Act 1 analysis The line “I have no spur/ Tp prick the sides of my intent, but only/ Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself”(1. 7. 25-27) is spoken by Macbeth to himself when he was debating whether to kill Duncan or not. Macbeth says, “I can’t spur myself to action. The only thing motivating me is ambition, which makes people rush ahead of themselves toward disaster. ” Macbeth criticizes himself for having only overpowering ambition to “prick the sides of my intent”.
Figuratively, the spurs that he invokes are like that on a horse; Macbeth’s ambition moves him as a rider would use these spurs to move his animal. Also, when he mentions ambition overleaping and falling on the other side, readers can picture a horseman jumping over his horse instead of riding on it. This shows that ambition will lead him to either greatness or suffering. One of the main themes in Macbeth is that when ambition goes unchecked by moral constraints, the corrupting power results will lead to disastrous acts.
In this line, Macbeth admits that the only reason to kill Duncan is his ambition, which seems an insufficient reason for the murder. At this point of the play, Macbeth has not fully lost his conscience yet, and he does not want to kill Duncan. However, his ambition overpowers his conscience, and he later on kills Duncan. The transition of Macbeth from an innocent man to a villain emphasizes the destruction brought by unchecked ambition. Readers can tell that Macbeth is very weak psychologically in dealing with guilt and crime.
This line shows the struggle between Macbeth’s ambition and guilt since Macbeth wants to kill Duncan because of his ambition, but he cannot handle the thought of killing his own king. Even though Macbeth is a great warrior, he cannot cope with the stress of committing a crime. This line also shows Macbeth’s noncommittal characteristic. Although he decides not to kill Duncan due to lack of reason in this line, he easily changes his mind when his wife returns and convinces him.