Ambition, an intrinsic instinct, an inflexible passion that defines us as human. An instinct that endows us with the determination and motivation necessary for a successful future. Quintessential in our leadership. It is defined as a cherished desire, be it for power, status or personal advantage. However ambition is a counterpoint. When tempered with moral integrity, it leads to fulfilment in servitude. In contrast sef-serving ambition perverts your morality in its insatiable lust for satisfaction.
Take the Shakespearean tragedy ‘Macbeth’. A story that resonates because of its fundamental truths on human condition. The character Macbeth is defined by the consequences of his ambition. His inane ambition is first demonstrated in the temptation of an ambiguous prophecy proclaiming him king. His response to the prophecy:
It commenced in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor. If good, why do I yield to that suggestion (murdering Duncan ) Whose horrid image stands my hair on end And make my seated heart knock at my ribs
When Macbeth is bestowed the title thane for valour and bravery he takes no time savouring the taste of success. The tempting proposal plays on his ambitions lust for the power and status of king, developing into dissatisfaction with his promotion. From this discontent is born a scheme to slaughter his king, for the satisfaction of his lust. Here we see the first consequence of untempered ambition : dissatisfaction.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare was a very powerful play and it dealt with a very complex character. Macbeth was a Scottish Lord and he was brave, ambitious, easily manipulated, ruthless and evil. Eventually all these traits led to his downfall. The play revolves around Macbeth and his ambition to be King of Scotland. Eagerness and ambition led him to kill King Duncan. It has shown me that ambition ...
Macbeth’s self-awareness of the immorality and the consequences is clear, the mere notion revolts him. In spite of this he yields to temptation accepting the consequences which makes his action even more appalling. Here Shakespeare positions his audience to recognise the consequence of ambition by clearly defining morality shattered in perusing his intentions and the ramifications of these. Making a statement that due to self centred ambition his morality is being perverted.
In the post assassination period we see a repetition of the dissatisfaction consequence of self-serving ambition, reinforcing the concept in the affirmation of Macbeths fears when lady Macbeth states on the topic:,
Naught’s had, all’s spent Where our desire is got without content.
‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.
After Duncans assasination the self-awareness of moral perversion is still present. Prior to Banquo’s assassination he justifies and nullifies this by convincing himself he’s too far up the river of blood to turn back. This marks the tipping point of his ambition. By this point, Macbeth is willing to do anything in order to secure himself, exacting his evil becomes easier on his conscience . “ evil deeds force us to do more evil deeds”. According to Macbeth, he must ensure his own best interests.
Shakespeare presents a delusion through Macbeth : if we eliminate the cause of our fear shourly we will have peace? However there is no quick fix to his suffocating ambition. Through the constant tormenting of his conscience he gradually loses his grip on reality. The descent of insanity offers another consequences : impulsive irrationality, not only shown in his justification to killing Banquo but epitomised by his reaction against Macduff. In which he says:
In Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth’s desire for power prompts her interest in controlling Macbeth’s actions; consequently, when she loses control of Macbeth, she loses control of herself. Lady Macbeth relies on Macbeth to be the brawn so she can be the brain; she has somewhat of a symbiotic relationship with him. After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth slowly starts losing the ...
From this moment
The very firstlings of my heart shall be
The firstlings of my hand
He goes on to say “This deed I’ll do before this purpose cools”. He has convicted himself to act on an impulse befoure there is time to question it’s morality. From this he desides:
I’ll raid Macduff’s castle, seize the town of Fife, and slaughter his wife and children.
Terrifying example of his banality of evil. His impulsiveness leads to him interpreting the witches prophecy that he will die of none of woman born, in a Self destructive arrogance that proves to be his downfall. Shakespeare implies Macbths self-serving ambition distorts ones perception of the world. The consuming ambition that is never satiated blinds him into irrationality.Which distorts his mind, destroys his kingdom and ends in death.
Shakespeare also offers an alternative to Macbeths self centred and self destructive ambition.
The play provides this alternative in the stark contrast of Macduff against Macbeth. The ambition to serve the nation against the ambition to serve himself. Ambition tempered by virtue against ambition fuelled by lust. Clear conscience and sanity against haunted insanity. Contented virtue against dissatisfied immorality. support against Isolation. Good against evil. A slain tyrant against a heralded leader. Macduff is offered up as the hero; the one who is ultimately rewarded, despite his hardships; his ambition is monitored by virtue.
Today we’re told by our media to emulate Macbeths self centers desire to find the most from life. These media fed self-centred desires defines our ambitions, through the culture of pulling the strings of solidarity in the basic human need for fulfilment.’
Those who meet society’s expectations and actualise there ambition, are shaped by our social construct to believe they will find fulfilment. When people reach their ambition in dissatisfaction, there are two reactions. Either they come to the realisation that humans seem to be made to find fulfilment in the servitude of others, or they slide into decent seeking something higher than the apex that doesn’t exist inside self-centred ambition.
What is ambition? Ambition is described as eager for success, power or fame. For Macbeth. Ambition was what drove him to become great, it forced him to change his nature towards evil. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth was portrayed as a courageous soldier who fought for his King without mercy. But once the witches planted the seeds of greater things and Lady Macbeth fuelled his ambition, which ...
In our modern context the example of Spielberg comes to mind. His dream was born from our culture and within 8 years he years became Americans youngest multimillionaire by reflecting the mainstream. From here he turned down jaws 2 superman and king-kong, seeking challenge in alternate un-mainstream projects to pursue what he loved, and yet still the satisfaction of his position was not clear.
Until the tack of his films changed from stars, killer sharks, friendly aliens, or rampaging dinosaurs , from the pursuit of his fantasy’s ,recognition and approval, from self centred ambition, into Schliders list. That reflected a yearning to express the story of others and reconcile part of his but more so many others place in the world as a Jew.
“That was one of the things I thought: if I’m going to tell the truth for the first time, it should be about this subject. I’m sort of interpreting history, trying to find a way of communicating that history to people”.¹
It is in this giving to the audience instead of to himself that he found fulfilment. By committing to the project, interviewing people engaging with them donating to the victims. Only when his ambition represented more than self-centered desire did he find fulfilment. Fulfilment that came in the form of desire for a family, connecting with his heritage, philanthropy and rediscovering his religion .
In conclusion, The self serving ambition provides a series consequences in the play. Dissatisfaction and isolation descends further to impulsive irrationality , banality of evil and ultimately death, as Macbeth is slain as a tyrant and Lady Macbeth commits suicide. Shakespeare does not give either character the opportunity to enjoy what they have achieved. Shakespeare seems to beg the question what is the profit of a man if he gains the world but loses his soul. For the only true satisfaction of power and ambition (dramatic pause) is the servitude of others .