Macbeth Theme: Ambition

‘stay, you imperfect speakers. Tell me more’ (Act 1, Scene 3, Macbeth) The witches have just told Macbeth that he will be King, so he wants to know more, therefore wants to be King. When Macbeth does become King, the ambition does not stop and he becomes more ruthless. The witches were not enough, or perhaps they drove him to this- suggests his ambition is passed SPIRITUAL
‘unsex me here’ (Act 1, Scene 5, Lady Macbeth) Take away everything that makes her a woman so she can kill Duncan: she is willing to go so far because of her ambition. CONTEXT: A Shakespearean audience would have found this shocking and controversial as Lady Macbeth is willilng to take away her femininity for the sake of ambition
‘we have scorch’d the snake, not kill’d it’ (Act 3, Scene 2, Macbeth) Not finished yet, does the killing ever stop, is there an end to ambition? AUDIENCE IS CURIOUS
‘I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition’ (Act 1, Scene 7, Macbeth’s soliloquy) The only motive Macbeth has for killing Duncan is ambition, he hasn’t got the sharp edge of a spur, the ‘intent’. METAPHOR FOR INTENT. Suggests Lady Macbeth’s own ambition is taking over him and he feels he has no other choice, even though he just gave a list of reasons to kill Duncan. Therefore, ambition triumphs all and he has gone so far already to turn back
‘how tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums and dash’d the brains out’ (Act 1, Scene 7, Lady Macbeth) Even if she loves the child, she would kill it if she had to in order to get what she wants- shows her ambition has gone too far. Questions her FEMININITY and what it does to you, VULGAR LANGUAGE shows that ambition has overriden any maternal instincts and feelings of love
‘that which hath made them drunk, hath made me bold: what hath quenched them, hath given me fire’ (Act 2, Scene 2, Lady Macbeth) Ambition is driven by the pain of others, EMPHASISES ambition, it has given her ‘fire’ and drives her to the throne
‘thriftless ambition that will ravin up thine own life’s means’ (Act 2, Scene 4, Ross) Ambition drives you to do terrible things and will ultimately be the downfall. Ambition cannot be a good thing if this is the end result, FORESHADOWS Macbeth’s death because it is his own
‘why by the verities on thee made good, may they not be my oralles as well, and set me up in hope?’ (Act 3, Scene 1, Banquo) The witches prophecy came true for Macbeth as he is now King- but they also prophecised that Banquo’s sons would be King. Shows his own ambition and how ambition affects everyone in the play. He wants the prophecy to come true for him, too, it’s just a case of when. AUDIENCE FEELS A SENSE OF PATHOS
‘stars, hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires’ (Act 1, Scene 3, Macbeth) SYMBOLISES OBSCURITY, wants the darkness to hide his ambition to kill Duncan
‘I’ll fight till from my bones my flesh be hack’d. Give me my armour’ (Act 5, Scene 3, Macbeth) Shows Macbeth could have been a noble warrior if he hadn’t followed his ambition. Back this point up with ‘good Macduff’ EMPHASISES TRAGEDY
‘good Macduff’ (Act 5, Scene 2, Menteith) ROLE REVERSAL due to ambition, like we are back at the beginning of the play. Will Macduff’s ambition to kill Macbeth go too far (like Macbeth’s did) and goes against ‘good’ as Macbeth went against ‘noble’
‘if he escape, Heaven forgive him too’ (Act 4, Scene 3, Macduff) If Macbeth gets away with it, he hopes heaven will forgive him because Macduff will not. Revenge (for killing family) drives ambition, fight ambition with ambition, drives him to kill Macbeth RELIGIOUS CONNOTATIONS
‘to crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done’ (Act 4, Scene 2, Macbeth) Implies sense of ambition, in order for something to be done, you have to do it- how ambition drives the acts of an individual. Shows ROLE REVERSAL as this is what Lady Macbeth says at the beginning, shows how ambition, drives relationships apart- shows Lady Macbeth’s ambition to be Queen and Macbeth’s ambition to tie up loose ends

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