Unbound desire for power and evil deeds in Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Literature has a way of communicating what happens in the society. In most cases, the works have been centered on specific themes that tend to express what happens amongst humanity (Amodu 128). Renowned authors like Shakespeare hold accolades for having painting the clear picture in the society, and through plays, natural themes have been explored. Particular, power is always a major theme cited in most of the literary works and from this perspective, Shakespeare’s Macbeth with be explored by aligning with Edward Abbey’s quote that “Power is always dangerous. Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best” (Demakis 328). Power gives people so many ambitions when such goes morally unchecked, it can lead to destruction. Therefore, this essay holds that in Macbeth, Shakespeare shows that power attracts the worse as it leads people to use violence in furthering their question for power but once started, it is hard to stop.
The play, Macbeth, centers on characters whose aspirations and desire for power drive them into evil deeds (Macbeth and Lady Macbeth). Shakespeare uses them to exemplify the extent to which power leads to evil desires and attracts the worst. Although Macbeth has been portrayed as the individual with the least inclination to committing evil deeds, Shakespeare describes him as deeply engrossed in the desires to get power and advancement. In Act I Scene II, Macbeth’s desire to become powerful is evident when he uses a commanding approach to speaking to the witches. He asks, “Speak if you can. What are you?” (I. iii.49-50). His commandeering voice already shows a character who has the desire to lead and take control. However, Macbeth gets the response he so needs from the witches. All are referring to him as the master and the King, with one saying “Al hail, Macbeth!that shall be king hereafter” (I. iii. 52-53). In this scene, the author sets the center stage to which the play centers on the desire of power and how if such goes unchecked can attract or lead to undesirable events in the society (Bloom 25). The command that Macbeth has in the scene shows how power makes him boastful of his status and ensuring that at best, the subjects are regarding him as the most powerful.
Power, as Abbey suggests, brings forth undesired events if left unchecked on the subjects (Murray 6). In the book, Macbeth’s killing of Duncan shows how the uncontrolled desire for power can bring unfortunate events in the society. He goes on to kill Duncan but this is done against his sound judgment and eventually, is engrossed in paranoia and guilt. Macbeth says, “but in these cases, we still have judgment her; that we but teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague th’inventor” (I.vii.10-11). In his mind, he knows that by agreeing to end the life of Duncan through assassination, the entire burden will return to haunt him. In this regard, the scene depicts how unchecked ambitions and the quest for power can lead to evil deeds despite knowing the repercussions and as such, align with the quote that power is always dangerous, attracting worst and corrupting the best (Wells 17). At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is such a reputable and good king who respects and wants the best for his subjects, but his quest for power leads him into killing irrespective of the good behavior and character he has always shown to his subjects like Duncan. However, Lady Macbeth is the instigator of all the power hungriness of her husband. In fact, the pressure drives Macbeth into mercilessly killing Duncan. She gives the husband pressure by questioning his courage when asking “from this time I account thy love. Art though afeard to be the same in thine own act and valor, as thou art in desire?” (I. vii. 38-41). Such is the pressure that comes with too much ambition for seeking power, as observed as the central themes in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Heijes 208).
Power as seen in the play, when left morally unchecked has led to many atrocities. The couple ends up killing many people and from the perspective of the play, the proposition being suggested that once one starts using violence in advancing power, it is rather difficult to cease. Probable intimidations to Macbeth’s throne including Macduff, Fleance, and Banquo all have been faced with violence attempts to dispose of them. In scene IV, Ross also confirms the repercussions of too much ambition drive by power. When conversing with Macduff, she says “Thriftless ambition, that will ravin up thine own life’s means! Then, ‘t is most like, the sovereignty will fall upon Macbeth” (II.iv.35-37). Shakespeare uses the scene to notify the audience about the negative implications of desire for power and how any acts of evil comes back to haunt the individuals. In this case, the personal guilt is some of the undesirable effects of power and on the other hand, confirming that with unchecked power (by moral values), people are bound to engage in evil deeds which never stop (Friedrich 147).
In summary, the theme of unbounded power and how if left unchecked can lead to over ambition and evil desires has been portrayed in Macbeth. In this regard, thesis has been supported by referring to the quote on the extent to which power can corrupt minds of individuals and lead undesirable events. The play begins with the portrayal of Macbeth as a king who cares for his servants but all changes when Lady Macbeth begins pressurizing him to seek more powers by eliminating all threats to the throne. In return, Shakespeare uses the two characters to show the dangerous aspect of power. Desires to advance and get more powers lead people into violence that never ends once started thereby confirming the proposition that power is a dangerous facet that can change better people to become worse because it corrupts the mind.
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- Bloom, Harold. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Infobase Publishing, 2004. Print.
- Demakis, Joseph. The ultimate book of quotations. Lulu.com, n.d. Print.
- Friedrich, Patricia. “Not “Just” a Story: Literary Invention, Innovation, and OCD.” The Literary and Linguistic Construction of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2015. 147-169. Print.
- Heijes, Coen. “Review of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (directed by Johan Simmons for Toneelgroep Amsterdam) at the Stadsschouwburg (City Theatre), Groningen, the Netherlands, 18 January 2013.” Shakespeare 10.2 (2014): 207-211. Print.
- Murray, John A., ed. Abbey in America: A Philosopher’s Legacy in a New Century. UNM Press, 2015.
- Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. B. Tauchnitz, jun., 1843, Print.
- Wells, Rachel. “Macbeth: Some classroom ideas.” Metaphor 4 (2013): 17.
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