The Theme of Power in Macbeth Essay

The Theme Of Power In Macbeth Essay

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Power is a vacillating, confusing, and sought after concept. Put to good use it can lead thousands to a higher level, correct wrong doing, fight for a cause, help the needy, and give someone the means to accomplish great things. Yet, power also has the ability to corrupt, destroy, and steal virtue from any nation, family, or individual. Although power can be the force that propels a good idea to an achieved goal, it can also serve to facilitate wickedness, selfishness, and greed. The corruption of a person through power can be studied through the literary work, Macbeth, by William Shakespeare. Each main character through a series of events is delegated some measure of power. The test of character is seen by evaluating the actions, motives, and outcome of the character as they wield their power and affect others.

The clearest window into the heart is a person’s actions. The actions of someone become even more significant with every responsibility and privilege given. In Macbeth, Macbeth is thrust a large amount of power in very little time. He is tempted by witches to abuse this power and feed his avarice. Building on the foundation of his inherent ambition, both the witches and Lady Macbeth pressure his evil decisions. Before Macbeth has even come home Lady Macbeth is criticizing his morality when she says, “Yet I do fear thy nature ;It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness (Act I, scene v). This quote reinforces the fact that Macbeth’s former actions must have shown evidence of virtue and bravery. However, when Macbeth is faced with such fantastic promises of royalty and power, his kindness is blinded and his actions are effected. His mind cannot stand the thought of what must take place and guiltily he states, “False face must hide what the false heart doth know” (Act I, scene vii). Late at night according to a scheme devised by his wife Macbeth kills the king and steals the crown. These actions have severe consequences one of which is both his and Lady Macbeth’s death.

Often murder and deception are considered evil and horrible. Yet in some plays or novels the reader can overlook these because of the motives held by the character. For example, a certain character may be compelled to kill someone in self-defense or to destroy the “bad guy”. A character may also have the need to deceive as in a spy novel or to protect something. In these cases, even though the certain act is wrong, the reader can sympathize and still hold a good opinion of that particular character. In Macbeth, however, one can immediately see that Macbeth’s motives are not in the interest of something or someone else. Both he and his wife have purely selfish intentions concerning the crown of Scotland. Due to their self- seeking ways they abuse their power and commit multiple acts of disloyalty. Instead of being responsible and good, they have to continue covering up their evil deeds. This causes such mental turmoil in both characters that Lady Macbeth is found sleepwalking saying things such as, “Here’s the smell of blood still. All the perfumes in Arabia will not sweeten this little hand” (Act V, scene i ). This quote is evidence that selfish motives leave a guilty conscience that cannot be looked over or forgiven.

Finally, power is known to affect the outcome of the characters that receive it. When characters with power use their influence for good they can gain many loving followers. In contrast, Macbeth once king had no respect from his people. The country saw through his cowardly conquest and could not be loyal to one that stole his position. A certain noble comments about Macbeth that, “Those he commands move only in command, Nothing in love” (Act V, scene ii). Then during battle Macbeth is overpowered by the virtuous Macduff and killed. This occurs as a consequence of his actions and motives toward the power given to him and the temptations of the witches.

Macbeth, as a protagonist, is arguably someone to be pitied. Many assert that most people would not have the strength to stand up to the odds presented to Macbeth. Although he is given much power there is a chance that without the witches and his wife’s evil influence Macbeth’s actions would have never gone past his thoughts. As a lesson, one should know that a weak minded person should not be alloted power that could corrupt them or allow them to listen to unwise counsel. Yet are there really any of us that have never had the opportunity to abuse power or counsel someone for evil.

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