Lady Macbeth 2: Unchecked Ambition

What does Macbeth show us about getting ahead? Shaheen Khan shares what she learned from playing Lady Macbeth and how performing in Asia helped her find comedy in Shakespeare's most famous tragedy.


The ambition of Lady Macbeth

Mmm, ambition. Don’t we all have it? I sort of wish I was a bit more like Lady Macbeth and the Macbeths actually. Well, the play is about ambition and about what happens when ambition goes, not too far, but sort of unchecked in yourself. We are all ambitious. We all want to get ahead. We all want that, you know, the crown, but we know that we’re not going to do certain things, you know? Because we feel we’re good people and you can’t do that, it’s wrong, whatever. But in this play they see an opportunity. And it’s interesting that actually Macbeth for me, at the beginning of the play, he’s a good guy to me. He’s like, ‘Yeah, I really want that but of course I’m not going to kill him to get it.’ And then his wife, she’s like, ‘He’s not going to do it, is he?’ And then what happens in the end? She realises, you know, ‘Naught’s had, all’s spent, where our desire is got without content.’ And you think, yes, you realise that now. It’s like all of us in a way. You know, when you absolutely really want that house and your stomach’s churning or whatever it is that you desire so badly, a car or any material thing. In the end you get it and then it loses its lustre.

A British Asian production of Macbeth

So many Indian films and stories have taken their inspiration from Shakespeare that obviously they relate to it and it’s relevant for them. And so for us taking our Asian version of Macbeth through Britain was quite extraordinary. The British Asian audience loved it as did a lot of white audiences actually. What a lot of white people really liked was that they saw a different take on a lot of the Shakespeares they had seen. I mean, for example, our witches were hijras. Now, hijras in India are actually transvestites, transgender. They’re actually seen as the third gender. For me that was very exciting using the hijras as the witches in Macbeth. And the audience loved it. And it was interesting because there were people who said, you know, they’ve seen lots of Macbeths but they’ve never seen that kind of interpretation of the witches. And there was this lovely woman at one of the venues and she’d come with her children and she said, ‘It’s really interesting because this is their first Macbeth. I’ve seen lots. And my first Macbeth was typical witches with the pointy hats. And their version which they will take with them through their lifetime will be these, you know, half-men, half-women in these beautiful, colourful clothes.’ I think also we found quite a lot of comedy in the witches as well. Which I think is great because you don’t want the witches to just be these one-dimensional, you know, spooky kind of thing. You kind of want them to be a bit more. And what I loved about our Macbeth was actually there was quite a lot of comedy for such a dark piece. Somehow the hijras managed to bring something special.

Task 1

Task 2

Task 3

We use I wish and the past simple to express wishes about the present or future. For example, Shaheen says:

I wish I was a bit more like Lady Macbeth.

She uses the past simple ('was') but she's talking about the present.


Task 4


Language level

Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

Submitted by twarita.bajoria on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 10:22

I suppose unchecked ambition means lady macbeth had an ambition which was unchecked means not clear ...she loved macbeth whom she wanted to be the king after killing the current king(as said in part1 of video ),but actually what she desired -her love for macbeth ,or what she gets after macbeth becomes the king ...or was her love just to get the wealth ...all these I suppose was unchecked and lacked clarity ...the desire to such a degree became strong with too many possibilities and unclarity
Hi twarita, I think lady Macbeth had ambition[s], not only one, which is called unchecked desire. Am I right??
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Submitted by CesarOramas on Tue, 31/07/2018 - 14:04

We are all ambitious, I think that is not bad to have some. But if you don't know how to manage you will be on trouble like Lady Macbeth and Macbeth was. I really like The Tragedy of Macbeth, it is a very interesting play. I readed couple months ago after I watched the Polanski´s film version.

Submitted by Néstor Serrano on Sun, 15/07/2018 - 20:00

I think that all of us must have some ambitious, but supposdly, it can't be something that the people can't manage, must to be in normal cirsumstances like to crown a studies, to increases the salary, to grow in life experiences. About the second point, I think that the ambitious it can be too high because this can't bring happy to the person.

Submitted by APARECIDA on Sun, 28/01/2018 - 11:10

I agree we are all ambicious, but its not bad...I think as a bird need the wind to fly ...we need the ambiciousment to go ahead and work hard to get what we want... here in Brazil we are tested every moment , as in work or particular live...we think about what want in future, where want to be e how want to be. when children ours fathers say us need to study and work for getting and to realize ours ambiciousment.