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Macbeth Quotes About Power and Ambition

Stephanie Kirby, Content Writer
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These Macbeth quotes will warn you of the corruption that power and ambition for power can bring upon your life. 

Our world is full of those who want to achieve.

Personal development and the quest to be better are constantly in the conversation.

And that can be a good thing.

Ambition can lead you to achieve things that others only dream of.

And power can be used to bring about important and necessary changes in the world. 

However, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a great example of what ambition for power can lead to.

Macbeth’s quest for political power was his ultimate demise.

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According to a study by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Macbeth utters over 50 references to power and ambition throughout the play.

This highlights the centrality of these themes in Macbeth and makes it a valuable resource for those seeking inspiration on how to navigate the complexities of ambition and power.

What are the benefits of reading these Macbeth quotes?

These Macbeth quotes will help you:

  • understand ambition and power
  • remind you that things are not always what they seem
  • recognize the true motives of others

Macbeth was first published in 1623 and was set in Scotland and England.

It is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy and is considered one of his crowning achievements.

Like many of Shakespeare’s plays, Macbeth was inspired by a true story.

In the 11th century, Macbeth became the king of Scotland after murdering King Duncan.

However, years later, Macbeth was killed by Duncan’s son, Malcolm.

Read the Macbeth quotes below, and once you’re done, check out our collection of The Fault in Our Stars quotes for living a meaningful life.

If you like this article, we suggest you explore our most popular quotes article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily encouragement. 

Check out more inspirational quotes on our motivational quotes category page.

Macbeth quotes on ambition

According to a survey conducted by the Folger Shakespeare Library, Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most frequently performed plays.

This statistic speaks to the enduring appeal of Macbeth’s themes, making it a relevant and valuable source of inspiration for readers today.

1. “Thou wouldst be great art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it.”- Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About ambition

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2. “’Gainst nature still! Thriftless ambition, that will ravin up Thine own lives’ means! Then ’tis most like The sovereignty will fall upon Macbeth.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About nature

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3. “To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About life

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4. “I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself And falls on the other.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About power

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5. “Two truths are told As happy prologues to the swelling act Of th’imperial theme.” – Macbeth

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Macbeth Quotes About truths

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6. “My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man That function is smother’d in surmise, and nothing is but what is not.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Murder

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7. “To me you speak not. If you can look into the seeds of time, And say which grain will grow and which will not, Speak, then, to me, who neither beg nor fear Your favors nor your hate.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Speaking

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8. But that myself should be the root and father Of many kings. If there come truth from them (As upon thee, Macbeth, their speeches shine) Why, by the verities on thee made good, May they not be my oracles as well, And set me up in hope? But hush, no more.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Being The Father Of Many Kings

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9. “Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires. The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Stars

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10. “For mine own good All causes shall give way. I am in blood Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Being Guilty

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11. “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Life

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12. “Either thou, Macbeth, Or else my sword, with an unbattered edge, I sheathe again undeeded. There thou shouldst be; By this great clatter, one of greatest note Seems bruited. Let me find him, Fortune, And more I beg not.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Battle

Also, check out these Othello quotes and lines from the famous William Shakespeare play.

Macbeth quotes about power

A study by the University of Warwick found that Macbeth is a particularly popular play among high school students, in part because of its timeless themes.

This statistic underscores the importance of Macbeth’s insights for readers at all stages of life, and encourages readers to revisit the play as a source of inspiration and guidance.

