Macbeth’s Power in Macbeth Essay Sample

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  • Word count: 914
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  • Category: macbeth

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Power is represented through a number of characters in this play. One of which would clearly be Macbeth himself. With relevance to the character Macbeth, power could be seen as his hamartia (meaning fatal flaw) or more likely, the lust and in his own words, the “vaulting ambition” for it. For the period of time in which he held utmost power over the people of Scotland, before his death, Shakespeare

death, Shakespeare makes it very clear that Macbeth did not enjoy a single bit of his power.

“To be this is nothing,
But to be safely thus” Act III Scene I

Back in the Elizabethan era, regicide was seen not only seen to be treason but also a sin against God, for the King was said to be ‘God’s anointed’. Macbeth would have clearly understood this fact, and though he had attempted to back out of the plan before, the persuasion of his wife in addition to his burning desire for power led him to knowingly defy God, which would have been a big issue at that time, and to carry through his plan of assassination, knowing that if he were to die, he would be headed straight to hell. Shakespeare very successfully portrays power to be such an important and significant element to hold, through the characterisation of Macbeth and at the same time reveals just how destructive and catastrophic its effects can be, if it is not made use of properly. Macbeth had used his power for wrongdoing and comes to realise his shame and remorse very quickly.

“ What hands are here? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.”

As the audience of this play, we are shown the gradual psychological deterioration of Macbeth, as his quest for power leads him to making evil choices, such as committing regicide and a whole reign of murderous terror in order to stay in power and protect himself from enmity. He is convinced that ‘fair is foul, and foul is fair’, just as he was first convinced by the witches’ groundless prophecies, and would do just about anything in his capabilities to gain the power that he desired. This includes a bloodbath which swiftly takes Macbeth into the realms of madness and arrogance, causing him to lose every that had given him meaning and purpose in life, before losing his life itself. When he received news of lady Macbeth’s death, he reacted in a way in which took the audience by surprise. He was a man who shared an intimate and close understanding with his wife and was heavily influenced by her, and upon hearing about her death, he simply said

“She should have died hereafter
There would have been a time for such a word”

This was because Macbeth was overwhelmed by power and the evils of it, that he had been demoted to nothing more than a ruthless murderer who had no more feelings or emotion. Murder destroys the murderers where it matters and that is inside themselves. Power had become somewhat of a drug that Macbeth was addicted to and it drove him numb on the inside.

There are a few techniques used in this play that help to develop and represent the theme of power. Soliloquies play a huge role in in plays as they provide us with insight into the character’s emotions and concepts of their situation. In Macbeth, the famous dagger soliloquy in act II scene I (which by the way will not be recited for timing issues) demonstrates Macbeth being consumed by the thought of gaining power and having that struggle within himself to choose between what he knows is right but will leave him only with as much power as he already did, or to do what is drastically wrong, but gaining power through those means.

Foil is also used, contrasting Banquo to Macbeth, particularly highlighting the differences in the way in which they handle their ambition for power. Although Banquo is put in the same situation as Macbeth where he was predicted to have a great future and will be father to a line of kings, he was more honorable and righteous, compared to Macbeth, who unlike Banquo, continued to hurt those he thought stood in the way of him and the throne.

Power as we know it, could be used for both the good and the evil but Macbeth is a play that shows through its various characters and successfully written plot, that being greedy for power or holding too much power can be foul not only for the morality of oneself but could also affect others, in this case, the whole of Scotland. Shakespeare had yet again meticulously written another successful play that can be related to even in this day and age. In the words of Lord Acton, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Macbeth had gone from being an honorable and noble war hero to a ruthless murderer, all because of his quest for what was made to seem important – power.

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