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					                                                                                        McGuffey 1

                                     The Tragedy of Ambition

Thesis: Supernatural symbolism, omens, and witches are the catalysts for Macbeth‟s ambition.

       Symbolism found in the play shows the relationship to supernatural elements and

Macbeth‟s ambition. There are several elements that have symbolism which also are supernatural

in the play. The first can be found in Macbeth‟s killing of Duncan and the supernatural aspect

can be found in the voice that follows, “Macbeth shall sleep no more!” (2.2.42 Shakespeare).

Macbeth kills Duncan while he is sleeping; eluding to the fact that Macbeth has killed not only

Duncan, but “sleep” itself. The supernatural aspect of this is the fact that once Macbeth kills

Duncan, a voice can be heard prophesizing that Macbeth will sleep no more. Another element of

symbolism is when Macbeth speaking of his ambition to kill King Duncan, “Stars, hide your

fires; let no light see my black and deep desires (1.4.50 Shakespeare). This quote symbolizes the

light versus dark aspect in the play. Macbeth does not want anyone or any “light” to see his

desire to kill Duncan. More symbolism is present on the night of Duncan‟s murder. The Old Man

speaks, “A falcon, tow‟ring in her pride of place,/ Was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed”

(2.4.10 Shakespeare). This quote shows symbolism with the murder. The owl is an inferior

animal to the falcon. This is suppose to show how Macbeth was inferior to Duncan, however he

was able to kill him. Another element of symbolism in the murder are Duncan‟s prized horses.

The Old Man speaks, “And Duncan‟s horses-a thing most strange and certain-Beauteous and

swift, the minions of their race, Turned wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out, Contending

„gainst obedience, as they would make War with mankind” (2.4.14 Shakespeare). This represents

the chaos existing after the Duncan‟s murder. The horses are supposed to be tamed and obedient,
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but on this night they bust out of their stalls and run off. Symbolism found throughout the play

shows how evil is connected with Macbeth‟s ambition.

       The presence of omens in the play also stimulates Macbeth‟s ambition. Omens play a big

role in the play. They are found throughout the main scene in the play, Duncan‟s death. In the

opening of this scene Macbeth remarks,

               Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me

               clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal, vision,

               sensible To feeling as to sight, or art thou but A dagger of the mind, a false

               creation, Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain? I see thee yet, in form as

               palpable as this which now I draw. (2.2.33-41 Shakespeare)

This quote shows the omen of the murder that Macbeth is about to commit. He sees a dagger in

front of him, but it is not really there. Him clutching the imaginary dagger shows the reader that

he is ready to commit his evil dead. There is also more presence of omens. On the night of

Macbeth killing of Duncan he remarks on the ominous night,

               Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse the curtained sleep; witchcraft

               celebrates Pale Hecate‟s offerings and withered murder, Alarumed by his sentinel,

               the wolf, Whose howl‟s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace…I go, and it is

               done: the bell invites me. Hear it no, Duncan, for it is a knell That summons thee

               to heaven, or to hell. (2.1.50-64 Shakespeare)

This quote explains that Macbeth things the night is very ominous and there is aspect of it that

makes it supernatural. He mentions that “witchcraft celebrates” since he feels that evil is about to

happen and witches during that time were evil. There seems to be evil surrounding the entire

night of Duncan‟s death. Lady Macbeth even feels and hears omens for her part in the plotting.
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While speaking during the time Macbeth is killing Duncan she remarks, “Hark! Peace! It was the

owl that shrieked” (2.2.3 Shakespeare). The owl that shrieked and scared Lady Macbeth is

related to the traditional omen of death. An owl at night hooting has been an omen of death in

literature for a while. Later, in the scene she speaks with Macbeth about the murder she

reiterates, “I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry” (2.2.15 Shakespeare). She remarks on

the sounds she has heard during the event of Duncan‟s death. Not only did she hear the owl hoot,

but she hears crickets as well. Crickets, like Owls, are a traditional omen of death (Boyce 54). It

seems supernatural omens surround Macbeth during his quest for his ambition.

       The witches use their magic and fortune telling abilities to awaken Macbeth‟s ambition.

The witch seem to be the root of Macbeth ambitious calling. The witches are the main reason

that Macbeth‟s ambition appears and goes as far as it does in the play. Many authors have written

criticism about the witches in the play. One writes, “These three figures are best viewed as

individuals meddlers, toying with human action. The outcome of events matters little to them.

They desire only to play upon human unverniabilities and to tap the evil within, and they have

chosen as the subject, Macbeth, whose frailties and vices are exploitable” (Thrasher

Understanding Macbeth 81-2). The witches desire only to play or torment with humans. They try

to tap evil into their target‟s life. Macbeth gets caught in their web and they stimulate his

ambition which leads to his demise. In the very beginning of the play the witches speak, “Where

the place? Upon the heath. There to meet with Macbeth. I come, Graymalkin. Paddock calls.

