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Analysis of Macbeth: The Theme of Power

Essay by   •  August 17, 2011  •  Case Study  •  1,218 Words (5 Pages)  •  4,193 Views

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When Abraham Lincoln says that "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power," Lincoln means that people's actions become even more significant with every responsibility and power granted to them. Shakespeare's Macbeth is completely epitomized by this phrase in the way in which the characters handle the power bestowed upon them. Power is a perplexing idea that can become a crucial part in achieving greatness and goodness, but it can also be the deceptive illusion that will lead people to destroy themselves with an all-consuming nature of malice. Although power has the ability to be the force that drives a person to accomplish an objective, it can also become the downfall that drives corruption and selfishness, as seen in Macbeth. Throughout the play, Shakespeare extensively scrutinizes the perception of power through the characters of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and Banquo. Their ambition and resistance to power is tested and it eventually leads to their own demise. In Macbeth, Shakespeare conveys the message that the seduction of power must be resisted in order to avoid the road of corruption, greed, and deception that will ultimately guide them to the unattractive downfall that waits.

Macbeth's conflict and thirst for power is expressed through the concurrent events that he faces; the witches wherein his struggles are triggered, Lady Macbeth's influence on him, and the guilt he holds burden within him. The witches' prophecy "All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis. All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor. All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter" denotes that Macbeth will become the 'Thane of Cawdor' and later on, "king hereafter". This is the beginning of Macbeth's quest for power and authority. The witches tempt him as they "all hail Macbeth", giving him a taste of what he could have. The witches' first part of the prophecy is established when Ross and Angus tell Macbeth that "Who was the thane lives yet, But under heavy judgment bears that life." Afterwards, Macbeth ponders that "Two truths are told / As happy prologues to the swelling act of the imperial theme," this gives an effect of longing in Macbeth, but he also contradicts himself thinking that "[it] cannot be good." This conveys to the reader that Macbeth is torn between wanting the throne and disbelieving the witches' prophecy. When Lady Macbeth finds out about the prophecy and Macbeth's new title, she condemns Macbeth of "thy [Macbeth's] nature, It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness," which emphasizes Macbeth's nature to be typically honorable and righteous. Nevertheless, when the witches' prophecy guarantees Macbeth with promises of authority and royalty, his true nature is blinded by the "seeling night" and catapults him into a spiral of murder and deception. Building on the foundation of his innate desire for power, Lady Macbeth pressures his evil choices. She uses tactics insulting his masculinity as she claims that Macbeth is "like the poor cat i' th' adage." Of course Macbeth would contest this and try to prove her wrong, and the only way achieve this is by killing King Duncan. The readers see a glimpse of humanity and guilt in Macbeth when he must have "false face" that "must hide what the false heart doth know." This parallels to his facade and what he must hide from the world. Macbeth is so corrupted with power, that it is what has led him to a position of great authority, and it is also what has led him to his death.

Lady Macbeth's struggle and desire for power is expressed as she goes on

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