My teacher said something interesting the other day. See, we’re currently studying Othello in my English class, and anyone familiar with Shakespeare’s work knows that all of his protagonists have a fatal flaw that is ultimately their downfall. In Othello, it was Othello’s trustworthy personality that caused him to believe the man who wanted him to fall. In Romeo & Juliet, it was Romeo’s impetuosity, his rashness of action before thinking thoroughly that caused him to fall in love with Juliet within moments of meeting her, and causing him to kill himself upon seeing Juliet ‘dead’. Then of course there is Macbeth, who’s ambition led him to committing ungodly crimes and further led him to his death.
It’s when my teacher brought up Macbeth’s flaw that a girl in my class replied with “How can ambition be a flaw?” and to which I slightly agreed with – how can ‘you’ wanting to do better be negative?
To answer the girl’s (and most of my class’) question, my teacher responded by writing up ‘Ambition’ on the board in obnoxiously big writing, and she said “Ambition becomes a flaw when somebody will be inhumane in order to reach their goal”. It’s when Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth to commit regicide in order to obtain the power of Queen. Her ambition led to tragedy. Ambition can lead to tragedy.
Ambition becomes a flaw when when you realise you don’t care who’s feelings you hurt, or who’s back you have to stab in order to get to where you want to get. It’s when guilt and your sub-conscience get lost beneath immorality and a hunger for more.
So, I’ve made a pretty good argument for why ambition is a flaw, right? But it’s not all just tragedy, ambition is important – it is important to be ambitious, I am ambitious.
Ambition gets your heart pumping, it prevents you from falling into a routine and it helps you to create goals for yourself – however big they may be.
My ambition tells me that no dream is too big, it tells me my only setback is not believing in myself, it helps me to pursue a career in writing however hard it might be.
Ambition is not a flaw. Ambition is not a flaw because it constantly gives me something to work towards; I want a successful career where I have a strong voice, so I have the ambition to work hard until I get there.
I have morals, I have a sense of what is right and what is wrong and I know when I am no longer being truthful to myself. Which is why, my ambition is not a flaw but a positive attribute. My ambition keeps me going.
So to return to the first question “is ambition a flaw?” well, you can never really answer that question. It depends on the person, it depends on how strong their ambition is and how weak their moralities are. It all comes down to the person and whether they have the strength to know when it is time to stop. Macbeth was weak; his ambition ruined him, his ambition overpowered him, his ambition led him to tragedy. Lady Macbeth, her ambition partly represented an idea of women’s strength, she was one of Shakespeare’s strongest female characters yet again her ambition to be Queen led her to living in guilt and further to her tragic end.
However, my ambition will not end in tragedy, my ambition will respectfully fuel my need to succeed.
Words by Maija Lily
The UK's first Career & Lifestyle Magazine for women in the Creative and Media industries.