Anon! Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air” (1.1.6 Shakespeare).

The witches speak of Macbeth before the reader reads about him in the play. It seems as though

from the very beginning the witches wish to disturb natural balance of human choice or wisdom.

The witches pick him out to push there evil intentions on to him. Soon after the opening
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sequence of the witches, they appear again. This time they actually meet Macbeth. The witch

greet him and address, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! All hail, Macbeth!

Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” (1.3.48

Shakespeare). During this quote, the witches achieve what they sought to do. They wished to put

influence in Macbeth‟s head by saying things he would wish to attain. The suggestion to

Macbeth gets him interested in the fact that he could become king. Macbeth likes this suggestion

and starts to think about what he could do to achieve it. Macbeth‟s ambition is starting to turn

into the evil component that is part of the tragedy of the play. However, this is not the only time

the witches try to stir up Macbeth ambition. During, the same scene the witches also speak to

Banquo. The witches utter, “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater. Not so happy, yet much happier.

Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none. So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!” (1.3.65

Shakespeare). The witches tell prophecies to Macbeth that he will become king, but Banquo‟s

kin would rule for a lot longer. Once it sees that he has indeed become Thane of Cawdor he

panders about being king and what he would have to do to stay king. He wishes not only to be

king however, but to be a father of many kings throughout time. The witches use their powers to

stir up Macbeth‟s ambition.

       You need more support. You rely heavily on the primary source

and expect all analysis to come from there. Get more sources and weave

everything together.

              English 12 Literary Research Paper Rough Draft

CATEGORY 4                        3                 2                 1                Total
                                                                                                                McGuffey 5

Thesis           Is clearly stated as   Is a complete           Is a complete            Is not a complete      3
Statement        a complete             sentence and            sentence and             sentence and/or
                 sentence and tells     provides some idea      provides little idea     provides no
                 exactly what the       as to the content of    as to the content of     information as to
                 paper is about         the paper               the paper                the content of the
Body             Are logically          Are arranged in a       Are somewhat             No logical             3
Paragraphs       arranged and easy      reasonably logical      logically arranged       arrangement and
                 to follow              order and               and slightly difficult   very difficult to
                                        somewhat easy to        to follow                follow
Paragraph    All paragraphs       Most paragraphs      Paragraphs                        Paragraphing           2
Construction include introductory include introductory included related                  structure was not
                 sentence,              sentence,               information but          clear and
                 explanations or        explanations or         were typically not       sentences were
                 details, and           details, and            constructed well.        not typically
                 concluding             concluding                                       related within the
                 sentence.              sentence.                                        paragraphs.

Sentence         Uses a variety of   Uses a variety of   Uses some variety Uses no variety in 4
Structure        sentence structures sentence structures in sentence        sentence structure
                 with few mistakes   with some mistakes structure with many
Amount of        All topics are         All topics are          All topics are           One or more            2
Information      addressed and all      addressed and           addressed, and           topics were not
                 questions              most questions          most questions           addressed.
                 answered with at       answered with at        answered with 1
                 least 2 quotes or      least 2 sentences       sentence about
                 sources about          about each.             each.
Quality of       Information clearly    Information clearly     Information clearly      Information has        3
Information      relates to the main    relates to the main     relates to the main      little or nothing to
                 topic. It includes     topic. It provides 1-   topic. No details        do with the main
                 several supporting     2 supporting details    and/or examples          topic.
                 details and/or         and/or examples.        are given.
Mechanics        No grammatical,        Almost no               A few grammatical        Many                1
                 spelling or            grammatical,            spelling, or             grammatical,
                 punctuation errors.    spelling or             punctuation errors.      spelling, or
                                        punctuation errors                               punctuation errors.
Format           Follows MLA format Follows MLA format Follows MLA format Does not follow                       3
                 with a few minor   with some errors   with many errors   MLA format
Sources          All sources            All sources             All sources         Some sources are 3
                 (information and       (information and        (information and    not accurately
                 graphics) are          graphics) are           graphics) are       documented.
                 accurately             accurately              accurately
                 documented in the      documented, but a       documented, but
                 desired format.        few are not in the      many are not in the
                                        desired format.         desired format.

                                                                                         Total: 24/40
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                                        Works Cited

Boyce, Charles. “Macbeth”. Enclyopedia of Shakespeare A to Z. Ed. David White. New York:

       Oxford, 1991.

Brooks, Cleanth. “Macbeth Tempts Fate.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San

       Diego: Greenhaven, 1996. 161-76. Excerpted fr. The Well Wrought Urn. Harcourt, 1975.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. Elements of Literature. Ed. Kristine E. Marshall

       and Mairead Stack. Austin: Holt, 2000. 301-82.

Thrasher, Thomas. “The Characters of Macbeth.” Understanding Macbeth. San Diego: Lucent,

       2002. 71-82.

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