Macbeth Does Murder Sleep

I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition…………..

Shakespeare`s Macbeth contains a positive glut of evil deeds perpetrated by naked ambition, hidden behind a mask of loyalty and honour by the character the play is named after. Evil deeds do not by necessity mean an evil soul to begin with: Macbeth and his wife were not inherently consumed with evil ambition. 

Before the gruesome twosome ever committed their first act of murder, they had doubts:

“…………yet I do fear thy nature. It is too full o` the milk of human kindness. To catch the nearest wave.”

Lady Macbeth knows that it will take an enormous effort on her part, to convince her husband of the rightness of their course towards removal of King Duncan, and seizure of his throne. She also doubts herself:

“Stock up the access and passage to remorse…….that my keen knife sees not the wound it makes.”

She is well aware that she also needs to change radically if she is to nurture, assist and morally support her husband on his bloody path towards the crown. Macbeth has had his head turned towards the Dark Side, by the prophecies of the Weird Sisters and his wife`s over weening ambition to be queen.

Although, by the time he has girded up his loins to do the dirty on King Duncan, his own ambition has become the deciding factor:

“If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, without my stir.”

But he does not leave it to fate to weave the fabric of his future life; he takes it into his own hands, because his driving ambition has become too hard to control, and hurtles him onwards to do unspeakably evil acts to become king.

The Weird Sisters at the very beginning of the play are fully aware of Macbeth`s potential to harm others in his way, and actively seek him out, because they see within him the potential for great evil………….

“Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! That shalt be king thereafter!”

As they had hoped, the prophecy lights a bonfire of ambition within Macbeth which cannot be extinguished and sets him upon the primrose path to his own destruction. His own conscience begins to haunt him – not the act of an inherently evil person – and hears voices within his head: 

“Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep.”

 While Lady Macbeth paces the floor, half in hope that he won`t commit murder; again, not something one would associate with someone shot clean through with evil intent. After the murder she faints, realizing the enormity of the deed which she has goaded her husband towards…….

“Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I wish thou couldst!” Macbeth shouts at her in consternation at his crime. 

His “Vaulting Ambition” was ably assisted, and fueled by the Weird Sisters knowing and manipulative prophecy, by giving him hope; but Lady Macbeth gave him the support he needed to overcome his fears, and do the dastardly deed. Of course, like so many of Shakespeare`s villains who act, swiftly and decisively to make good their ambition, once attained, they have no “Plan B” to hold what they have gained.

The weave of Macbeth`s world gradually unravels, as his inaction allows events to overtake him.

Time and tide wait for no man; and Macbeth was washed away by his own over reaching ambition.


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