How is the theme of betrayal and ambition represented in Macbeth?

The theme of ambition and betrayal is represented in Macbeth's actions. After his ambition is ignited by the witches' prophecy and encouraged by Lady Macbeth, Macbeth betrays his king, Duncan, by murdering Duncan in Macbeth's own home. He then betrays his friend Banquo by ordering Banquo and his son, Fleance, killed. Macbeth's ambition and betrayals of his king and comrades ultimately cause his downfall.

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The dual themes of ambition and betrayal run throughout Shakespeare's Macbeth, and both are foreshadowed early in the play when the Thane of Cawdor betrays King Duncan, and Duncan gives the title of Thane of Cawdor to Macbeth as a reward for Macbeth's victories in battle.

Duncan is wholly unaware of the irony of the situation.

DUNCAN. There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face:
He was a gentleman on whom I built
An absolute trust. (1.4.13–16)

At this moment, Macbeth enters the scene. Macbeth has been utterly loyal to Duncan and has represented himself well, if not heroically, in many battles on Duncan's behalf.

Even when the Witches prophesy that Macbeth will be king, Macbeth rejects his previous ambitions for the throne and seems content to wait and see what develops over time.

MACBETH. [Aside.] If chance will have me king, why, chance
may crown me
Without my stir. (1.3.155–157)

It's in act 1, scene 4, however—when Duncan formally declares his son Malcolm as his heir and successor after bestowing the title and property of the traitorous Thane of Cawdor on Macbeth—that Duncan unknowingly rekindles Macbeth's ambition, and seals his own fate.

MACBETH. That is a step [Duncan naming Malcolm as his successor]
On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap,
For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires ... (1.4.55–58).

Even so, and even after succumbing to Lady Macbeth's own ambitions for Macbeth and herself, Macbeth is at first reluctant to betray Duncan.

MACBETH. ... He's here in double trust:
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. ... (1.7.12–16)

Within a few minutes of deciding not to go through with Duncan's murder, however, Lady Macbeth again prevails on Macbeth to be a man and do what needs to be done to become king.

LADY MACBETH. ... When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man.

... But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we'll not fail. (1.5.55–57, 68-69)

From this point in the play, ambition and betrayal move forward hand-in-hand in the person of Macbeth. It's only a matter of time before Macbeth realizes that his former friend and comrade-in-arms, Banquo, and Banquo's son, Fleance, are significant threats to his throne, and orders them killed.

When Macbeth learns that Malcolm has gone to England to request troops from King Edward to fight against him, Macbeth takes steps to eliminate Macduff, one of Malcolm's strongest military leaders. Macbeth reacts too slowly, however. Macduff has already gone to England to meet with Malcolm, and Macbeth takes out his rage on Macduff's family, which only hardens Macduff's resolve against Macbeth.

In time, Macbeth's "vaulting ambition ... o'erleaps itself" (1.5.27), and Macbeth's betrayals of his king, his friends, and his country come to an end with his death.

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of Macbeth that the theme of ambition and betrayal is most clearly expressed. However, it's important to note the ways in which this particular theme can be treated as singular rather than plural: ambition and betrayal are not treated entirely as two separate subjects but are very closely intertwined, with the latter arising out of the former. (In that respect, I would label it ambition and betrayal, rather than betrayal and ambition: the former shapes the latter, rather than the other way around.) Macbeth is driven by his ambitions to become king and to found a dynasty, and, out of his desire to achieve that ambition, he commits his betrayal.

Early in the play, Macbeth is led to believe from the witches that he will become king. This desire to take the crown is what ultimately leads Lady Macbeth and himself to murder his rightful liege, Duncan, while Duncan is enjoying hospitality under Macbeth's roof. Later, Macbeth's ambition will cause him to betray Banquo, whose children the witches had prophesied will rule. Here again, it is Macbeth's ambition—this time his desire to pass down his crown to his own children (in essence, to found a dynasty)—that causes him to betray his friend, plotting the attempted murder of Banquo and his son, Fleance (Fleance escapes the attempted assassination), to prevent this prophecy from being fulfilled.

