Treatment of Ambition and Royals

Ambition is one of the most long-standing attributes of humanity to ever be recorded in human history. It is usually characterized by a propensity to achieve certain objectives that individuals often set for themselves towards a particular end.  At the heart of ambition is a deep longing to set one apart from the rest and achieve feats that only a few have managed to accomplish. Thus, such individuals are known to be self-driven and with a singleness of purpose meant to aid them in achieving their heart’s desires. Although ambition has generally been viewed as a positive attribute, there are numerous occasions when it has been misunderstood by a section of society. Often times, the common axiom has been that ambitious people are driven by greed and by an insatiable desire to progress in society above the rest (Bertolet). These fears have, therefore, resulted in an air of suspicion whenever word got out that a particular individual was beginning to espouse ambitious traits and inclinations. However, part of this unfounded fear stems from a desire to survive while remaining vigilant to avoid having to deal with threats to one’s existence. In most cases, those feeling threatened often view ambitious persons as nothing more than usurpers readying themselves for an opportunity for a swift takeover. Typically, any signs of ambition would be treated with utter disdain in an attempt to dissuade such individuals from pursuing their goals and displacing others from their positions. Nevertheless, there are numerous occasions in recorded history when ambitious individuals have been treated unfairly by those around them fearing their rise. In particular, women and Royals have suffered this fate since they both sought to occupy positions of influence in society hence participating in the complex process of decision-making.

 Efforts by women to become ambitious were always thwarted by their partners since their actions were seen as going against acceptable conventions. Societies, particularly those in medieval Europe, were keen on establishing a clear set of norms which aimed at ensuring that clear structure existed. Unfortunately, women got the short end of the stick. Centuries of patriarchal norms saw them thoroughly repressed and controlled by male figures in their families. First, a girl would grow up under her father’s watchful eye in a bid to control every aspect of her life. She was not allowed to interact openly with members of the opposite gender who were not immediate family members and any such association was closely monitored by the father (Bertolet 78). Then, the father would embark on an attempt to find a suitable husband before ultimately marrying them off. In these cases, women had limited authority over their lives and rarely made any attempt to express ambition. Marriage usually worsened this situation, especially since husbands treated women as their property with the expectation that they would adhere to all rules and regulations. In The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women (1615), Joseph Swetnam expresses similar sentiments and is quite critical of ambition in women. He believes that women were created to serve specific roles and this order should not be disrupted. Swetnam is emphatic in his belief that women were made to serve man and promote his endeavors at any given moment. As helpers, women were expected to answer a man’s call at any given moment. Nevertheless, Swetnam believes that ambition is a manifestation of the degeneration of women and a hindrance to their ability to serve their husbands (“Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women”).  Additionally, he views talk of ambition as “mischief” and contends that it is the primary reason why marriages end up failing in the first place. A woman with an aspiring mind is abhorred in the strongest terms possible since Swetnam believes her to be the reason why many men fall. In addition to this, he also believes that such women are dangers to society since others are bound to follow them and their “dangerous” ideology.

Ambition was also treated with mistrust and any attempt to lead a life of one’s choosing was often subjected to control. This was particularly so for women who had successfully climbed through the rungs of success and were at the helm of leadership. A general fear of the unknown often engulfed men who wanted to govern their every move and action for their own benefit. It is vital to acknowledge that the type of ambition usually came with a degree of freedom for women to choose their destinies, which was particularly worrying for men. A woman with the ability to choose the route that they intended to follow throughout was a cause for alarm among fellow men since she had an independence of mind. It was, therefore, quite difficult to control such a woman to lead a life that she did not desire since she was in a position where she could determine her future. Queen Elizabeth I was one such individual who was determined to follow her heart’s desires and govern to the best of her ability. He unusual approach also encapsulated celibacy and even intended to remain unmarried as this would help her focus on ruling her subjects to the best of her ability. However, those around her and a considerable number of individuals from the British ruling class were not convinced that this was an approach that should be taken by a monarch (Fitzmaurice, et al.). The belief at the time was that, even though a monarch’s duty was to rule her subjects in the best way imaginable, they also had a duty to produce heirs who would succeed them. In 1563, a petition from the House of Lords was presented to the crown. It urged the Queen to find a suitable partner; marry and produce an empire for the empire’s sake. It was the men who urged the Queen to heed this advice since they wanted to control the manner which their sovereign conducted herself. Elizabeth I responded on 10 April 1563 with a speech to parliament. She expressed displeasure with the pressure that she was receiving from parliament to marry. In her opinion, she clearly stated that she reserved the right to decide whether to settle down and start a family or to remain unmarried. Queen Elizabeth was essentially stamping her authority and reminding members of parliament that her ambitions superseded their demands and that she had prerogative over what suited her best. She was keen on pointing out that her subjects, both men and women reserved no right to rule their monarch. Hence, they were expected to respect her decision and support her attempt to lead a life as a private woman.

