Power and Greed: The Driving Force behind the Story of Macbeth The rise of an individual and the gain of power can often be intoxicating. This control placed in the hands of one can often ignite thoughts and actions of greed found deep inside. This can often be seen in the history of civilization as countless leaders have neglected the good of their people to fuel their own selfish desires. Lord Acton once expressed, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This is embodied in the play, Macbeth by William Shakespeare as numerous characters abuse power to manipulate and destroy the lives of many. Though the examination of, Lady Macbeth, the three witches and Macbeth, it becomes apparent how the gain and loss of power corrupted them majorly. Lady Macbeth’s power over her relationship with Macbeth corrupts her thoughts and actions as it becomes apparent in her savageness, ability to conceive her emotions and change in character as she loses power.
When Lady Macbeth comes in power, her actions become very corrupt as she becomes more savage. This can be seen when Lady Macbeth receives a letter from Macbeth saying that he has been fated to become king by the three witches, Lady Macbeth immediately intends on killing the current king, Duncan as she expresses, “that my keen knife see not the wound it makes” (1. 5. 52). This shows how her power over Macbeth has made her resort to such savage acts to help her husband attain the throne.
The power Lady Macbeth holds in her relationship also corrupted Lady Macbeth’s actions as she was able to better conceive her thoughts and actions to appear but a mere innocent lady. This is seen numerous times but especially after the murder of Duncan has been announced. In the scene, she is able to expertly fool the nobles into thinking she has gone into a state of shock as she learns of the news, “woe, alas! What, in our house? ” (2. 3. 86-87 ) Lady Macbeth then faints and is carried away.
Not only does her line express the corruption that has come upon her but also how she was able to act very convincingly as she later fainted. Lady Macbeth’s actions seem to be very conceiving while she holds power and it is evident that the power given to her corrupted her highly as her actions and roles would begin to change as she lost power. In contrast to her ability to conceive her emotions and actions prior, Lady Macbeth seems to take on a different, more traditional woman’s role as she loses power over Macbeth.
This is apparent when we look at Lady Macbeth’s thoughts of Macbeth before and after she had power over him. When the audience first meet Lady Macbeth, her views on Macbeth are very unusual as she looks down on her husband as she describes him, “I fear thy [Macbeth’s] nature, is it too full o’the milk of kindness to catch the nearest way. ”(1. 5. 16-18) This shows how Lady Macbeth seems to think she is better than her husband, which is very unusual for a woman to do in the time that the play was written.
However once she loses power over Macbeth, she seems to follow Macbeth instead of guiding him as she expresses how she has been neglected from Macbeth: Nought’s had, all’s spent, Where our desire is got without content: ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy. (3. 2. 4-7) This shows Lady Macbeth’s change in spirit as she has realized that she no longer has control over Macbeth. With this soliloquy, Lady Macbeth slips into the typical Shakespearean role of a woman as she no longer tries to do such corrupt acts.
Further evidence can be shown that Lady Macbeth has switched roles as she is suddenly perceived as weak as she sleep talks and has many night horrors. This loss in power ultimately leads to her suicide. Therefore, after seeing Lady Macbeth’s actions between when she had control over Macbeth and when did not can lead viewers to believe that it was the culprit that corrupted her. The witches’ possession of knowledge corrupted them as they were blind to the consequences that arose with their prophecies, they did not tell the prophecy in its entirety and their manipulation of Macbeth.
The corruption of power through knowledge can become large when the sensitivity of this information is not realized. This is shown in the witches’ use of their knowledge of Macbeth’s fate; their consideration for the possible consequences does not seem to be visible throughout the entire play. This is also pointed out by Hecate in the play as she exclaims: To trade and traffic with Macbeth In riddles, and affairs of death; And I, the mistress of your charms, The close contriver of all harms, Was never call’d to bear my part (3. 5. 4-9).
The scene shows the three witches lack of consideration of the outcome of their prophecy as they did not consult with their higher power, Hecate over whether they should tell Macbeth of his prophecy. Their thoughtless actions caused for many deaths and much corruption amongst themselves and the entire country of Scotland. The witches’ gain of power furthermore corrupted them as they did not tell Macbeth his full prophecy. When the witches first tell Macbeth of his fate the first witch states, “All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis! ” (1. 3. 48-50) This is then followed by the second witch claiming “all hail Macbeth!
Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! ” and finally the third witch states, “All hail Macbeth! That shalt be king hereafter! ” the prophecy given can be seen as false as they suggest that Macbeth is to be king for a long time when they state “hereafter” they also did not mention the rest of Macbeth’s prophecy as they say it later on in the play. This gave Macbeth the false dream that by attaining kingship, his life would prosper forever after. Had the witches told Macbeth his full prophecy, he would have realized the danger associated with him attaining the throne through ways of murder.
However the witches, blind with their power, were too corrupted to realize that. Similarly, the witches also manipulated Macbeth by their unclear prophecies. When Macbeth returns to meet the witches for more on his prophecy, he is given the wrong information as the witches produce an apparition that states, “the power of man: for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth” (4. 1. 80-81). This prophecy is very misleading because it gave the impression to Macbeth that he will not be killed so soon, which boosted his ego as he continues his tyrant ruling over Scotland.
Likewise the corruption that had taken over the witches had once again blinded them from the fact that with this new found information, Macbeth would continue to tyrant the land. Thus by the witches power over Macbeth’s fate, their actions and thought become corrupted. Although it is evident that many characters have become corrupted through their gain of power, it is most apparent in Macbeth as his gain of kingship eases his use of murder, makes him more self centered and isolates him from his family. Much like Lady Macbeth, the audience can see a change in character in Macbeth over the duration of the play.
However whereas Lady Macbeth starts to reject the use of murder as the story progresses, Macbeth can be seen as opposite as he begins to use it more often without sense. This is shown when Macbeth is faced with his decision to murder Duncan, “if the assassination could trammel up the consequence/ bloody instruction, which being thought, return to plague the inventor” (1. 7. 1-10). Macbeth’s view on murder suddenly changes with his decision to kill Banquo, “that I require a clearness/ Fleance, his son [Banquo’s], that keeps him company/ must embrace the fate of the dark hour” (3. . 133-137). Between the two scenes, it has become apparent that a great amount of change has occurred in Macbeth. In the first scene Macbeth is thinking over Duncan’s death to a point where it could be considered “overthinking” as he begins to concern himself with karma and such. However in the second scene, after Macbeth has gained power, his orders for Banquo’s murder seemed to be emotionless with only one bottom line: kill Banquo and Fleance, do not connect it to Macbeth. Macbeth’s power also corrupts him as it brings out his desires for only himself and not his country.
This can be seen when Ross describes Scotland under the power of Macbeth, “where violent sorrow seems modern ecstasy: the dead man’s knell is there scarce ask’d for who…”(4. 3. 169-171). Therefore it can be seen that Macbeth has corrupted not only himself but the entire country as violence and death is common in Scotland to the point where no one questions it. Macbeth’s gain of power also corrupts his relationship with his wife as Macbeth begins to isolate himself. This can be seen specifically when Lady Macbeth expresses her feelings of Macbeth no longer consulting in her as says, “How now my lord, why do you keep alone,” (3. . 8). This shows how Macbeth, filled with grief and power, has kept it all to himself. This is a significant factor in how he becomes corrupt as the isolation leads to his arrogance as a leader. To conclude, the corruption of power can be most seen in Macbeth as it changes his nature, his personality and his relationship with his family. Through the analyzation of Lady Macbeth, the three witches and Macbeth, it becomes apparent how power can corrupt one. Shakespeare was able to capsulate this within the story by showing the changes the characters go hrough as they gain or lose power. Much like individuals in our past, the characters misused power for their own personal desires whether it was for power, lavish lifestyle or just plain chaos. Overall, the statement “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” can be seen as completely true. Power is a very fragile piece of society and if not used correctly, can lead to chaos and corruption. As Stan Lee once said, “with great power there must also come great responsibility. ”
Cite this Power and Greed – Macbeth
Power and Greed – Macbeth. (2016, Oct 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/power-and-greed-macbeth/