Does ambition corrupt? Use textual evidence from Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Draw on contextual understanding to support the argument.
In MacBeth it is clear that ambition certainly corrupts. Corrupted means turned rotten. At the beginning of the play MacBeth is a thane. This means he is a high up aristocrat. He has a castle and is a close friend of the king. MacBeth is a hero because he defeated the Norwegian invaders – in the play they are called Norweyans. He is rewarded. I evaluate him as brave. But this is not enough for him. He is eager to gain the Crown for himself. His wife is Lady MacBeth and she urges him to go for it. In my analysis MacBeth is ambitious and becomes corrupt.
This story happens in Scotland. Some Scottish guys helped the Norwegians. The Scottish who took the side of the enemy are punished with death near the beginning. This is meant to show justice – how it should be. Loyalty is rewarded. People who turn against their nation are punished.
MacBeth is like an anti-heroine. She is the sneaky and scheming one. She wants to be queen more badly than her husband wants to be king. Maybe this reflects the time in which the play was written. 400 years ago women were supposed to be quiet and stay out of politics.. A woman who expressed her opinion was believed to be real bad. The blame is put in Lady MacBeth more than her husband. Although MacBeth and Lady MacBeth existed in history very little is known about them. So in the play they are basically fictional characters. Lady MacBeth gets her husband to invite the king to their castle. There is a drunken party. At night MacBeth stabs the king to death. He then places the bloody knife on a drunk soldier who is asleep. In the morning people see the king is dead and the soldier with the bloody knife is assumed to be guilty. He is executed quick before he can explain.
MacBeth becomes king. He has been a traitor. To kill your guest is shameful. This is concrete proof that he is evil.
MacBeth is also using witches to help him. Witches represent evil. He is willing to use their power to help him with his plans. This shows he is not moral. He then ends up having to kill more people. Banquo knows the truth. So MacBeth sends people to kill Banquo who was his friend. Later Banquo’s ghost comes to dinner and haunts MacBeth when MacBeth is with all his buddies. MacBeth says ”shake not your gory locks at me.’‘ He can see the ghost but nobody else sees it. MacBeth feels guilty because he knows he did something wrong. He also wanted Banquo’s son Fleance to be killed but he got away. His dad had shouted to him ”Fly Fleace fly! Fly Fleance fly!”. In those days ”fly” meant run away – they did not have airplanes so they could not fly like we fly now.
Later MacBeth cannot sleep. This is because he knows he is so bad. He walks around at night and sees stuff that is not there. He says, ”is this a dagger I see before me?” A dagger is a knife – it is a sign that he stabbed people. This is more proof that his ambition to be king has corrupted him.
MacBeth starts to kill kids to cover up his crimes. He feels bad. He says he is ”Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…like a poor player strutting and fretting on a stage/ Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Player means actor here.
Lady MacBeth is shown to be even worse than her husband. She says she would take her baby ”pluck its toothless gums from my breast and dash its head against the wall’‘ if this would help her to achieve her goals. She asks to be ”unsexed” as in she is a woman she wants to turn into a man so she could fight. She is shown to be unnatural.
MacBeth is forced to rely on promises from the ”weird sisters” meaning the witches. They tell him ”no man of woman born” can kill him. They also tell him that he will not be kicked out as king until trees walk up a hill. He thinks this is impossible. Every man is born of a woman and trees do not walk. The prophesy comes true because his killer is a man who was ”from his mother’s womb untimely ripped”. His enemies carry trees up that hill.
In the end Duncan comes back. He is the son of the murdered King Malcom Canmore. Duncan is ambitious but this is ok because he has the right to be the king.
Yes, ambition corrupts in this play. It turns people bad. They will do even very evil stuff to get what they want.