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Arguably, the theme of betrayal and ambition is represented most clearly in act I when Macbeth kills King Duncan. What we have in this example is Macbeth's ambition driving him to betray his friendship and feudal connection with King Duncan.

In this case, Macbeth's ambition is fueled by The Witches' prophecies, as well as the ambition of his wife. Macbeth wants to be king and Duncan is the only obstacle in his path. In order to remove this obstacle, he must kill Duncan, even though Duncan has just rewarded Macbeth's loyalty and bravery by making him the Thane of Cawdor.

In addition, Macbeth's ambition betrays another strong friendship when he sends his henchmen out to kill Banquo. Again, Macbeth is motivated to do this by The Witches, who prophesied that Banquo's sons would be king, as well as his own ambitions to protect his crown.

Through these examples, Shakespeare presents betrayal and ambition in very negative and destructive terms, suggesting that if we let ambition control us, we are sure to bring about our own ruin.

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Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth shed light on the themes of betrayal and ambition. Macbeth betrays his friend, kinsman, and king, Duncan, as a result of his ambition. After the Weird Sisters tell him he will be king, he can think of little else and grows ruthless in pursuit of his new, ambitious goal. His wife adds fuel to this fire with her own monstrous ambition. Without her mocking and convincing, it seems unlikely Macbeth would have gone through with Duncan's murder (since he told her they would proceed no further with that business). Early on, however, Macbeth's ambition served him well in war, and when accompanied by his feelings of loyalty toward Duncan and Banquo, he made himself a hero. This change allows us to see how ambition, when unchecked by other virtues, can actually become a destructive vice. 

Macbeth betrays Banquo, too. The sisters told Banquo he would father kings, and as a result of this prophecy and Banquo's own noble nature, he poses too much of a threat to Macbeth's security on the throne. Macbeth's ambition has grown; it is no longer enough to get the throne, but now he wants to keep it and pass it on to his own heirs (which he doesn't even have yet). Again, unchecked by loyalty, Macbeth's ambition leads him to betray his best friend.

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Throughout the play Macbeth betrayal and ambition are two important that themes that often work together.  Macbeth's ambition drives his betrayals.  As soon as the witches predict that he will one day be the king, Macbeth's mind begins wandering with the possibilities.  When Macbeth learns that Malcolm has been named the Prince of Cumberland, and thus will inherit his father's throne, his first thoughts are that he will have to move Malcolm out of his way.

Macbeth betrays his king and leader when he kills him.  He also betrays his friendship when he hires murderers to kill Banquo and his son.  These betrayals are vindicated in the eyes of Macbeth because he is doing what he think he must in order to ensure his power.

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What is Shakespeare saying about ambition in Macbeth?

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 partnerYou greet with present grace and great predictionOf 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 fearYour 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 ambition as demonstrated by the Macbeths. After all, Lady Macbeth, in particular, is willing to stop at nothing to see her husband on the throne, and even claims she would murder her own child (1.7.58). Although her bark might be worse than her bite—she famously refuses to kill Duncan when she gets the chance because he looks too much like her father—it is undeniable that she is full of vitriolic ambition.

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What is Shakespeare saying about ambition in Macbeth?

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth make quite the ambitious duo. Once the witches foretell of Macbeth's rise to greatness, the couple becomes unstoppable in their quest to achieve what they believe is rightfully theirs.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to ensure Macbeth's claim to the throne. They lie, manipulate, and murder to achieve greatness. It isn't enough that Macbeth is known as a great warrior and is well respected when the play begins:

But all’s too weak,For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name—Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,Which smoked with bloody execution,Like valor’s minion carved out his passageTill he faced the slave. (1.2.17–22)

They want more. They want Macbeth to be king, at any cost. Macbeth knows that his ambitions are not pure and noble, as he describes them in this aside:

That is a stepOn which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;Let not light see my black and deep desires. (1.4.57–60)

"Black and deep" desires connote his knowledge that he seeks greatness through evil means. When this arises to the forefront of his judgement and he begins to falter in his ambitious quest to kill Duncan, his wife pushes him to follow their plan of eliminating Duncan (and killing several others in an effort to conceal their deeds):

Art thou afeardTo be the same in thine own act and valorAs thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have thatWhich thou esteem’st the ornament of life. (I.vii.42–45)

Macbeth's ambition, coupled with that of his wife, causes him to take the life of Duncan and then frame several other people for the murder. He then kills Banquo and Macduff's family to further secure his own path to the throne.

