"Marquis de Luc de Clapiers Vauvenargues once said, "The greatest evil which fortune can inflict on men is to endow them with small talents and great ambition." Although aspirations and dreams are a healthy standard among society as a whole, what happens when these desires gain an "any means necessary" approach? In Macbeth, William Shakespeare show that blind ambition and greed can overcome any sense of decency remaining in individuals, turning them into soulless representatives of evil. Shakespeare uses characters, motifs, and tone throughout the novel to portray this theme.
The most obvious way that Shakespeare shows the theme is through the characters. [T] As the main protagonist in the novel, Macbeth demonstrates the theme of voracious ambition triumphing over righteousness. [S] Initially, Macbeth is far from evil within: "Chance may crown me, without my stir," preferring to let fate lead his future. Macbeth's "vaulting ambition" leads to him killing King Duncan to secure his own destiny. Macbeth fears his own temptations and the retribution of his own soul, as he mentions "So foul a fair a day I have not seen," (upon his first interaction with the Three Witches) and "stars, hide your fires!" right before executing Duncan. Furthermore, a seemingly distraught Macbeth says "Glamis hath murdered sleep," referring to his uneasy feelings after the murder of Duncan. These phrases show that Macbeth, at point, is human and that there is uncertainty in his heart. However, as his character becomes increasingly sinister, Macbeth takes actions to remove those in his way, like Banquo, and "the very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand," not caring who he harms and how he harms them. This phrase is brutal in its simplicity; an earlier Macbeth would never have said this. [M] An honest description of Macbeth is given by his wife Lady Macbeth when she tells of his being "too full o' the milk of human kindness.