The Ambition of Macbeth Assembled by Kanea, Drew, Raiven, Connor, and Bree.

How did Macbeth's ambition lead to his downfall?

Macbeth is the story of a man whose ambition, with little help from a prophecy and his wife, rose to the title of king. But, his ambition led to his downfall. Was his ambition bad itself or did he just have ambition for the wrong thing?

We have created a podcast which you can listen to. In our podcast, we discuss what you're about to read. You can listen as you read, just listen, or just read on here. Please be aware there is an interview on our podcast with an entrepreneur, named Fernando Crosa, which you will not find on here.

We start with some examples from history of well known adventures, legends, and leaders who all have one thing in common, ambition.

The first of our ambitious leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. , was known by many for his speech and nonviolent movements towards equal rights of African Americans, all during the civil rights movement in the 1950's and 60's. He was a pastor, but then he was chosen for president of the Montgomery Improvement Association for his ambition for fixing the discrimination in the United States. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled millions of miles to give speeches on what he saw as unjust and wrote books on his beliefs. For the youngest winner of the Nobel Prize at the time, he even gave all the money he won to help towards the civil rights of his fellow people.

Our second ambitious leader, Hitler, had very strong ambitions, but looking back, we see it wasn’t for good. He had a strong ambition for having a “pure race” without Jews and his ambition to bring Germany to the greatness it once was before World War 1. Although he had strong ambition, he used it to do bad to get his power instead of good, just as MacBeth did. Hitler used his power to take over the countries around Germany and kill millions of Jews,which he blamed for Germany’s struggles.

Third, Christopher Columbus, had an ambition on finding an easier route to Asia by sea. This ambition he had an his beliefs of a round earth lead him in a push to sail West, in hopes to sail around the Earth and run into Asian countries.Columbus tried multiple times to achieve his end goal. Each time he ended up nowhere close to his end goal, but he did not give up. Thanks to Columbus, we had some of the first permanent establishments which formed into the United States. If it wasn’t for Christopher Columbus’ ambition to finding a new route to Asia, it would've taken even longer for our ancestors to start settling in what is today the United States of America!

Next, Benjamin Franklin, the man who has his own bestseller and has made great inventions, even after growing in a family of 15 other siblings before him and only attending school for a short time, Benjamin Franklin is a man known for his ambition and wise quotes. Franklin quotes in his autobiography how hard he worked in order to make sure everything was done correctly in the printing shop he was a part of. Due to his extra effort and ambitious determination, Franklin’s company rose in popularity above rival companies.

One final ambitious leader in history would be Franklin Roosevelt. For being the leader of our country, the United States, we’d hope any leader would be ambitious. This was especially crucial during the time of the Great Depression and World War II. Luckily for the US, the 32nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt was just that. Roosevelt had be diagnosed with polio in 1921, yet about 11 years later was announced as President. He showed great ambition towards helping his country, running for four terms. Right after being elected into office, he started putting together his New Deals in order to pick the country back up and running again. Roosevelt had huge ambition and used that ambition to take hold and help the country fight the harsh times in the 1930’s and then helping towards defeating the Nazi’s in World War II. He did this and even made huge efforts to help others who had Polio by making it easier for them to get therapy and help. Neither his polio or the despair of the times could ruin his ambition for these good end goals. Check out if you want to know more about FDR and how he was a good president, even with polio.

So where did Macbeth go wrong?

It is seen in the book that Macbeth goes insane from sleep loss and hallucinations they are seeing. It starts with Macbeth in the play in act II, scene I, lines 41-72, when his ambition drove him to the point of insanity where he saw a floating, bloody dagger pointing to the king’s room where then he committed treason, killing the king. Later on, we see Macbeth seeing ghosts that aren’t actually present. This is directly seen in the book in act III, scene IV, lines 48-51, after Lennox asks the king to sit, but Macbeth will not sit in his chair because he sees Banquo’s ghost sitting in it. Basically, Macbeth’s ambition to become king led him to killing the current king. The paranoia of doing that led him to killing Banquo as well, in order to keep his place as king. He is also shown as going insane through the whole play along with his wife from just the loss of sleep. With the loss of sleep it wore down Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s physical and psychological state, this lead to them not sleeping straight and even Lady Macbeth sleepwalking. This is all a result of their ambition being too strong towards the wrong actions. After killing the king, they could not sleep due to the guilt they felt. Macbeth even quotes his guilt as he hears knocking in act II, scene II, line 94.

"Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst!"

Macbeth’s ambition started right after he got the prophecy from the witches in this play, saying that he would become king. In act I, scene III, lines 141-153, he’s talking aside to himself right after hearing this.