Once Macbeth believes that it is his destiny to become king, he becomes willing to kill anyone who stands in his path. His path of destruction eventually leads to his own death and the death of his wife.

The ultimate message, therefore, is that ambition borne in selfish desires is destined for self-destruction.

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What is Shakespeare saying about ambition in Macbeth?

In Macbeth, Shakespeare is warning us of the dangers of political ambition, both to the individual and to the nation as a whole. He presents it as something almost diabolical—a great evil that disrupts the natural order of things. It's notable that the seeds of ambition are planted in Macbeth's mind by three witches, who harness the dark powers of the supernatural to serve their own ends. The kind of ambition displayed by Macbeth isn't just treacherous, it's positively satanic.

In answering this question, it's important to understand the wider historical context: Shakespeare lived at a time when the Divine Right of Kings was widely accepted. This concept held that kings occupied their thrones purely at the pleasure of God, and it was therefore outright blasphemy for their subjects to challenge them. According to this theory, then, Macbeth's ambition to replace Duncan on the throne is an act of defiance against the Almighty himself.

Shakespeare also shows us the corrosive effect of ambition on the soul. Macbeth, who'd previously had the reputation of a brave and noble warrior, has been throughly corrupted by his ambition, turned into a cruel, blood-thirsty tyrant. Lady Macbeth, too, pays for her ambition by losing her mind and committing suicide.

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What is Shakespeare saying about ambition in Macbeth?

It is difficult to say that Shakespeare is saying that ambition in and of itself is bad. But it is clear that ambition unchecked by a sense of morality and humanity can be a corrupting influence. As he is agonizing in Act I Scene 7 over whether to proceed with the murder of Duncan, Macbeth admits that there is nothing other than ambition that motivates him to murder Duncan:

I have no spurTo prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself And falls on the other—

This is juxtaposed with the "meek" and "great" way in which Duncan has conducted himself while in office, as well as the morality of killing one's own kinsman and guest. Ambition makes Macbeth susceptible to the exhortations of Lady Macbeth and the machinations of the witches. It causes him to turn his back on what we might call today his "moral compass" and do things that he realizes are fundamentally wrong. Eventually, it destroys both of the Macbeths. It is not just that he is ambitious, but that he embraces ambition over his other virtues.

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Explain the theme of ambition in Macbeth.

Shakespeare links ambitions (especially ambition for power) with evil and eventually with death. Macbeth is so determined to reach his "rightful" place, he will do anything to achieve it, at his wife's urgings. Lady Macbeth's ambition allows her to push her husband into doing deeds they would have never considered before hearing the prophecy. These acts (beginning with the killing of Duncan) lead Macbeth and his wife to their eventual deaths.

Ambitions also turns the Macbeths into monsters. Macbeth kills his "boss" and the ruler of his country, kills one of his best friends, and becomes so desensitized to death that he barely cares when his wife dies, instead becoming depressed and musing about the futility of life.

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Explain the theme of ambition in Macbeth.

In the beginning of the play, Mcbeth's ambition was to live a life of honor, which to him (and all others ) meant both in terms of character and in terms of society.  By living an honorable life, one would be given honors.  Both meanings were inseparable.  Yet, with the the Three Weird Sisters' prophecy,  Macbeth severed them one from the other.  Macbeth's new ambition was to gain the honors promised him, even if he had to be dishonorable to attain them.  His hubris (pride) convinced him that his character was above honor, that anything he did to achieve the honors propehsied, would reflect back and make him honorable again, simply by achieving his ambition to be king.

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Critically discuss the theme of ambition in Macbeth.

Ultimately, Macbeth's decision to kill the king is driven by his unchecked ambition, although the witches provide him with tempting glimpses of the future, he still has doubts.  Even after Lady Macbeth uses all her powers of persuasion, he is still uncertain about whether he should kill Duncan.