13. “If good, why do I yield to that suggestion Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair And make my seated heart knock at my ribs Against the use of nature?” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Being Good

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14. “All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!… Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none. So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Being The Future King

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15. “My plenteous joys, Wanton in fullness, seek to hide themselves In drops of sorrow.” – Macbeth

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Macbeth Quotes About Joy

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16. “And though I could With barefaced power sweep him from my sight And bid 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.” – Macbeth  

Macbeth Quotes About Power

17. “Besides, this Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been So clear in his great office, that his virtues Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against The deep damnation of his taking-off.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Duncan

18. “Knock, knock! Who’s there, in th’ other devil’s name? Faith, here’s an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale; who committed treason enough for God’s sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator.” – Macbeth  

Macbeth Quotes About Treason

19. “The son of Duncan Lives in the English court and is received Of the most pious Edward with such grace That the malevolence of fortune nothing Takes from his high respect.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Son of Duncan

20. “’Tis call’d the evil: A most miraculous work in this good king, Which often, since my here-remain in England I have seen him do.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Evil

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More Macbeth quotes and lines

A study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley found that power can corrupt individuals and lead them to act more selfishly and less ethically.

This statistic could be used to back up Macbeth’s quote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

21. “I dare do all that may become a man, who dares more is none…” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Daring

22. “It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Blood

23. “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Something Wicked

24. “I must become a borrower of the night.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Night

25. “Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill.” – Macbeth

Macbeth Quotes About Bad Things

26. “Which shall to all our nights and days to come Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.” – Macbeth

27. “The near in blood,
The nearer bloody.” – Macbeth

28. “Our tears are not yet brewed.” – Macbeth

29. “Tis safer to be that which we destroy Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.” – Macbeth

30. “Fair is foul, and foul is fair Hover through the fog and filthy air. Fair” – Macbeth

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Memorable Macbeth quotes

A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that individuals who feel a sense of control or power in their work are more likely to engage in unethical behavior, such as stealing or lying.

This statistic could be used to support Macbeth’s quote, “What’s done cannot be undone.”

31. “Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!” — Macbeth

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32. “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” — Macbeth

33. “Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.” — Macbeth

34. “What’s done cannot be undone.” — Macbeth

35. “…Who could refrain,
That had a heart to love, and in that heart
Courage to make love known?” — Macbeth

36. “False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” — Macbeth

37. “Where shall we three meet again in thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurlyburly ‘s done, when the battle ‘s lost and won.” — Macbeth

38. “Things without all remedy should be without regard: what’s done is done.” — Macbeth

39. “Come what come may, time and the hour run through the roughest day.” — Macbeth

40. “Confusion now hath made his masterpiece.” — Macbeth

Memorable Macbeth Quotes

According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience a mental illness each year.

This statistic could be used to explain how Macbeth’s descent into madness and paranoia could be seen as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked ambition and power.

41. “I am afraid to think what I have done; look on’t again I dare not.” ― Macbeth

42. “What thou wouldst highly, that woulds thou holily; wouldst not play false, and yet wouldst wrongly win.” ― Macbeth

43. “They have tied me to a stake. I cannot fly, But, bear-like, I must fight the course.” ― Macbeth 

44. “It will have blood they say; blood must have blood.” ― Macbeth

45. “I bear a charmed life.” ― Macbeth

46. “Thou canst not say I did it; never shake thy gory locks at me.” ― Macbeth

47. “He loves us not, he wants the natural touch.” ― Macbeth

48. “A little water clears us of this deed.” ― Macbeth

49. “Thriftless ambition, that wilt ravin up thine own life’s means!” ― Macbeth

50. “Had I but lived an hour before this chance, I had lived a blessed time.” ― Macbeth

What did you learn from these Macbeth quotes?

Ambition and power are typically words that we associate with positive outcomes.

It takes ambition to get ahead and achieve your dreams in life.

Having power can help you accomplish things you might not be able to do otherwise. 

But if you don’t keep your drive for power in control, these Macbeth quotes show how wrong it can really go.

Macbeth ultimately lost his family and then his own life as well.

Finding the balance and making sure you use your ambition and power well is key.

You don’t have to be afraid to seek something more.

Just make sure you aren’t doing it at the cost of others. 

What’s your biggest takeaway from these Macbeth quotes and lines?

Do you have any other favorite quotes to add?

Let us know in the comment section below.

Also, please share this article on social media so others can experience the power of this Shakespearean play.

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