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Question: Macbeth practice exam question: not timed

Read the following extract from Act 1 Scene 5 of Macbeth and then answer the question that follows. At this point in the play, Lady Macbeth is speaking. She has just read Macbeth’s letter telling her about his meeting with the three witches.

Starting with this speech, explore how Shakespeare presents ambition in Macbeth. Write about:
• how Shakespeare presents ambition in this speech
• how Shakespeare presents ambition in the play as a whole.
[30 marks] AO4 [4 marks]


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. What thou wouldst highly, That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,
And yet wouldst wrongly win. Thou’dst have, great Glamis, That which cries, ‘Thus thou must do’ if thou have it; And that which rather thou dost fear to do,
Than wishest should be undone. Hie thee hither, That I may pour my spirits in thine ear
And chastise with the valour of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round, Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem To have thee crowned withal.

Answer: Shakespeare presents ambition as an insatiable trait, which though in the beginning of the play is portrayed as a stimulating and invigorating source of power, Shakespeare ultimately counters these determined thoughts by highlighting the true consequences of irrepressible ambition as ‘signifying nothing’ (Macbeth, Act 5 scene 2). This is performed by Shakespeare’s exploration of the destructivity of Macbeth’s, and his surrounding influences, true motives; power and control.
In this extract, Shakespeare presents one of the main catalysts for Macbeth’s ‘vaulting ambition’ as the evil nature inherent in his wife, Lady Macbeth, through his use of language. The phrase ‘Hie thee hither’ most certainly emphasises her command over Macbeth, as the imperative verbs ‘hie thee’ demonstrate her domineering control. This shows the audience that one of the main causes of Macbeth...(short extract)

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  • Subject: English Literature
  • Course: English Literature
  • Level: A-Level
  • Year: Not applicable
  • Mark: Not available
  • Words: 1179
  • Date submitted: October 25, 2019
  • Date written: Not available
  • References: No
  • Document type: Essay*
  • Essay ID: 8750

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