The Dominant Theme Of Ambition In Shakespeare’s Macbeth

1152 words - 5 pages

Weakness is often described as a lack of strength, power, or ambition. However, there are rare cases where a weakness can instead be an abundance of these qualities that ends up becoming adverse. In the Greek play, Oedipus, by Sophocles, Oedipus has a superfluous buildup of willpower and might that cultivates three major flaws in his character. Despite his attributes and qualifications that secured him his title as King of Thebes, Oedipus’s absence of rationality, his impetuosity, and his egotistical behavior end up bringing about his abject fate.
Oedipus shares a trait with many tyrannical rulers: a deep sense of irrationality. After taking it upon himself to find Laius’s murderer, he becomes desperate. His desperation to know the truth about his situation leads to paranoia and anger. He becomes blind to the truth and only sees what he wants to see. This is evidenced when Oedipus is accusing Creon of the murder. Creon defends himself seamlessly, explaining, “Consider, first, if you think any one/would choose to rule and fear rather than rule/and sleep untroubled by a fear if power/were equal in both cases. I, at least,/I was not born with such a frantic yearning/to be a king-but to do what kings do” (I.655-660). Regardless of Creon’s justification, Oedipus is still adamant on having him killed. His status combined with his unreasonable obstinacy threatens the lives of the innocent people around him. This same issue occurs again during Oedipus’s debate with Teiresias. Oedipus calls upon the prophet, Teiresias, to give a prophecy and to save the city. Teiresias refrains from telling Oedipus that he, himself, is Laius’s murderer, but Oedipus vehemently demands that the prophet reveals the truth. When Teiresias tells Oedipus that he is the murderer and the cause of the plague in Thebes, Oedipus immediately discounts him as a prophet and speaks absurdly.
OEDIPUS: Is it endurable that I should hear
such words from him? Go and curse go with you!
Quick, home with you! Out of my house at once!
TEIRESIAS: I would not have come either had you not called me.
OEDIPUS: I did not know then you would talk like a fool-
Or it would have been long before I called you. (I.488-492)
The same way Oedipus dismisses Creon as a liar, he neglects Teiresias’s status because he does not want to believe what would inconvenience him. He chooses to be foolish and ignorant of his flaws and past crimes.
Continuing on the weaknesses that lead to Oedipus’s doom, another one of his tragic flaws was his propensity towards rash behavior. This rashness is first demonstrated early in the play after Oedipus hears about the murderer of Laius. Oedipus is so keen on saving himself and his city that he decrees without thinking things through, “Upon the murderer I invoke this curse-/whether he is one man and all unknown,/or one of many-may he wear out his life/in misery to miserable doom!/If with my knowledge he lives at my hearth/I pray that I myself may feel my curse”...

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