(An Ambitious Person; a Thing Coveted; an Adversary)
A highly intellectual type of action is here presented, for which there is no antique model, and from which mediocrity usually keeps a respectful distance.
A—Ambition Watched and Guarded Against by a Kinsman or a Patriot Friend: (1)—By a Brother:— "Timoleon" by Alfieri. Historic instance (comic, that is to say, feigned), Lucien and Napoleon Bonaparte.
(2)—By a Relative or a Person Under Obligation:— "Julius Caesar" by Shakespeare, "La Mort de Caesar" by Voltaire; "Brutus II" by Alfieri. In "La Mort de Caesar" there is a reappearance of the Nineteenth (Slaying of a Kinsman Unrecognized), so strong was the desire to recall the works of antiquity!
(3)_By Partisans:—"Wallenstein" by Schiller; "Cromwell" by Hugo; "Marius Vaincu" (Mortier, 1911).
(B)—Rebellious Ambition (akin to VIII, A 1):— "Sir Thomas Wyat" by Webster; "Perkin Warbeck" by Ford; "Catilina" by Voltaire; Cade's insurrection in the second part of Shakespeare's "Henry IV."
C (1)—Ambition and Covetousness Heaping Crime Upon Crime:—"Macbeth" and "Richard III"; "Ezzelino" (A. Mussato); part of the "Cinq Doigts de Birouk" (Decourcelle, 1883); "La-Bete Feroce" (Jules Mary and Emile Rochard, 1908); "La Vie Publique" (Fabre, 1901). In comedy: "Ubu-roi" (Jarry). In fiction: "La Fortune des Rougon" (with criminality attenuated to simple want of dignity); "Son Excellence Eugene" (sacrifice of morality); the story of Lucien de Rubempre; a case of greed: "La Terre."
(2)—Parricidal Ambition:—"Tullia" by Martelli..
Ambition, one of the most powerful of passions, if it be not indeed the passion par excellence will always affect the spectator strongly, for he feels and knows that, once awakened in a man, it will cease only with his death. And how many are the objects of its desire! Tyrannical power, high rank, honors, fortune (by inheritance, marriage, robbery, etc.), the conservation of riches (avarice), glory (political, scientific, literary, inventive, artistic), celebrity, distinction.
We have seen in Class A the ties which may unite the ambitious one and his adversary and the Situations which may result from them (XIX, XXIII, XXIV).
Here is one way among many to intensify the fury of C: mingle with it the sincerity of a faith, of a conviction; such a combination is found in the case of the Spaniards in Peru and in Flanders, and in the case of our own "gentle and intellectual" race under the League and under the Terror; in the case of Calvin, and of the Inquisition.
Can lead to Daring Enterprise, Enmity of Kinsmen, or Rivalry of Kinsmen. Example: Jerry McGuire.
Ambition can be a force for good, helping a person succeed in life. It can also be a blind tunnel through which the ambitious person sees only that which they covet. When ambition is unhealthy, others may stand in the way, guarding the ambitious person from harm as much as guarding the coveted thing from the ambitious person.
Thus in a story, the hero may be the ambitious person or perhaps the guard.
By definition, if the thing coveted was easy to get, then ambition would have no point. Ambition thus contains the tension of wanting but not getting. It provides a motivator for action.
Wanting something that you cannot get harks to early desire, thereby triggering deep and inexplicable feelings in the reader. The source of that desire may be variable. Simply the fact of not being able to achieve something can stimulate desire for it as our sense of control is threatened.