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Ambition and power were two qualities that, collectively, did not bring about Macbeth’s downfall. Macbeth most definitely had a thirst for power, his ambition was strong and ruthless and the world inevitably reciprocated such ruthlessness. Although he had that thirst, it was never quenched, power never did befall Macbeth. Instead of the power and ambition destroying him, it was instead his conscience creating such a fear of absolute power that clashed with his ambition to create such an extravagant surcease.
Ambition took a hold of Macbeth, such that he was willing to hurt anyone in his quest for power and suffer the consequences. Macbeth begins the play as a loyal soldier, bearing witness to the epitome of loyalty towards the king in all of the soldiers that fought in his name. Loyalty and admiration towards but a single man is all that Macbeth had to give, he believed that “the rest is labour which is not us’d for [Duncan]”. This was his strong conviction, until the witches present him with the opportunity to “receive [his subjects] duties”. Lady Macbeth made herself the voice of this ambition by justifying it; Shakespeare used her to represent Macbeth’s own desire to have “[sole] sovereign sway and masterdom.” When he acted upon this ambition by killing Duncan, he sowed the seeds of his own destruction. He insighted the mistrust of Malcolm, who was the one to lead the army which eradicated Macbeth’s grasp on the throne. Ambition was one of the contributing factors which led to Macbeth’s consequence.
Power is something that Macbeth desired deeply, but he never did end up securing it. When Duncan had absolute power, he used such power for the benefit of his people, by protecting his nation from an invading force and indicatively other decisive acts that won the support of his subjects. Macbeth himself never had the power that Duncan did insofar as he never used it. Decisions concerning his people were non-existent, instead his decisions were largely selfish, devoted only towards him being “safely thus” in his throne. Macbeth tried desperately to assure himself that any decision made for his people would meet no opposition. First of Banquo he feared that “under him my genius is rebuked”, then, when warned of Macduff, he says that his fears were “harp’d” by the witches. This shows that Macbeth never did obtain the loyalty and devotion of his subjects, they thought him a “tyrant” rather. This was both the cause and result of his deep seated paranoias. Power could not have been an aspect of Macbeth’s destruction, because he never truly had power in its entirety.
Macbeth’s conscience was the other main force behind his downfall, when it clashes with his ambition. Macbeth was inherently a good man, with solid morals and a well-established conscience, as is shown by his tentative contemplation of cold blooded murder. “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent” was his conclusion, as it should have been, only to be so easily manipulated by his wife to disregard his conscience. Like Lady Macbeth was to ambition, Banquo was to conscience, as Shakespeare engineered it. Banquo knew of the witches intent to “win us harm” before Duncan was killed, but after he also “fear[ed] [Macbeth] played’st most foully for’t”, henceforth he was the manifestation of morality, and morality made up the fibres of Macbeth’s conscience. Banquo illustrated Macbeth’s subconscious belief that he was an undeserved king, for he had played “foully”. Macbeth’s ambition was what killed Banquo, just like conscience was what killed Lady Macbeth. But, unlike Lady Macbeth’s surcease, which signified the death of Macbeth’s ambition, Banquo’s ghost came back, which meant that his conscience shall never die. This a priori sequence of Macbeth’s internal battle clearly shows that it was ambition and conscience that betrayed Macbeth.
Ambition and power are not the halves that created the entire fall of the monarch, Macbeth; instead it was ambition clashing with his conscience. Power had no hand to play except in being the object of ambition, and conscience was a much more active and obvious aspect of destruction. Ambition, in congruence with conscience, destroyed Macbeth internally and externally.
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