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Power and Ambition in Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth”


“The Tragedy of Macbeth,” one of the first works to be associated with the name of William Shakespeare, doubtlessly is more than a story with a moral. It serves to illustrate the common laws of life, which work on human beings even without their understanding of them. In fact, the main message that the great playwright apparently sought to communicate to his audience is that the root of the trouble in which people find themselves frequently is in their own souls. Thus, the play under review shows that improper use of ambitions can be deadly, even though a powerful personality does not believe in this.

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It would be incorrect to proclaim that Shakespeare considers its absolute ambitions evil; rather, his idea is harm that can result from their improper degree of them. Thus, king Duncan, who actually is quite weak both as a governor and as a person, lacks ambitions, which is apparent from his attitude to the other. “He was a gentleman on whom I built / An absolute trust,” – the behavior of such a kind is counter-productive for the individual who is ruling the country (Shakespeare, act 1, scene III.). Meanwhile, the protagonist is greedy for honors, judged primarily by how he addresses his interlocutors: “you imperfect speakers” (Shakespeare, act 1, scene III.). These two characters symbolize the polar extremes, notably insufficient and excessive ambitiousness, each of which eventually becomes a curse.

It is worth noting, however, that Macbeth initially is not sufficiently confident about turning to crime, as his ambitions do not have complete control over his will. His main motivation is extrinsic, specifically originates from his wife. She keeps telling him to ignore his conscience and focus on his desire for domination, to realize that he needs to kill Duncan (“How Macbeth Addresses Power,” n.d.). Without her permanent presence, the character presumably would not have become sufficiently decisive to commit a murder.

This allows Lady Macbeth as a person of the protagonist’s dark side. He finally agrees with her, having overcome all of his own moral barriers, which actually is his first step on the way to future destruction. By means of this, Shakespeare apparently demonstrates that ambitions are not dangerous by definition but devastating when beyond the control of the ratio.

Another outside force that drives Macbeth to crime is the prophesies that he hears from a group of witches. “All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!” one of those days, which the protagonist does believe, notwithstanding his above disregard for other people (Shakespeare, act 1, scene III). Jamieson (2019) considers that Macbeth put his attention to the saying solely because it matched his needs and values; in other words, he was not relying on his intelligence at that moment. This is another line where the author depicts the danger that the lack of rational thinking can bear in case an individual has strong ambitions but weak will.


To summarize, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” describes how destructive seeking power can be if a person listens to his or her dark side and does not have sufficient control over his or her desires. Furthermore, not only the other may become victims; an individual whose ambitions outweigh the ratio is doomed but does not realize that, being morally blind. The play is actually an artistic presentation of how essential it is to find the sensible middle between a complete lack of ambitions and their uncontrolled triumph.

Works Cited

How Macbeth Addresses Power and Ambition.No Sweat Shakespeare, n. d. Web.

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Jamieson, Lee. “Understanding Macbeth’s Ambition: An Analysis of Ambition in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’”. ThoughtCo. 2019. Web.

Shakespeare, William. “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Power and Ambition in Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth”." November 2, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Power and Ambition in Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth”." November 2, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Power and Ambition in Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth”'. 2 November.

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