What are the themes of Guilt / Honor / Ambition in the play? What are the relating quotes/parts of the play that refer to guilt / honor / ambition?

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eabettencourt eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Guilt is an interesting concept in the play "Macbeth."  Immediately following the murder of Duncan, there is much textual evidence to suggest Macbeth is wracked with guilt, such as his belief that he has "murdered sleep" and will "sleep no more."  However, by Act Five, it is more clear that Lady Macbeth is actually the one with the guilty conscience, since Macbeth now murders much more freely, whereas she sleepwalks, wracked with guilt.

As far as honor is concerned, again, Macbeth begins the play seeming to be an honorable soldier of Scotland, whereas the original Thane of Cawdor is a traitor.  However, Macbeth soon proves himself to not be what he appeared at first to be:  he is clearly not honorable.  This appearance versus reality plays into tests of other characters' honor, such as Macduff, as certain characters like Malcolm realize they cannot trust so easily.

Ambition is definitely a key concept in the play concerning Macbeth.  He states early on in the play that his "vaulting ambition" is the only thing that keeps him going with the desire to murder Duncan.  We then watch as this original ambition is never fully satisifed as Macbeth continues to feel the need to kill in order to feel safe, etc.