Allan Massie

Vaulting Ambition

The Man Who Outshone the Sun King: The Rise and Fall of Nicholas Foucquet

By

Nicolas Foucquet (1615–80) was a well-read man, but, like most Frenchmen of his time, he had probably scarcely heard of Shakespeare, and almost certainly never seen or read his plays. Had he done so, he might have taken note of Macbeth’s remarks about ‘vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’other’, for his ambition was rash and excessive, and his fall precipitous.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,