"This supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill, why hath it given me earnest of success. Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor. If good, why I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs, against the use of nature? Present fears are less than horrible imaginings: my thought whose murder yet is but fantastical, shakes so my single state of man that function is smother’d in surmise, and nothing is but what is not."

Basically, Macbeth is saying this news can’t be good or bad. If it’s good, why does he feel the urge to kill the king? If bad, how does he even achieve such success? Now, back in this time period, the king was not to be messed with. Sedition was punished severely by burning, decapitation, or by hanging. These punishments were usually made public to set an example for any future people speaking out or revolting against the king. Knowing this, we can see why after he kills the king, he is feeling so guilty that he is driven to insanity and sleep deprivation. Psychologist Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, is an expert on psychology and understands sleep as a huge necessity for our brains.

"Almost all psychiatric disorders show some problems with sleep.''

With this said, Macbeth's ambition lead him to increased insanity as he decreased in sleep. He was seeing and hearing things that were not real and this really was his biggest downfall. All this over his extreme ambition to becoming king as soon as possible. Too bad Macbeth didn't just wait for fate to play itself.

Finally, it felt appropriate to see what the Bible has to say on ambition, since Christians all over the world use the Bible for life tips and guidelines.

First, we have Luke 9:25. This verse says is "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?" What is taken from this verse is we shouldn't be focused on things that change you. There is no purpose of having everything if you lose yourself. Macbeth gave up basically his entire life and all his friends in order to become king. He became king, but it wasn't worth it in the end. Likewise, in 1 John 2:16 informs, "For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world." What can be taken from this is things of the world aren't as good as the Lord so don't let anything lead you from God. Macbeth, again, put becoming king above everything else, which in the end lead to insanity and downfall.

Next, Matthew 6:33 says "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." This can be translated to seek God and have ambition for him and he will give you what you need. Macbeth didn't have any sort of religious ambition, just ambition for becoming king. Comparatively, Matthew 5:6 states, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." This shows that we should have ambition for God's word. Macbeth was a very ambitious man, but he had selfish ambition, only for himself, which lead to evil.

Finally, Philippians 2:3-4 declares "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." This implies we should do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain. We should pay attention to the interest of others, unlike Macbeth. He only did things for himself, he didn't care about others interests. Macbeth did listen to his wife, but she also had selfish ambition.

This wraps up our study on the Macbeth’s ambition and what we see as what went wrong.

Our information was gathered by members of a team. First, we have Connor, who found an entrepreneur to interview who understood ambition and Connor was one of the main 2 speakers in the podcast linked on here. Next, we have Bree, who found leaders in history who also had strong ambition and also spoke in the podcast. After that, Raiven and Drew searched in the Macbeth play what truly in Macbeth's ambition made him go insane. Finally, we had Kanea, who found verses from the Bible and related them to ambition.

Any information our team found and used can be found on the following sources:

Book Citation

Shakespeare, William. MacBeth: Prestwick House literary touchstone classics series. Ed. Paul Moliken and Daniel Reed. Cheswold, DE: Prstwick House, 2005. Print.


"Martin Luther King Jr. - Biography". Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 8 Mar 2017. <>

Pettinger, Tejvan. "Christopher Columbus Biography | ." Biography Online. Oxford, 13 May 2009. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <>.

Productions, Terra Incognita Interactive. "Benjamin Franklin, Entrepreneur - The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary." Benjamin Franklin, Entrepreneur - The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary. The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, 2008. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <>.

Staff, "Franklin D. Roosevelt." A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <>.

Berish, Amy. "FDR and Polio." FDR Presidential Library & Museum. FDR Presidential Library & Museum, n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <>.Berish, Amy. "FDR and Polio." FDR Presidential Library & Museum. FDR Presidential Library & Museum, n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <>.

"Ambition As A Negative Quality Philosophy Essay." UKEssays. UKEssays, Nov. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. <>.

"What is the effect of guilt in the symptoms of mental illness?" Some symptoms of mental illness due to guilt? N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <>.

Swaminathan, Nikhil. "Can a Lack of Sleep Cause Psychiatric Disorders?" Scientific American. Scientific American, 23 Oct. 2007. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <>.

"BibleGateway." A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages. Bible Gateway, n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <>. In order to see specific verses used, use the search bar on the website to look them up. The verses we used also can be found in all NIV bibles. - Kid President on YouTube speaking about Martin Luther King Jr. -What would happen if you didn’t sleep? - Claudia Aguirre (TED-Ed, YouTube)


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