CLOUD 9 - MACBETH - CORRUPTED AMBITION
‘Macbeth is a play about corrupted ambition.’ Write about how Shakespeare presents corrupted ambition in parts of the play you’ve read so far.
Throughout the entire play, the idea of ‘corrupted ambition’ is persistently portrayed: mainly through the characters and their exposure of achieving through dishonesty. The play first sparks this prominent theme in Act one/ Scene one with the witches. They make it apparent that they’re going to meet Macbeth ‘Upon the heath to meet Macbeth’: this implies that they have planned who they are meeting and where and, with the prophecies they bequeath to Macbeth and Banquo, would have planned the ramifications of their choices. This leads to corrupted ambition.
The witches could have chosen Macbeth due to his brave and loyal nature towards the king Duncan. He instantly becomes infatuated and acquiescent towards the witches; ‘Tell me more you imperfect speakers’, which was most likely predicted by the witches: due to his obsequious and spineless behaviour in front of his pernicious wife Lady Macbeth, a woman whose ambition has an exigency for corruption.
Lady Macbeth’s ambition seems to be heavily fuelled by the supernatural. The supernatural seem to aid her persistent attempts to force Macbeth to act on his ‘vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself’ and push him through a perverted path: one not carved from valour’s minion. Lady Macbeth emphatically demands ‘Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here’ and ‘pour thine spirits’. The fact that Lady Macbeth is so heavily influenced by the supernatural is most likely the reason why the weird sisters chose to meet Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is using the strength she receives from these spirits to manipulate Macbeth into committing the murder of Duncan, thus meaning that the supernatural is vicariously corrupting Macbeth’s ambition.
A way that Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth is the use of rhetorical questions: ‘…hath it slept since?...’. This is striking at Macbeth’s ability to keep his marriage by engaging in the murder of Duncan. After this, Lady Macbeth said that she would have ‘dash’d the brains out’ of a baby if she was to break a promise. The word ‘dash’d’ emphasises the violence in which Lady Macbeth is willing to precipitate in order to fulfil her ambition, but also the violence that Lady Macbeth is willing to cause to the Macbeth family: as it would be Macbeth’s child she would be killing.
Although the killing of the baby was only a metaphorical method of manipulation, the killing of Duncan was very real: a product of Lady Macbeth’s wretched mind. After the murder had been committed, the Macbeths’ reaction are very unusual and disingenuous. This is contrasted to the sincere reaction of MacDuff: ‘horror, horror, horror!’. The epizeuxis and imperative of the exclamation mark each emphasise that MacDuff is genuine about his reaction: this is a pivotal point in the play, as we are now seeing a good guy alongside Banquo.
The audience may feel sceptical as first when they meet MacDuff, due to their initial feelings towards Macbeth, yet are able to place a lot of trust in MacDuff due to his friendship with Banquo: Banquo address him as ‘Dear Duff’. The use of this nickname eludes to a strong friendship between the two, connoting like-mindedness. The audience wouldn’t want another character susceptible to corruption, yet would gladly accept another character that could potentially foresee corruption before anything malicious happens.
Banquo is capable of foreseeing corruption, and shows it in the quote: ‘There’s husbandry in heaven; their candles are all out.’ This is said after Macbeth’s quote of ‘Stars hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires’. This quote is telling the audience that Macbeth has become enshrouded within corrupt thoughts, and doesn’t want the stars to shine a light on his evil deeds: Banquo can feel something is wrong.
Banquo is also aware of the influence that the supernatural can have. We know this with the quote: ‘The instruments of darkness win us with honest trifles to betray us in deepest consequence.’ The superlative of ‘deepest’ emphasises the severity of the ramifications of becoming influenced by the supernatural. As we know that Lady Macbeth is heavily influenced by the supernatural, Shakespeare can use metaphors to portray the supernatural inflicting pernicious thoughts upon her. An example of this is ‘The raven himself is hoarse’. The raven is an ‘instrument of darkness’ and has been filling Lady Macbeth ‘from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty!’.
To conclude, the corrupted ambition is shown through deception and manipulation. Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth to deceive others: ‘look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.’, contrasted with Duncan’s quote of: ‘There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.’ The manipulations are fuelled from the supernatural’s power, yet is only emphasising the corruption they have sparked from Macbeth anyway.