It is only after his ambition is stirred that he realizes that he must grasp the moment that is presented, his ambition is the driving force, it is stronger than his loyalty to the king, stronger than his sense of morality, stronger than the power of good that lies within him that warns him Duncan will be mourned, Scotland will weep with great despair at his death.

"Macbeth: Upon the sightless couriers of the air,Shall blow the horrid deed In every eye, That tears shall drown the wind. I have nospurTo prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o'er-Leaps itself And falls on the other.—  (Act I, Scene VII)

Once he kills the king, Macbeth becomes drunk with power, he is so addicted to the feeling of being king, that he determines that he will protect his authority by murdering Banquo and trying to have Fleance murdered to eliminate them from interrupting his power.

Macbeth also decides to visit the witches for a second prophecy, he demands to know more about the future, when he is given more visions of what is to come and warnings, he plunges ahead recklessly with a plan to kill Macduff due to the witches warning.

His ambition is still ruling his mind, he sees nothing wrong in eliminiting Macduff who poses a threat, even though he does not have any details about the type of threat.  And, because Macduff is not at home when the killers arrive, they murder everyone in the household instead, including women and children.

Macbeth will do anything to feed his addiction to power, to satisfy his need to stay in power, once quenched his ambition thirsts for more power, more authority.  Macbeth surrenders all the comforts of being human to be king.

"In Macbeth, ambition conspires with unholy forces to commit evil deeds which, in their turn, generate fear, guilt and still more horrible crimes. Above all, Macbeth is a character study in which not one, but two protagonists (the title character and Lady Macbeth) respond individually and jointly to the psychological burden of their sins."

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Critically discuss the theme of ambition in Macbeth.

You should have no problem reaching 550 words on this topic - there are tons of examples from "Macbeth" concerning the theme of ambition!  Here are just a few to get you started:

Macbeth is quite overwhelmed at first when the withches' predictions start coming true.  He states that his first thought of killing Duncan "shakes so his single state of man."  Later, though, he admits to himself during a soliloquy that only his "vaulting ambition" was spurring him on.  Later, he becomes so blinded by said ambition, he embarks on a literal killing spree, murdering anyone who stands in the way of the safety of his crown.

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Critically discuss the theme of ambition in Macbeth.

Ambition is, of course, one of the central themes of this play. You have picked a very broad topic, but there is one central question that you need to consider before you can move on. You need to decide whether Macbeth was an evil character with ambitions to kill Duncan before meeting the witches or whether it is the interference of the witches that prompts Macbeth to take the path he chooses.

Examining Act I we are presented with many different impressions of Macbeth. He is presented as a loyal and brave soldier, full of valour and having accomplished great deeds on the battlefield. At the same time, these deeds are presented as violent, and we are left to question whether this violence hints at something slightly perverse.

Also, Lady Macbeth describes her husband as being "too full o'the milk of human-kindness", which is a negative aspect in her eyes. This is something that she sees as a weakness, and perceives that she must overrule her husband's weaker side by her force of will. We see as well that when Macbeth does have second thoughts it is his wife that cajoles him on and forces him to continue with their plan.

Yet at the same time Macbeth is very open and honest about the role that his ambition plays, and wary of its dangers:

            I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambitoin, which o'earleaps itself

And falls on th'other -

Macbeth is well aware of the dangers of giving in to ambition, but once he has set himself on this path, he cannot turn back - blood begets blood, and his conscience tortures Macbeth with his actions.

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How is the theme of ambition shown and articulated through the use of character in Shakespeare's play Macbeth?

There is never any doubt in Macbeth that Macbeth is driven by his "vaulting ambition." (I.vii.26) However, in striving for his goals, Macbeth is filled with doubt and needs encouragement from the witches and Lady Macbeth in ensuring that he is "more the man." (51) 

Lady Macbeth makes it clear from the outset that she will sacrifice everything and the spirits should "unsex me here" (I.v.38) to ensure that her ambition and "fell purpose" (44) are not compromised. She tells Macbeth to "leave all the rest to me" (70) as she knows his resolve may falter.

