The first scenes of the play show Macbeth as a hero of the war, worthy of praise and full of ethics. Even after the weird sisters tell him the height of his ambitions, he is hesitant to take immediate action to reach them (meaning Lady Macbeth’s pressure for him to murder King Duncan). Yet, soon after he accepts his ambitions, the Macbeth presented in the first scene is devoured by them. Macbeth’s last words show just how far he’s fallen in terms of who he was, “Accursèd be that tongue that tells me so, for it hath cowed my better part of man! And be these juggling fiends no more believed, That palter with us in a double sense, That keep the word of promise to our ear, And break it to our hope.
I’ll not fight with thee.” (V. V111. 17-22).
Lady Macbeth is presented to the audience as devoid of any characteristic that makes a human, human; her immediate resolve to kill the king on behalf of her husband’s destiny gives us a villain to root against.
By showing her as the driving force behind Macbeth’s murder of the king, the blame is put simply on her lack of soul instead of the sway of great ambition that gave her the idea. Juxtaposing Macbeth’s fall into madness, Lady Macbeth’s compunction, and a small shred of humanity, regarding her deeds is exposed shortly before her death: “Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier and afеard? What need we fear account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?” (V.
I. 38 – 42). This scene reveals that she is not as corrupt as previously interpreted: Lady Macbeth’s overwhelming guilt, brought on by her desperate attempts to reach the height of Macbeth’s promised ambitions, leads to her inferred suicide.
These characters’ reverse developments of each other further emphasize the terrible effects that great amounts of ambition can have. A premature sense of entitlement due to ambition only brings chaos to a person’s mind. This theme brings together the notion that ambition is not meant to be given as a reward, but it has to be earned through humility and time.