hey say a person with too much ambition cannot sleep in peace. Macbeth and lady Macbeth are both great examples of these type of people. Also, they say a good leader is ambitious and morally good. A good leader keeps his own wants to side for the good of the people he is leading, while allowing his ambition to store the ultimate good rather than selfish immoral aims. That he is able to maintain both his ambition and morality to work together than cross each other. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the title character and his wife are both exceptionally ambitious, often taking rather radical measures to achieve their goals. Therefore, Shakespeare’s Macbeth illustrates what happens when a leader’s ambitions are at the odds with his morality leading to tyranny and murderous impulses. Ambition’s nature completely overrides their moral nature. As the play progresses Macbeth and his wife experience a change that alters their roles and brings out the worst in them. In Shakespeare’s tragic play, Macbeth, Macbeth’s and his wife’s contrasted relationship is torn apart due to their hunger for ambition, realization of their actions being immoral, and undergoing a dramatic shift of dominance in their relationship which leads them to their tragic fall.
Macbeth’s ambition nature shows, when Banquo and him encounters the witches and they claim that Macbeth will become the Thane of Cawdor in addition to his title as the Thane of Glamis and will be king one day. Their premonition that Macbeth “shalt be king hereafter,” triggers his ambition—with murderous consequences. Lady Macbeth than fully persuades Macbeth to use his ambition in order to gain power and position. Macbeth seems clear that it is ambition that drives his actions, “I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition.” (Shakespeare I.vii. 25-27) Macbeth is only doing this action because he has no motive for deed except his “vaulting” ambition. Ambition not only turns Macbeth into a selfish tyrant, but he continues to murder all those in his path without once considering the consequences that his decisions would have on the wellbeing of Scotland.
On the other hand, the prophecies not only trigger the ambitions in Macbeth but also give rises of bigger ambitions in Lady Macbeth. Although Macbeth is seen to have vaulting ambition, Lady Macbeth’s ambition is seen more vaulting, more deadly, “Come you spirits / that tend on moral thoughts, unsex me here / and fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full / of direst cruelty.”(I.v. 40-43) However, Macbeth does not call the devil and evil spirits to remove all his emotions to need to feel empty of all remorse. Furthermore, Lady Macbeth doing this proves that she has an ambition unbelievably more vaulting than Macbeth. Also, she is ambitious to become queen. In order for her to become queen she must seize the crown as she says to Macbeth, “Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know/ How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me / I would, while it was smiling in my face/ have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums/ and dashed the brains out.”(I.vii. 54-58) She taunts him with faithfulness to show the enormity of his crime, she says that rather than break an oath, she would destroy her suckling infant to indicate tender feelings.
Conscience the moral sense of our mental constitution, by which we feel the difference between right and wrong. Macbeth’s moral hesitation hits him when he has second thoughts before killing Duncan, “If good, why do I yield to that suggestion / I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition.”(I.vii. 25-27) The thought of murder causes moral trouble deep within Macbeth’s conscience. His good nature, his conscience is in vital battle with his vaulting ambition to be crown to the throne ant any price, even abandoning his own soul. Yet Lady Macbeth quickly quashes his moral doubt by questioning his manhood, “Art thou afeard / to be the same same in thine own act and valour/ As thou art in desire?.” (I.vii. 39-41) Quickly he becomes persuaded by his wife,”I am settled and bend up / Each corporal agent to this terrible feat.”(I.vii. 80-81) As Macbeth began to gain more power through his ruthless advancements, his morals and nobility were greatly corrupted. In the beginning of the play, Macbeth has done a great deed for Scotland and receive praises from King Duncan. In addition to this, Macbeth struggles greatly from an internal moral conflict when he was deciding to kill Duncan. At this point, Macbeth has not gained any significant power, but it was clear that he possesses basic morality.
In contrast of Macbeth’s moral hesitation, is Lady Macbeth’s immorality. She is a clever character unlike her husband. She determines to achieve her ambition by any means possible to her. Her cleverness along with her manipulation skills makes her the strongest female character in the play. Lady Macbeth questions her husbands manhood and tells him he is a coward on having second thoughts of the plot, “And live a coward in thine own esteem?/ letting “I dare not” wait upon “I would,”/ like the poor cat i’ the adage.”(I.vii. 43-45) Here Lady Macbeth is referring to a proverb in which a cat wanted to catch fish but did not want to get its feet wet. It is effective because Lady Macbeth is saying it is no good wanting something if you are not prepared to ‘get your hands dirty’ to get it. Lady Macbeth is suggesting Macbeth will not be able to have self-respect if he does not commit the murder. But later on, after the murder of Duncan, she realizes the difference between right and wrong. When she gains somewhat of a conscience and realizes her guilt, she tells Macbeth,”You must leave this” (III.ii. 35) that she wants Macbeth to forget about his plan to murder Banquo’s family. She knew that what she did was morally wrong and this causes her to become deeply tormented by her actions. It was her conscience which eventually drove her to commit suicide.
Macbeth, initially a respected and brave general falls victim to his ambition and becomes guilt stricken and paranoid. In the beginning of the play, it is evident that Macbeth is the meeker half of the duo and feels remorse very early of the play. He is hesitant, while Lady Macbeth being ruthless, tries to convince Macbeth to kill Duncan, but his conscience is stronger than his ambition. He feels that the king is at his palace in his “double trust.”(I.vii. 12) The first prominent burst of role reversal is illustrates after Duncan’s murder. In his “role reversal” with Lady Macbeth, he gains so much power and ambition, that he became an evil tyrant committing evil deeds one after another without thinking twice. Finally, Macbeth conducts his last major act of violence by murdering Macduff’s family, “The castle of Macduff I will surprise/ Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o’ sword/ his wife, his babes and all unfortunate souls”(IV.i. 150-153) after he is warned that Macduff is in England assembling an army against Macbeth. This killing was wholly ruthless. Macduff was bound to attack Macbeth, because he regarded him as a tyrant. He knew Macbeth was no longer suited to be in a position of authority over Scotland, and this only helps in this case.
On the contrary, Lady Macbeth begins as a ruthless woman. She has a manipulative and controlling character, convincing Macbeth to kill Duncan; she will do anything to gain power. When she says, “How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me / I would, while it was smiling in my face/ have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums/ and dashed the brains out” (I.vii. 55-58), she shows her ruthlessness and her “bad” ambition. In her “role reversal” with Macbeth, she gains some of her conscience and realizes her guilt, “The Thane of Fife had a wife; where is/ she now? what, will these hands ne’er be clean? No/ more o’that; you mar all with this starting.” (V.i. 42-45) It seems that washing the guilt off her hands was not so easy as Lady Macbeth has thought. This contrasts with the evil tyrant that Macbeth has become killing innocent after the other notably the Thane of Fife’s wife and son. After the role reversal, she became aware of what she had done and realizes the magnitude of her guilt. She goes into a state of denial, and commits suicide.
Shakespeare creates an intriguing relationship that traces the downfall of not a single person, but an entity comprises of two. The relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is indeed a unstable one that carries many similarities and differences. One could compare it to a balance; at first Lady Macbeth is heavy with vaulting ambition and greed, while Macbeth is light with his conscience. However, as the play progresses this position changes. Macbeth becomes the one heavy with numerous acts of murder and an ambition more vaulting than ever to preserve the throne for himself, while Lady Macbeth becomes light with her unbearable guilt and paranoia, which in the end lead to her committing suicide. Although there may have been many differences and similarities between the two in terms of lust for ambition, morality and reversal of roles, but they had but one thing in common, they both knew what they did was wrong and chose the path of evil over the path of good.