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Posted: November 23rd, 2020

Uncontrolled Ambition in Macbeth

It’s good to have ambition, as it’s the foundation of a successful life. Ambition means to have strong desire towards achieving something. Because of this, it’s true that one without ambition will struggle, however sometimes, our own ambitions and desires can change us for the negative. Ambition in its nature can tempt obsessive behaviour, which has a destructive nature of its own. When an ambition purely of passion turns into obsession, it ultimately forces one to only focus on that and do anything to achieve that goal.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth is the perfect example of where the theme of obsessive ambition is prevalent. Shakespeare through the protagonist Macbeth conveys how our own desires, if obsessive has a both corrupting and blinding power of its own, ultimately changing things for the worse and destroying everything. Macbeth, as a result of his obsessive quest for power, corrupts his own judgement and motivates him towards immoral actions. It also blinds him because he becomes very self-centered and begins to ignore Lady Macbeth, destroying his own marriage.
Macbeth follows the tragic life of a soldier who is very dedicated and loyal, but does the wrong things when he meets 3 witches that prophesize that he will become a powerful king one day. Macbeth in the play kills so many people because his obsessive ambitions is so corruptive, it takes control of his actions, fueling his many immoral actions. To begin with, when Macbeth hears the prophecies, he is introduced to the idea that he will become king one day. Stunned and baffled, he tells his wife about the prophecy. She tells Macbeth that in order for this prophecy to come true, Duncan, the king must be killed.

Initially, Macbeth is very reluctant and hesitant to consider because he isn’t inclined to committing immoral deeds and being violent for a selfish reason. In his mind, he is thinking, I have no spur, to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition, which overleaps itself. He explains how it’s just his own ambition that makes him want to do this, but that isn’t a reason to commit treason and defy. Despite this belief, Macbeth ends up agreeing to kill Duncan. From the following, we learn that Macbeth himself strongly desires power on the border of the obsessive as it impairs his own judgement and corrupts it.
It essentially motivates him to towards something immoral and treasonous, taking control of his own actions. After the killing of Duncan, he stews in paranoia and lives in constant fear because of his defiance, proving that it does not offer anything pleasantry. Next, after the murder of Duncan, Macbeth realizes that Banquo is a possible threat and contemplates killing because he wants to stay in power. He thinks to himself, But to be safely thus: our fears in Banquo, Stick deep; and in his royalty of nature, Reigns that which would be feared. Whose being I do fear, and under him, my genius is rebuked.
Macbeth fears Banquo’s honesty and if Banquo suspects him, he will have to surrender everything. From the following, we learn that Macbeth will go to any limit if it means sacrificing him being in power and eliminating his own doubts and fears, even if it requires deceiving his innocent friend. He now is so powerfully corrupted, he does not realize he has turned into a tyrant who seeks nothing but violence for his own satisfaction, showing how it has taken over him. Afterwards, he wallows in so much guilt for his deception, he has nothing to feel accomplished for.
In conclusion, his obsessive ambition drives him to such terrible atrocities that ultimately does not gain him anything. Near the end, he descends into a kind of frantic, boastful madness as a result of this, changing his life for the worse. Macbeth however also ruins his own marriage in his ultimate quest for power. When Macbeth rises in power, Lady Macbeth descends in importance. His quest for power corrupts him so much, he becomes very self-centered and loses his feelings for his wife. To begin with, Macbeth is unable to give importance to his wife because he obsesses over his enemies and thinks they are out to get him: .
Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep In the affliction of these terrible dreams That shake us nightly. Better be with the dead, Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace From this, Macbeth explains that he cannot sleep and has nightmares of people turning against him. He says he feels endless mental torture and cannot live in peace. He has so many fearful thoughts of people plotting against him, he cannot concentrate on Lady Macbeth. His wife descends in importance and all the martial affection and emotional bonding is lost.
In fact, Lady Macbeth feels, “naught’s had, all’s spent when our desire is got without content. ” This proves how she feels ignored and how him being king doesn’t truly benefit their marriage and slowly begins to destroy it. .In conclusion, Shakespeare’s Macbeth suggests that when our own ambitions go out of control, it has a corrupting power of its own and can change things for the negative, ultimately destroying everything. Man should always strive with ambition, but not to the obsessive where one becomes overambitious. (Elaborate further)

While ambition can be a powerful driving force towards achieving our goals, it’s important to understand that obsession with our ambitions can have a negative impact on our lives. When our ambitions become all-consuming, it can lead to destructive behavior, loss of relationships, and even our own downfall.

In Macbeth, Shakespeare illustrates how Macbeth’s obsessive desire for power ultimately leads to his own downfall. His actions are driven purely by his ambition, which clouds his judgement and causes him to commit immoral acts that ultimately destroy his own marriage and bring about his own demise.

It’s important to understand that ambition and success are not the same thing. Success is achieved through hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn and grow. Ambition can be a powerful motivator towards success, but it’s important to have balance and not let our ambition consume us.

When we become overambitious, we can lose sight of what truly matters in life. We may sacrifice our relationships, our health, and even our own values in pursuit of our goals. This is why it’s important to find a balance between ambition and other important aspects of life, such as relationships, health, and personal growth.

In conclusion, ambition can be a powerful driving force towards success, but it’s important to maintain balance and not let our ambition consume us. When our ambitions become obsessive, it can lead to destructive behavior and ultimately, our own downfall. We should strive to achieve our goals with dedication and hard work, while also maintaining important aspects of our lives such as relationships, health, and personal growth.

Lin, J., & Mao, T. (2021). Ambition, Regulatory Focus, and Unethical Pro-Organizational Behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 172(2), 303-316.
Shang, J., & Croson, R. (2020). Exploring the Dark Side of Ambition: Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 161, 64-78.

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