Uncontrolled Ambition And Its Consequences In Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Desire and determination to achieve any success, is what we all strive for. Even though it is a variant from person to person and culture to culture, but the message of ambition remains the same. To have goals and the determination to complete them. While when you lack ambition, it can be easy to slip into the pit of failure, determination is not about never losing, it is about getting up when you do. Ambition is not an inherent trait. This can be learnt and maintained much like every other good attribute. This offers us a sense of purpose and inspiration to our life goals. It gives you and I a purpose to keep striving.

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Within William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, the undeniable power of uncontrolled ambition and its consequences is extensively portrayed. Ambition is depicted as a corrupting and inextricable power throughout the storey. The greed of Macbeth is the underlying cause he transformed from a noble thane to a cruel and bleeding dictator. But the motivation of Macbeth is heavily inspired by certain characters such as the Witches, Lady Macbeth and Banquo.

Through different scenes, the witches’ prophecies are quickly unravelled before the audience and are driving force for the tragedies that occur as the play progresses. When Macbeth hears about what is to come for him, and since one of the prophecies of the witches comes true early in the play, he is already thinking about being king and gaining power, he trusts the itches and begins to become highly ambitious. Yet lack of confidence is a big drawback, as shown in Line 138 of Act1 Scene3. Macbeth says; “My thought, whose murder is yet but fantastical. Talking of murder but also fantasising it in his head. That’s where his emotions are triggered by lack of motivation. Like Macbeth, I experience major setbacks in my life. Not harmful and sometimes relieves tension but then reality kicks in. Overcoming this is crucial and in my case simple steps like using my passions places me back on the right path. So, Macbeth, use your envy well, this envy is your motivation.

Our lack of ambition can also be overcoming through those around us. Just their words of motivation can place a major part in our achievements. Lady Macbeth and her persuasion, Act1 Scene5 Line 18-19. Upon reading the letter sent by Macbeth, Lady Macbeth says: ‘Art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it. What thou wouldst highly, that wouldst thou holily…”. She is Macbeth’s motivation. Looking further into it, her own ambition does not allow him to fail and so she surrenders to the evil spirits to give her courage to persuade Macbeth and talk him out of whatever is keeping him form going after the crown. Those playing major characters in my life may not be encouraging me to go out and kill someone but through the manipulation of their words, they are able to influence how hard I work. Therefore, spending time with those who closely match what you hope to achieve can help in finding the drive to keep chasing goals.

Jeopardies of untamed desires and as a result of all actions that Macbeth was led to, his ambition impacted on his behaviour and mental state, suffered under insomnia and poor appetite and loses all control over himself which raises discontentment and suspicion. After his highpoint is reached due to achieving his goal, it begins to go downhill. Impacted by his ambitions and the deed that followed. He was now an overconfident tyrant and instead of giving up, he goes out to fight Macduff, believing that he can not be killed just as the Witches professed. Act5 Scene5 Line9, “I have almost forgotten the taste of fears”, saying that he is not afraid of anyone anymore and instead reflecting the trait of overconfidence. Turns out the Witches only spoke a half truth. Macbeth’s Trust on the Witches and their prophecies led him to being overly ambitious which led to his tragic death.

Some drive is good for your inspiration. I wouldn’t try in school without any motivation, set or accomplish targets and go really far in existence. But too much ambition can be dangerous, putting me in danger of burnout, stubbornness and even a shorter life. Not only did this ambition lead Macbeth to death but also Lady Macbeth which was deeply afflicted. She suffered from tremendous guilt as a result of her greed and ambition. She was found sleepwalking, trying to wash the ‘blood’ away from her hands, and eventually ended her life over it. She displayed how ambition is by default a feedback loop, with achievement feeding the desire for more achievement. This makes it even harder to step back from our ambitions and really take stock of our live.

Still, we all lose ambition. Even the world’s most successful people experience periods of defeat and doubt. But eventually they succeed because, even in the wake of failure, rejection and disappointment, their ambition remerges. And it is their ambition making these people money. Let’s be honest nobody has sold themselves better than Kim Kardashian, but this is due to her ambition to ignore the millions of setbacks placed in front of her. Or what about Oprah who received criticism about her weight, race, sexuality and past trauma regarding sexual abuse. Her drive is what kept her drive. Look at her success, who wouldn’t want it.

Therefore, living well seems to involve a double strategy. We must strive to meet our expectations so that extreme deprivation in our motivations does not turn us nasty. We also need to cultivate a kind of ambition that does not depend for its motive force on renewing already-saturated hunger. Are you able to balance the ambitions you face equally before you fall like Macbeth? 

16 December 2021

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