Evil, Ambition and Masculinity in Macbeth

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  • Created by: eh_knight
  • Created on: 01-02-16 10:42


Like all the best works of gothic literature, it suggests that the forces of sexual, mental, moral, political and metaphysical disturbance are to be found within us all.


  • Destruction is wrought in Macbeth when ambition goes unchecked by moral constraints. 
  • Macbeth = not naturally inclined to commit evil deeds; kills Duncan against his better judgement and afterwards feels guilty and paranoid. 
  • Lady Macbeth = is more determined than her husband but less capable of withstanding the repercussions of her immoral acts. 
  • Ambition, as well as the malign prophesies of the witches, drives the couple to more terrible atrocities. 
  • When using violence to further the quest for power, it is difficult to stop. There are always potential threats to the throne (Fleance, Macduff) and it is always tempting to use violent means to dispose of them.

How Lady Macbeth’s ambition leads to destruction:

  1. She goes mad after repressing her guilt and grief.
  2. Lack of sleep & sleep walking
  3. Hallucinations of blood on hands.
  4. Contrast of her rationality at the beginning with fractured mental state at the end.
  5. Has to be the ambition behind her husband which ultimately leads to her death. She questions his manhood which sparks his ambition as he feels under pressure/ inadequate.

How Macbeth’s ambition leads to destruction:

  1. War hero - desensitised to physical suffering and death - but finds it harder to murder when not in war.
  2. His ambition is awakened/driven on by Lady McB’s open ambition; isn't inherent at the start of the play.
  3. Uncontrolled ambition = “I’m in blood stepped in so far.” (3.4.136-37) so continues the murders.
  4. McB says about Malcolm: “that is a step on which I must fall down.” (1.4.48-49)
  5. “Scorched the snake not killed it.” (3.2.13)
  6. Destructive force - doesn't know what to do with daggers.
  7. Last soliloquy, “Out, out, brief candle.” (5.5.22) - led to destructiveness of his mind - thinks that there is nothing more to life: without his wife he is lacking ambition. Ambition no longer controlled. 


  1. Ambition interpreted into 2 ways but BOTH are destructive.
  2. Driven by supernatural; devils advocates. Macbeth’s ambition is inevitable, they are merely prophesising. 
  3. Wanting to cause harm; be…


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