            Striving for success has often been criticized by some who view this ambition as a manifestation of greed.  In their opinion, members of society who plan to get ahead of others are insatiable and cannot fit in an egalitarian world. It is, therefore, no wonder that ambition has become somewhat of a murky area for many owing to the stigma that individuals are bound to experience. Women are typically expected to be the homemakers in most societies across. They are expected to remain at home, cook, clean, bear children and serve as their husband’s primary helper. The entire society expects them to adhere to this model and avoid deviating from it in any way. Being relegated to household duties usually means that they are relegated to performing chores and rarely get an opportunity to work.  They are, thus, left without any form of income and depend on their husbands for sustenance. A woman’s ambition to go against this tradition has been viewed in a negative light in many societies (Malcolmson, et al. 58). Since their needs are supposedly provided for by their husbands, women are expected to submit and remain at home as required.  Any ambitious attempt to seek gainful employment is viewed as an attempt to engage in self-aggrandizement and gluttony that is only meant to benefit them in the long-run. Joseph Swetnam clearly pointed out that an ambitious woman is never to be trusted since this is usually the first sign of their greed and sheer insatiability. His assessment of women was brutal. Swetnam opined that nothing good could come from women, least of all ambitious ones, who were benefitting from their husband’s generosity while still seeking to gain more. In her rebuttal aptly named A Muzzle for Melastomus, Rachel Speght disproves Swetnam’s prejudicial prose. She uses an Aristotelian method of analysis to prove to the former that ambition was the natural condition of all human beings. Additionally, Speght opines that men and women are equal before God, meaning that the latter can also be ambitious (Debate 56).  She also reminds Swetnam that he ought to respect a woman’s ambition since she was created from man’s rib which suggests that they are equals. Speght acknowledges that, as a woman, she is expected to remain quiet and behave in a certain way that would affect her inclination towards ambition. Nevertheless, she chooses to go against the norm and also succeeds in painting women in a positive light.

            Ambition is often viewed vis-à-vis the prism of the battle of the sexes. Whenever a woman expresses her ambitions, she often faces a backlash from men who view this as an elaborate attempt to gain control over various aspects of life. These aspects would then allow her to skillfully implement policies that will benefit women alone leaving men to fend for themselves. In this case, the world was viewed as a binary entity where either men or women had to win and remain at the top at the end of it all. The use of this approach did not take into account the numerous benefits that could potentially result from a woman’s ambition. In most cases, women were clamoring for an equal society where they had the same opportunities as their male counterparts in all realms of life. In an ideal situation, they would manage to blossom, flower and thrive in equal measure (Malcolmson, et al.). Women’s success has been recorded throughout the annals of history. They were popular for their selfless dedication to various causes and for their caring nature towards those closest to them. It is, therefore, ironic that men would be against and suspicious of their ambitions since there is a very high likelihood that they will also benefit from their social emancipation. As a central pillar in many homes, women play a key role in keeping the family together and making certain that all its members are taken care of properly (Ratcliffe and Ricky). An ambitious and forward-looking woman does all that is within her ability to make sure that her progress does not benefit her alone, but all those around her. In Speght’s poem reply, Swetnam’s scathing remarks the author is presented as an ambitious individual appalled by the remarks made by someone who would ultimately benefit from her success. She wonders why Swetnam’s would spew such venom when all women wanted were equal opportunities for personal growth.

Ambition amongst royalty was often feared as many courtiers wanted to secure their positions near the rulers. A successful courtier usually had the luxury of communicating directly with their ruler and staying well-informed about various matters of interest taking place within the empire. By so doing, they had a front-row seat to all valuable discussions where they would gather crucial information concerning the rumbling of the empire. Skirmishes were common in medieval Europe and presented opportunities for such individuals to remind royals of their loyalty which would usually be rewarded in such a case. Lands seized during these excursions would be divided amongst loyal general and courtiers, therefore increasing their pool of wealth. Courtiers were cunning individuals who were often interested in the fiscal aspects of life and even played both sides. They used this as a novel strategy that would allow them to benefit at the end of it all, no matter the victor. Their cunning nature usually remained undetected since rulers had a myriad of matters to attend to, which usually meant that they were not keen on details and could easily fail to detect any traitors. Elizabeth I was a shrewd leader, who was always keen on details and made certain that everything was as expected (Montrose 43). Courtiers were aware of her attentiveness and knew that this would present problems for them in the near future. Being single also meant that she had adequate time to focus on her duties and was not distracted by filial duties. When asked why she remained unmarried, she once exclaimed that England was her husband and was dedicated to her Queenly duties. A plan was therefore hatched by courtiers weary of her ambition who managed to convince the House of Commons to urge her to marry and produce an heir. Elizabeth did not accept these terms and was only keen on securing her realm. Her commitment and ambition made it possible for her to frustrate an insurrection by the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, thus establishing England as a Protestant nation.              In conclusion, ambition is a part of the human condition that has loathed and loved in equal measure. Women have suffered in the hands of oppressive men keen on making sure that they do not advance, maintaining the status quo. Joseph Swetnam’s The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women (1615), Rachel Speght’s A Muzzle for Melastomus and Elizabeth I’s speech to the House of Commons explore ambition and its manifestation in society, It is, therefore, clear that ambition is viewed by many as a precarious aspect of life that ought to be approached cautiously in different situations.

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