Macbeth’s Path to Perdition
Blind ambition can be defined as a strong desire which prevents people from seeing what is happening around them. Throughout history, kings, politicians, dictators, and heads of major corporations have all had strong inclinations that have clouded their good judgements to a point where the crossed the line between good and evil. One example that stands out above the rest was when Hitler tried to get rid of “less than perfect” humans in WWII and tried to seize power over the world by brute force.
However, fortunately for the world, Hitler underestimated the resistance that was assembled against him and he was unable to see this through his blind ambition.
Similarly, Macbeth desired power in Scotland and became king. But, due to his blind ambition, Macbeth failed to see the strength of the opposing force which led to his demise. For this reason Macbeth’s blind ambition caused him to struggle between good and evil, ultimately resulting in his own downfall.
The most compelling evidence of his blind ambition was his willingness to kill King Duncan and Banquo, his best friend; and abandon his wife while putting his trust into the witches prophesies. Duncan, the king of Scotland in the beginning of the play shows a trait similar to blind ambition- blind faith. In his own words, “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.” In this quote, he was referring to the Thane of Cawdor being a traitor and he meant there was no reliable technique to determine the true intentions of a person. From this, we can infer that Duncan was not a very careful man when choosing who he placed his trust in. Later Act 1 Scene 2, after Duncan made Macbeth the new Thane of Cawdor, he once again placed the same blind faith in him just like his predecessor, which was again a mistake. Then again, Duncan’s downfall wasn’t complete by his own doing. Macbeth’s blind ambition was also in an independent variable that heavily impacted on his desperation to be king. Fascinated by the fact that the first of the three prophecies had become a reality with such ease, he was ravenous for more. With the comfort of the first prediction fulfilled, he concluded that the others were destined to be fulfilled as well and it was predetermined to happen no matter what he did. This sense of security that fate was on his side ultimately drove him into going on the hideous rampage of murders that happened throughout the rest of the play.
This was blind ambition at work. With this idea in his mind, his reasoning became clouded. The quote, “Is this a dagger I see before me, the handle toward my hand?… Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feeling as to sight, or art thou but a dagger of the mind,” clearly demonstrates how his conscience had gone bad. What was a result of his blind ambition, he took as a sign and with this “sign”, he showed no remorse at the thought of murdering his king and was very willing to commit the crime. All of this was driven by his blind ambition to gain power at any expense. With the second prophesy also fulfilled, Macbeth began to wonder about the third prediction of the witches. The first two had all been to his favour; on the other hand the third would do him no good. The first two prophecies had predicted titles and wealth for Macbeth; however the third said that no heir of Macbeth’s lineage would inherit the crown that Macbeth had received, but rather his best friend, Banquo’s, line would be the recipient. At this point blind ambition was the major driving force of Macbeth’s actions.
Macbeth begins to worry too much and to place great emphasis, as in his own words in a soliloquy in the first Scene of Act 3. He said, “For Banquo’s issues have filled my mind: For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered,” making it clear the third prophecy was bothering him. Now that Macbeth was feeling threatened, his blind ambition acted and it was evident through the actions he took. To him, Banquo was no longer a friend but rather an enemy that would harm him if left undealt with. So Macbeth killed him. The willingness displayed in this situation unmistakably a result of his blind ambition. However, Macbeth was not yet a complete monster thus he still felt some guilt from committing the crime. Scared that others would find out about his terrible deeds caused him to vision the ghost of Banquo at the dinner party which he was hosting. Perhaps if Macbeth could see his own terrible actions, then maybe he could have still changed himself. But that wasn’t the case, and once again this shows how his ambition was blind to issues of conscience. Even though he wasn’t completely mad yet when he murdered Banquo, he had already crossed the line between good and evil and there was no going back. The ambition inside him only grew stronger and stronger with each coming day. It commanded his every action and soon it fully dominated leaving Macbeth unable to control himself. Even with the murder of his best friend, he still felt unsecure. Trusting no one, not even his wife, he went back to the ones who gave him everything he had: the witches.
Once again he appeared before them, this time by choice, and ordered them to comfort him with more prophecies. The same ones who ignited his blind ambitions now fueled them even more. Banquo had warned him that the witches were not to be trusted. “And oftentimes to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths,” but Macbeth was so driven by his desire to control for more power, he couldn’t see that the witches were in fact harming him with half-truths. All the four prophecies shown to Macbeth, were intended to lull him into being overconfident. With overconfidence came blind ambition. Given these circumstances of overreaching ambition, Shakespeare gives the audience a frightening but cautionary tale that can benefit every person who has had to negotiate between their powerful desires and their conscience. When ambition overreaches our moral laws, blinding us to consequences, this can result in losing everything i.e. our position, friends, marriage, and ultimately in death. Surely our ambitions need boundaries.
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