Shakespeare reveals how Macbeth's ambition is destructive as he finds it easier and easier to kill after each murder whereas Lady Macbeth is driven increasingly mad by her conscience as "a little water"(II.ii.67) may have worked at first, after Duncan's murder but cannot sustain her as she realizes what her husband has become and her efforts to clear her conscience go unrequited - "Out damn spot"(V.i.33) just isn't working for her any more and "more needs she the divine than the physician." (72) 

The witches, fully aware that Macbeth is easily manipulated, are able to further their own ambition by making Macbeth, "the wayward son" (III.v.11), rely on their prophesies by "draw(ing) him on to his confusion." (29) Hectate reminds the witches that Macbeth bears "his hopes 'bove wisdom" (31) and by the time he realizes that "be these juggling fiends no more believ'd" (V.viii.19), it is too late and he cannot beat MacDuff.

Thus the audience is left in no doubt that the destructive elements present in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth's characters are enough to ensure that "fair is foul and foul is fair." (I.i.10) 

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How is the theme of ambition shown and articulated through the use of language in Shakespeare's play Macbeth?

Shakespeare artfully uses language to reveal his characters, their flaws, their dependence and their ambitions in Macbeth. The witches use language that is contradictory and confusing so that Macbeth, a seemingly noble and courageous soldier, will be reduced to a "bloodier villain." (V.viii.7) The audience is prepared for Macbeth's downfall through dramatic scenes (and soliloquies) that reveal that he will stop at nothing in the pursuit of his ambition to be king and he will not be beaten "Till Birnam Forest come to Dunswaine." (V.iii.60)

When the audience first meets Macbeth, he has been victorious in battle and will be rewarded by Duncan. The audience is impressed with Macbeth who recognizes his own "vaulting ambition" (I.vii.27) and fights it deciding that "we will proceed no further in this business."(32)There is a crucial turning point here as Macbeth is soon reduced to nothing more that his wife's inferior as he would be "so much more the man" (51) if he kills Duncan. Lady Macbeth's words are harsh and effective and Macbeth is "settled." The language used is what creates the tension and sets the scene for what will follow. 

Lady Macbeth's decline will be emphasized through Shakespeare's language use as she will no longer be relevant in deciding Macbeth's future. He intends to secure that for himself. Lady Macbeth knows she has been instrumental in Macbeth securing his position as king and just as her words previously reduced Macbeth to nothing in Act I, scene vii, now her words reveal her own helplessness:"What, will these hands ne'ver be clean...! Here's the smell of blood still." (V.i. 174). This is significant as her own ambition is getting further out of her reach.

As Macbeth dies and good triumphs over evil, it is fitting to remember a quote from Act I.iv 7-8 as the former Thane has been executed due to his treason: "Nothing in his lifebecame him like the leaving it." He was not forgiven for his crimes, despite his repentance and Macbeth's ambition will render a similar fate for anyone who crosses him. 

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How is ambition represented in Macbeth?

It's not immediately obvious in the first few scenes of Shakespeare's Macbeth that Macbeth is ambitious for the throne of Scotland. After the witch prophesizes to Macbeth in act 1, scene 3 that he "shalt be King hereafter," Macbeth remarks that "to be King / Stands not within the prospect of belief" (act 1, scene 3, lines 73–74) and dismisses the idea.

When another of the prophecies comes true and Macbeth is made thane of Cawdor, Macbeth seriously begins to entertain the thought of being king. At first, though, Macbeth seems somewhat taken aback that his ambitions have been aroused, even to the point of thinking about murdering King Duncan, but he soon puts those thoughts aside in favor of a somewhat less ambitious path to the throne.

MACBETH. If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown meWithout my stir.(act 1, scene 3, lines 147–148)

There's a notable change in Macbeth's attitude in act 1, scene 4 when Duncan proclaims his son, Malcolm, as his heir and successor. Macbeth realizes that simply waiting until the opportunity to be king arises isn't going to work, because there are now two people, Duncan and Malcolm, between Macbeth and the throne.

MACBETH. That [Duncan naming Malcolm as his successor] is a stepOn which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,For in my way it lies.(act 1, scene 4, lines 50–52)

Macbeth's thoughts turn immediately to his ambitions, his "black and deep desires," and he begins to plan how he can become king as soon as possible.

