All heroes have their kryptonites. In Shakespearen plays, tragic flaws are admirable qualities taken to the extreme, causing detrimental consequences; hence the tragedy. In Macbeth, the titular character, Macbeth, suffers from a tragic flaw of excess ambition. He was introduced to the play as a brave soldier and leader. He had the perfect life, and to an outsider it seemed as though he could want nothing more.
However, he was unstoppable and power-hungry, and this drove him to committ crimes to get what he wanted. Macbeth’s moral compass diminished as he attained more power, and he neglected every other part of his life just to get to the top. He succeeded in gaining the king’s title, but he ended up losing all of his friends and respect.Without any regard for loyalty or trust, Macbeth’s ambition took over his life. His success can be attributed to his unchecked ambition, but ultimately this trait is also what leads to his demise.
The first mention of Macbeth made it clear that he was a strong, powerful man. When the King is talking to …, he mentions how brave Macbeth fought and how brutal he was towards the Norwegian enemy. He says how he “unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops, And fixed his head upon our battlements.” (1.2.24). After hearing this, King Duncan promoted him from Thane of Glamis to Thane of Cawdor, a high position in Scotland.
In this case, his ambition was towards defending his country, and this elevated him. He was wealthy, friends with the king, and his whole country revered him for his bravery. This would have been enough for him if he had not met the three witches, whose seemingly positive predictions turned out to be curses. The witches predicted that Macbeth would become Thane of Cawdor, then become king, and that Banquo’s children would be kings. Since Macbeth did in fact, become Thane of Cawdor, he assumed that he would also become king.
After telling his wife, Lady Macbeth, the news, she devised a plan to kill Duncan. Macbeth grapples with the issue for a while. On the one hand, Macbeth is friends with Duncan and feels loyal towards Scotland. He has spent his whole life protecting his country, so abandoning all of his hard work and morals is illogical. Still, though, with pressure from Lady Macbeth he considers the murder. He finally decided to go through with killing Duncan, the sole cause of this decision being his ambition. Lady Macbeth pressured and manipulated him, but if he was not already thinking about it, he could have easily refused. He did it because despite his morals and friendship, Macbeth simply cannot turn down the possibilty of more power.
After Duncan’s death, Macbeth became the new king. He got exactly what he wanted, but he is still left unsatisfied. Rather than focusing on what he has gained, all he can seem to focus on is what he still does not have. He does not feel content as king because of the prediction that Banquo will father kings. His desire for power gets to him once again, and he decides to keep the throne in his bloodline by killing Banquo and his son. After the peasants Macbeth sent killed Banquo, his ghost haunts Macbeth. This is the consequence he faces for killing another one of his friends for power. Macbeth begins to slowly lose his mind because of the looming guilt of the friends he’s murdered as well as their supernatural appearances.
This does not change him, or make him realie his mistakes, if anything, he gets even worse. He decides that he is “in blood Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,Returning were as tedious as go o’er.” (3.4.168). This is a big character shift for Macbeth, who before spent hours on end debating to kill Duncan, and now kills anyone who is a threat to him at the drop of a hat. His morale is only of the many things Macbeth has lost to his endless need for power.
It is only at the very end when Macbeth starts to discover the extent of what he has lost. His goal at the beginning was to become king, but after achieving that, he ends up unhappier and lonelier than ever. Other than feeling remorse for killing his friends, he now has no one else to turn to. He feels more alone than ever in his big castle “And that which should accompany old age, As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have” (5.3.28) He knows deep down that no one who says they honor him really means it, they just say it so he does not kill them. Everyone in the nation has lost the respect they once had for him because he is not fit to be king and never legitimately earned the title. Lady Macbeth is racked with guilt herself, and ultimately takes her own life. All of these factors contribute to Macbeth’s nihilistic feelings towards the world.
Despite having all the power he once seeked, he is depressed and sees no meaning in life. His desire for power took over his life, and he neglected all other areas of his life such as friendship and loyalty. All of his problems were essentially created by his strong initiative to attain power. While at first this was a good thing, he took it too far and turned into a miserable man. The things he did for power destroyed his reputation and cost him the people closest to him. His life’s work was protecting the Scottish people, and they were the ones who killed him in the end.
In conclusion, Macbeth had too much of a good thing. He sacrificed his morals, friendships and loyalty to gain power. In terms of power he was successful, but he did not feel fulfilled. He killed two of his best friends and was faced with guilt for the rest of his life. He made bad decisions to fulfill his desire for power, and he did not realize the consequences he would later face.
These consequences included the erosion of his glowing reputation, the loss of his friends and companions, and the death of his wife, who took her own life due to the overwhelming guilt she faced from their crimes. Ultimately, the lesson in Macbeth is that while ambition for power is not necessarily a bad thing, but it should not take over one’s life. Values come first, and while Macbeth may have gained the wealth and title of a king, he lost everything in his life that had any real worth.