Thematic Guide to British Poetry

By Ruth Glancy | Go to book overview

Fame and Ambition

The quest for fame has nearly always been seen as a double-edged sword. Ambition—the desire to better oneself, to make full use of one's talents—is surely a noble human aspiration. But uncontrolled ambition and the craving for fame has throughout history been seen as ultimately destructive. Unfortunately, simple ambition can quickly grow into an obsession for power; success breeds success, and power corrupts as it grows. Drama is the main vehicle for the study of the overly ambitious: most of Shakespeare's tragic heroes are driven by overweening ambition, and the epitome of the type is Faust, who sells his soul to obtain superhuman power. Faust's miserable end, tumbling and vainly screaming into the pit of hell, is the most graphic of the falls that await the overly ambitious. The theme is thus closely related to pride or “hubris,” the first of the seven deadly sins and the most important of the vices depicted in Greek tragedy. It is also akin to vanity, against which we are warned by the preacher in Ecclesiastes. Even the quest for knowledge, Faust's original ambition, can be dangerous, as the preacher tells us: “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” This section discusses poems that focus on the quest for political, literary, or athletic glory.

One of the most powerful admonitions against the ambition of rulers is found in the seventeenth-century dramatist James Shirley's play Ajax and Ulysses (1659). “The Glories of Our Blood and State” was said to have been sung to King Charles I (who was beheaded by parliament) and served as a warning to Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the commonwealth that succeeded Charles's rule. Similar in theme to the poems that remind us that death comes to all, regardless of station, the poem warns, “there is no armor against fate;/Death lays his icy hand on kings.” The proud ruler is reminded to “boast no more your mighty deeds”; only

-81-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Thematic Guide to British Poetry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 306

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.