“Does power corrupt automatically?” This famous expression is one often talked about, and there are truths in it. Shakespeare’s play of Macbeth is a good example where this expression can be seen in action. Macbeth starts out as a peaceful, well doing character, but later is turned into a cruel tyrant through his quests and desires for power. At the beginning of this play, King Duncan and Malcom talk highly of a loyal, battle-hardy warrior, who will become to be known as the protagonist Macbeth. Macbeth first starts his journey at the Castle of Cawdor. He fights there and claims victory from the rebels and the Norwegian forces that later arrive. Soon after, three witches appear before them, and consult with Macbeth and his battle friend Banquo. They foretell that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, and eventually King of Scotland. Banquo questions them of his fate, yet they do not answer his question directly; “You will be a father of kings, but you won’t be one yourself. So hail Macbeth and Banquo!” (Act I, Scene III).
The witches praise them, but also add that Banquo will give rise to sons who will become kings, though Banquo will not become a king himself. Macbeth ponders their words, but does not act on them just yet. The words of the witches are what influence Macbeth into his first killing. Since he has learned that he will no doubt be king, he decides to betray his loyalty for personal greed and kills King Duncan. Macbeth is not totally being controlled by his desire for power at this point. He stresses the fact of the deed, mentally he begins to lose a bit of his sanity. As Macbeth takes power, he becomes obsessed with it. As the storyline of the play progresses Macbeth becomes paranoid, overthinking the foretelling words of the witches.
He feels that his deed of killing Duncan will be meaningless if he does not subdue Banquo as well. And so he seeks to kill his friend, and Fleance, his son. He succeeds in killing Banquo but Fleance escapes. He then decides this is the fate that the witches have put forward, and thus it cannot be changed. Macbeth then finds out to cover his murder of King Duncan, he must eliminate Macduff. It is like the snowball effect; Macbeth killing one person, then forced to kill another, and another, another. It becomes a never ending cycle, all in the name of greed and power. A person’s desire for and to gain power can be a fatal one, such as is seen with the play of Macbeth. Macbeth loses everything because power had corrupted him. It can be said that power in itself does not corrupt automatically, rather the endeavor and desire to gain power can be an ultimately corrupt one.