From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Macbeth Ambition Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line) from the Folger Shakespeare Library

Quote #4

LADY MACBETH
[…]
Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great,
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it. (1.5.15-20)

Here's another count against ambition: After reading the letter from her husband (which recounts the witches' prophesy), Lady Macbeth's thoughts immediately turn to murder. Problem: Macbeth has ambition, but he doesn’t have the nerve to see it through. Luckily Lady Macbeth is man enough for both of them.

Quote #5

MACBETH 

                              I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other— (1.7.25-28)

Time to be real: when Macbeth is honest with himself, he admits that there's no good reason to kill Duncan, because Duncan is perfectly good at this whole king-business. Macbeth just wants that power for himself.

Quote #6

ROSS
                              'Gainst nature still!
Thriftless ambition, that will ravin up
Thine own lives' means! Then 'tis most like
The sovereignty will fall upon Macbeth. (2.4.39-42)

Ross is right about one thing: ambition is to blame for Duncan's murder. He's wrong about the most important part, though. Here, he accuses Duncan's kids of going "'gainst nature" and killing their own father—but Macbeth is the one to watch out for. Our question: is Macbeth going against nature, too, by killing the king? Is ambition of any kind unnatural?

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement