The Downfall of Macbeth

By: Clarissa Kampe

The Toll of Macbeth's Ambitions

While Lady Macbeth had a huge role in Macbeth’s downfall, ultimately it was himself and his ambition that caused his collapse. At the beginning the three witches told Macbeth that he will be king, but he had to kill King Duncan first. “Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven, or to hell” (Act 2, scene 1). This quote shows that Macbeth is about to kill King Duncan, and this is the start to the downward spiral. Him killing Duncan is making him paranoid, he thinks someone will kill him in his sleep. After killing King Duncan Macbeth hires two murderers to kill Banquo for he is a threat to his kingship. Macbeth tells the two murderers, “Know Banquo was your enemy…. So he is mine, and in such bloody distance that every minute of his being thrusts against my near’st of life; and though I could with barefaced power sweep him from my sight and bid in my will avouch it, yet I must not, for certain friends that are both his and mine, whose loves I may not drop, but wail his fall who myself struck down. And thence it is that I to your assistance do make love, masking the business from the common eye for sundry reasons.” (Act 3, scene 1). Macbeth needed to get rid of Banquo since he poses a threat to him, yet he couldn’t kill him himself because of suspicion as well as losing what little friends he has. Thus, why Macbeth hired the two murderers to kill him. But after killing Banquo, Macbeth has a mental breakdown at a dinner where he sees Banquo’s ghost sitting at the other end of the table. He yells and screams at the ghost and banishes it, causing concerned looks by his peers who do not see the ghost. Later on in the play, Macduff has fled to England to gather an army to take the crown from Macbeth, hearing this news macbeth becomes outraged and decides to kill his wife and children who he left behind at his castle. “The castle of Macduff I will surprise, seize upon Fife, give to the edge o’ the sword his wife, his babes, and all the unfortunate souls that trace him in his line” (Act , scene 2). When Macduff’s family is finally murdered and Macduff finds out about it, Macduff becomes angry and makes plans to kill Macbeth himself. When England’s army reaches to Macbeth’s castle, Macduff finds Macbeth and beheads him for killing his family and innocent men. So ultimately, Macbeth’s downfall was caused by his own ambition to be king, and his greediness to stay king. His greed caused him to kill innocent men just to make sure that no one could take his throne. Yet in the end, Macbeth is killed for the crimes he committed to protect his kingship.
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Literacy Devices

“I go, and it is done. The bell invites me. Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven, or to hell.” (Act 2, scene 1) This quote shows symbolism because the bell also symbolizes that it is time to kill King Duncan as well as it is the calling bell sending Duncan to heaven or to hell.


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“As sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion.” (Act 1, scene 2) This quote is an analogy, for it is comparing two things. It is comparing a sparrow to an eagle and a hare to a lion; showing that the animals are enemies. The prey versus the predator; much like King Duncan to Macbeth. Since Macbeth is planning on killing King Duncan.


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“Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were a porter of hell gate, he should have old turning the key. Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ the name of Belzebub?” (Act 2, scene 3). This quote is comic relief because it is a comical moment in serious part of the play. The quote puts a funny moment in the midst of a very solemn scene. It is right after Macbeth killed King Duncan and Lady Macbeth trying to keep her husband from acting suspicious to the guests in the house. The scene is very grim and this quote offers a bit of relief.


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Macbeth's Ambitions


Macbeth’s dream to rule the land was fiercely strong

He killed friends that rose suspicions of him

He wanted to rule the throne for lifelong

Macbeth, the Thane of Cawdor was condemned


Macbeth fell in a downwards spiral to hell

The murders he committed drove him mad

His problems started at the ring of the bell

While Lady Macbeth had grown quite awfully sad


She couldn’t stand the pain so she ended it

Macbeth ended up headless in a dark pit

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Song Connection link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r00ikilDxW4

While many songs show how ambitions bankrupt a person's life, the song, 21 Guns, represents Macbeth’s ambition and how they destroyed him. In the song, 21 Guns, Green Day (the band) writes about the selfish decisions people make in life and how choices can bring about self destruction. “When you’re at the end of the road and you lost all sense of control and your thoughts have taken their toll when your mind breaks the spirit of your soul” (Green Day). This part of the song relates to the decisions Macbeth has made and how he feels when he finds out the outcome of them. Macbeth knows he is at the end of the road and the murders he committed are driving him crazy. So the song, 21 Guns, accurately describes the toll Macbeth’s ambitions and their effects on him.

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