Lady Macbeth's ambitions for Macbeth to be king, and for herself to be queen, seem even stronger than Macbeth's. Although Macbeth has second thoughts about killing Duncan and at one point even decides not to go through with it—"We will proceed no further in this business" (act 1, scene 7, line 32)—Lady Macbeth never wavers in desire to see her ambitions realized.

Even before Macbeth returns to his castle, Lady Macbeth calls on the spirit world to rid her of any human emotions that might weaken her resolve.

LADY MACBETH. Come, you spiritsThat tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, [rid her of human emotions]And fill me from the crown to the toe top-fullOf direst cruelty.(act 1, scene 5, lines 30–33)

However, once Macbeth murders Duncan and achieves his goal of becoming king, he abandons any other ambitions he might have had because he must now focus his efforts on remaining king and staying alive.

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How does ambition play a role throughout Shakespeare's Macbeth?

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth is a tragic hero. Aristotle defines the hero as a great man, who dies due to a tragic flaw, and his death is his own fault.

To begin, Macbeth is a great man—meaning he is "accomplished." In battle against Norway, Macbeth proves himself by showing admirable valor, fighting for his King and country (Scotland). In Act One, scene two, the Sergeant reports how brave Macbeth was in battle:

For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name—

Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel,

Which smoked with bloody execution,

Like valor's minion carved out his passage

Till he faced the slave... (18-22)

Without fear for his safety, he throws himself into the midst of danger until he faces his enemy. Duncan is well pleased and rewards Macbeth—with promises of more to come.

However, there are three witches who have decided they will trick Macbeth into sacrificing his soul to the powers of darkness—he will do this by killing the King. The witches meet him in scene three. They greet him by his present title (Thane of Glamis), and then they call him "Thane of Cawdor," a title that puzzles him for there already is a Thane of Cawdor. Finally the witches predict that Macbeth will one day be King.


All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!


All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of



All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter! (50-53)

Macbeth is fascinated. The witches give Banquo (Macbeth's best friend) three predictions as well, but while Banquo is curious, he is not really interested in what they have to say.

When the King's messengers greet Macbeth with the news that he is now the Thane of Cawdor (title and lands taken from a traitor), Macbeth begins to believe that the witches were telling him the truth. If he is Cawdor, then he can be king. Quickly he writes home to tell his wife all that has transpired.

Macbeth finally arrives home and his wife, Lady Macbeth, has decided that if she can talk him into being evil and cruel, he will be King and she will be Queen. However, it will take the murder of Duncan, who is Macbeth's King, friend, cousin, and (at the time of the murder) Macbeth's guest.

Macbeth admits that he does not want to kill Duncan, but he does want to be king. He struggles back and forth, ready to change his mind. Lady Macbeth berates her husband. He observes that he really does not need to be king: he has everything.

He does recognize that one thing pushes him on: ambition...his tragic flaw:

I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself... (I.vii.25-27)

With Lady Macbeth's encouragement, Macbeth kills Duncan. Macbeth's ambition pushes him to kill Banquo—the only person to witness the witches' predictions—and one who will not lie even for his friend if suspicion falls on Macbeth. Here, then, his ambition takes over. Macbeth also tries to kill Banquo's son Fleance, for the witches said Banquo would father a line of kings. Fleance escapes, and Macbeth worries that the boy will grow up and come back to take the throne. Macbeth feels threatened by Macduff, so he orders Macduff's murder. Macduff is not home—but his family is killed.

In Act Three, Macbeth says he is so "steeped in blood," that he can only continue. With ambition driving him, he becomes a tyrant—finally killed by Macduff, to save Scotland. Macbeth's flaw drives him, and his death is his fault because of his evil choices.

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Analyze ambition in Macbeth.

Ambition drives the plot of Macbeth. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are extremely ambitious, and both believe that being the rulers of Scotland will bring them happiness and fulfillment.

When the witches prophesy that Macbeth will become thane of Cawdor and are proven to be correct, he readily believes their other prophecy that he is destined to be King of Scotland. Oddly, even though a prophecy would suggest that one simply needed to wait for it to happen, both Macbeths are determined to take matters into their own hands and kill Duncan immediately. Macbeth later has second thoughts, realizing that the bloodshed, once started, won't end with Duncan, but he is goaded into the act by his wife. The speed with which they act on the prophecy, taking advantage of Duncan being a guest at their castle, suggests that perhaps they were looking for an excuse to seize the throne.

The play is a cautionary tale. Ambition is the Macbeths' fatal flaw. They learn too late, once they are in power, that being monarchs is nothing like what they expected. Macbeth lives in a state of endless paranoia, constantly suspecting the people around him of treachery and proactively having those he suspects murdered. This includes his close friend Banquo. Macbeth ends up isolated, hardened inside, and miserable. Lady Macbeth, for all her bragging about being strong and "unsexed," is overwhelmed with guilt over what she has participated in. She goes mad, sleepwalks while compulsively trying to wash imagined blood off her hands, and finally commits suicide.

The play warns that immoral gains come to a bad end. Shakespeare shows that we should be careful what we wish for and careful about what we do to achieve our ambitions.

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How is the theme of ambition shown and articulated through the use of plot in Shakespeare's play Macbeth?

The various events in Macbeth drive the plot forward. We learn of the witches at the onset and will become very familiar with their mantra of "fair is foul and foul is fair" (I.i.10) such as it encourages Macbeth's unchecked ambition which "o'er leaps itself."(I.vii.27) Their involvement in the plot helps to foreshadow events and suspense is increased as Macbeth seeks them out when he needs reassurance.

Macbeth is haunted by Banquo's ghost and is convinced he "does murder sleep." (II.ii.36) By making him less reliant on his wife as he seeks to further his gains without her, keeping her "innocent of the knowledge," (III.ii.45) the plot is broadened as Macbeth is no longer Lady Macbeth's puppet although he still needs her to explain his madness to his guests as his "strange infirmity" (III.iv.86) - his hallucinations - almost cause him to unravel. Due to his new found independence, he becomes more reliant on the witches to ensure that his ambition to be king remains intact. 

The audience becomes aware that MacDuff and Malcolm will return to fight Macbeth who thinks his resolve has been strengthened by the witches but in fact, the loss of his wife reduces his story to "a tale, told by an idiot,.... signifying nothing."(V.v.26-8)

The entire plot of Macbeth proceeds quite quickly, with little time for contemplation. Shakespeare introduces the scene with the Porter as a means of light relief from this otherwise, tragic portrayal of a man, a hero, ruined by ambition. 

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How is ambition described in Macbeth?

Ambition is a theme central to Macbeth, as it follows a Scottish usurper of the throne. Remember, the character of Macbeth is very much a villain in the play, and his ambition is portrayed in an extremely destructive manner.

Speaking politically, you should be aware that Early Modern kingship was, as a political system, of an extremely relational nature, built as it was upon the ties of loyalty and obligations binding the monarch with their subjects. This sense of loyalty is reflected in Macbeth itself: consider the character of Duncan, who rewards Macbeth with the thaneship of Cawdor for his military achievements. He treats Macbeth honorably and in good faith, trusting in his loyalty. One can also point towards Macduff's service to Malcolm, as well as of his own sense of patriotism. (It is an interesting detail that while Macduff is loyal to Malcolm, there remains a moral line he will not cross, as he makes clear in the scene where Malcolm proceeds to test him).

In this sense, the political world of Macbeth reflects a certain ideal vision of what politics ought to be, with monarch and supporter bound together in mutual loyalty to one another. Macbeth, as a tyrant and usurper, is an aberration of the political order and represents a violent disruption of that vision. In that sense, ambition is not only destructive, it is also corruptive, and this sense of corruption also extends to a personal level.

Note that Macbeth doesn't begin the play as an unhinged tyrant. In fact, before murdering Duncan, he suffers a crisis of conscience, and it is only after Lady Macbeth's intervention that he proceeds with the murder. Of course, as the play continues, we observe those moral restraints diminish as he becomes more bloodthirsty and unhinged, gripped by his own megalomania. On the other hand, while Macbeth slides down one path, Lady Macbeth falls along a different one: plagued by guilt, she descends into insanity. In this sense, this sense of ambition is ultimately self-destructive. Consider how the play concludes: with Macbeth's defeat and legitimate rule restored.

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