,
That he seems rapt withal: to me you speak not.
If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not,
Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear
Your favours nor your hate. (1.3. 54-61)

Seeing that Macbeth is speechless, Banquo hopes instead to hear of his own fortune. Crucially, Banquo never commits violence in order to gain what he desires. In fact, Banquo seems to be the moral center of the play until he is killed by Macbeth's assassins.

Perhaps it would be helpful to differentiate between ambition as exhibited by Banquo and violent...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 994 words.)

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