‘’The agents of evil often tell us part of the truth in order to lead us to our destruction. They earn our trust by telling us the truth about little things, but then they betray us when it will damage us the most.’’ (Shakespeare, 2003, p.21).
This quote is told very early on in the play, and plays an important role in Macbeth. What this quote is trying to tell us is that wicked people are tricking us into believing things that are more remarkable. This essential quote uncovers the whole story of Macbeth from the beginning to the end. Macbeth is a play that revolves heavily on a term called unchecked ambition. This essentially means that somebody has extreme desires for power, success or wealth. This is shown by Macbeth doing everything he can to obtain the crown; to become the king of scotland. He and his wife Lady Macbeth achieved this by committing abominable acts such as regicide. This story of Macbeth can be compared to modern day stories as well. Nowadays people's ambition is seen as a good quality of people. But Macbeth shows us that ambition can be seen as a detrimental force. Hundreds of years later the use of ambition and its consequences can be seen again. Tonya Harding a figure skater whose unchecked ambition is to obtain the Olympic gold medal during the 1994 winter Olympics. Her victim was her main competitor Nancy Kerrigan. This essay will closely compare the characters of Macbeth and Harding, to juxtapose the differences between the two characters and how unchecked ambition was the driving force behind their downfall. (https://ivypanda.com/essays/unchecked-ambition-in-shakespeares-macbeth; Retrieved on 10 June 2021) (https://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/macbeth/themes/; Retrieved on 10 June 2021)(https://www.biography.com/athlete/tonya-harding; Retrieved on 10 June 2021)
‘’And the Thane of Cawdor too. Isn’t that what they said? ‘’ Being easily manipulated, a trait that both characters share. The quote mentioned above illustrates how easily Macbeth can get manipulated by the three witches. A bit later on in the story Macbeth gets manipulated by Lady Macbeth. She is the real genius behind the plan, the reason why Macbeth committed regicide, she shows a rather more masculine side by being as vicious and ambitious as men. (https://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/macbeth/themes/; Retrieved on 10 June 2021) But how can this lady simply manipulate Macbeth into committing regicide. Well the answer is easy. She questions his manliness. ‘’Or will you live as a coward,always saying’’I can't’’’’(Shakespeare, 2003, p.43). The use of a simile from Lady Macbeth makes Macbeth feel weaker as if he isn't manly enough. Likewise Harding got manipulated by her ex-husband Jeff Gilooly to sabotage her rival so that she could win the Olympics. Her lust for the gold medal was the driving force behind her getting easily manipulated. She fell right into his trap and agreed that they would hire a hitman that would harm Nancy Kerrigan. January 6th 1994, the day that Nancy Kerrigan got attacked with a collapsible baton. The results were fatal, her kneecap and quadriceps were injured. Resulting in her not competing in the US championships.(https://www.biography.com/athlete/nancy-kerrigan?li_source=LI&li_medium=m2m-rcw-biography; Retrieved on 10 June 2021) (https://www.biography.com/athlete/tonya-harding; Retrieved on 10 June 2021)
From both cases we can see a clear similarity with both characters. They both get easily manipulated because they want to achieve something so bad that they don't care what is standing in their way.
Unchecked ambition, an important role in both stories. After Macbeth receives the news that he will be the Thane of Cawdor and soon the King, his unchecked ambition starts. He wanted it to happen sooner. Like it's so close but yet far away. There was only one option, committing regicide. His lust for power crossed the line of human boundaries. He deceived people by thinking he was somebody they could trust. But could they? He earned his position of Thane of Cawdor by fighting and defeating the threat to Scotland. But the actions that happened next were out of unchecked ambition. Yet he didn't decide to stop, he kept on going. Macbeth uses metaphor to show that he doesn't want to stop. ‘’Stars, hide your light so no one can see the terrible desires within me.’’(Shakespeare, 2003, p.29). Throughout the whole play light is symbolized with peace and justice, whereas darkness is adjoined with crime and injustice. With this quote Macbeth essentially says that the stars should hide their light so the dark desires of him won't be noticeable. He got so influenced by unchecked ambition that he cannot stop committing more bad deeds. ‘’bad deeds force you to commit more bad deeds”(Shakespeare, 2003, p.101). Macbeth wasn't the only one to have such ambition. Hardin was also very determined to obtain the gold medal. It would benefit her competitive as it would also benefit her from a financial perspective. Likewise as Macbeth she was focussed on the prize and executed everything standing in her way of it. Thus unchecked ambition is a similarity that both characters share.
(https://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/macbeth/themes/ Retrieved on 10 June 2021)
(https://ivypanda.com/essays/unchecked-ambition-in-shakespeares-macbeth/ Retrieved on 10 June 2021)
The above mentioned characteristics were actually doing more harm than good. It led to the downfall of both characters. Their intakes in crime destroyed their lives. After Macbeth killed more and more people he not only created more suspicion but he also felt a lot of internal guilt. This drove him to a point where he started hallucinating his victims. This did not only happen with Macbeth but also Lady Macbeth. At the beginning of Act Five she says ‘’what's done cannot be undone’’(Shakespeare, 2003, p.183). It drives her to a point where she is overloaded with so much guilt that she committed suicide. Macbeth realises shortly after that life is meaningless and that each day is just like every other.
‘’Life is nothing more than an illusion. It's like a poor actor who struts and worries for his hour on the stage and then is never heard from again. Life is a story told by an idiot, full of noise and emotional disturbance but devoid of meaning.’’ (Shakespeare, 2003, p.203)
In this soliloquy Macbeth uses a metaphor to compare life to an actor. He is saying that he wasted so much time trying to obtain what he wanted but in the end he realised that everything was meaningless. In the original version Macbeth says that it signifies nothing, by saying that all the things he did are meaningless, which makes his crimes seem to be less awful. Likewise Harding also had a catastrophical downfall. A few days after the incident Harding won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics. But that didn't age well. People soon started to suspect things . She even got death threats from people, so she stopped competing for a while and got some bodyguards. The bodyguards knew about the incident. The FBI launched an investigation and the bodyguard confesses to his involvement. Shortly after Harding confessed too, because she confessed she avoided jail time. But she had to pay a $160.000 fine and was banned from the US figure skating association. She worked so hard to get everything she wanted but in the end she lost everything. (https://www.biography.com/news/tonya-harding-nancy-kerrigan-attack-photos; Retrieved on 10 June)
In conclusion both characters compared share similar traits. They both let unchecked ambition take control over them, they lost sense of their identity and crossed boundaries they shouldn’t have. They got manipulated and let that lead them to their downfall. It's wonderful how we can compare characters to Macbeth centuries after Shakespeare died. His relevance will always affect us, if it is now or in the future.
https://www.biography.com/athlete/nancy-kerrigan?li_source=LI&li_medium=m2m-rcw-biography; Retrieved on 10 June 20201
Biography.com Editors, (2014). Tonya Harding Biography, Biography.
https://www.biography.com/athlete/tonya-harding; Retrieved on 10 June 2021
IvyPanda. (2020). Unchecked Ambition in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. Ivypanda. https://ivypanda.com/essays/unchecked-ambition-in-shakespeares-macbeth; Retrieved on 10 June 2021
Pak, E. (2019). Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan: A Complete Timeline of Kerrigan’s Attack and Aftermath. Biography. https://www.biography.com/news/tonya-harding-nancy-kerrigan-attack-photos; retrieved on June 10 2021
Shakespeare, W. (2003). Macbeth. New York, NY: Spark Publishing.
SparkNotes Editors, (2005). Macbeth Themes. Sparknotes
https://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/macbeth/themes/; Retrieved on 10 june 2021