Corruption of Power in Macbeth

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Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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This essay will discuss the theme of power corruption in “Macbeth.” It will examine how power corrupts the main characters, leading to moral decay and tragic consequences, reflecting broader themes of ambition and morality. Additionally, PapersOwl presents more free essays samples linked to Corruption.

Category: Corruption
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Pages:  4
Words:  1275
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Throughout the course of history there have been many powerful political and military figures, who all took power too seriously and strayed off the path of being a fair and worthy leader. Instead some leaders such as Kim Jong Il, Mao Zedong, and Joseph Stalin have become corrupt with power, much like Macbeth and Lady Macbeth did in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The struggle for power shown by each of the political leaders illustrates just how far some will go to gain a position of power over everything.

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These leaders all have held great authority and rule in the world and their countries. Their civilians almost idolize them as gods and would not dare intervene or go against anything they do. The human desire for power and fame corrupted Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as it has many a man in the real world and as demonstrated in the lives of these three leaders.

Kim Jong Il held power in Korea from 1991-2011 after his father’s death in 1991. The Korean people noticed him as a ruthless and fearless leader, who will do anything that is necessary to stay in power, even if it costs his people’s lives. Even in 2018 Koreans are still dying from starvation and disease due to Kim’s ignorance and selfish lifestyle. Just as how Kim Jong Il was destined to become dictator of North Korea, Macbeth was destined by three witches that he would become not only the thane of Glamis and Cawdor, but king of all of Scotland. All hail thane of Glamis. All hail thane cawdor. All hail the king thow shalt be. (Act 1 Scene 3) The news the witches brought to Macbeth promised him power over all, which eventually fueled Macbeth’s thirst for more and more power throughout his years on the throne.

Power and Corruption in Macbeth

Once Macbeth and Kim jong Il had a taste for power they could not get enough, and their new ambition grew. Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great; Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it: what thou wouldst highly,(Act 1 Scene 5) This quote shows us just how much power Lady Macbeth poseces in this play, but also conveys how Kim’s father pushed him to increase his political power and success early in his life. Both of you know, Banquo was your enemy (Act 3 Scene 1) This quote illustrates how Macbeth will do anything just to hold his title as King of Scotland, even if it is to kill his best friend. Kim Jong Il showed the same actions when he chose to start starving and neglecting his people. He has gone too far because of the power of his ambition. Macbeth lost his self control when starting crimes and murder and then this soon led to corruption, but he has gone too far to come back to life where he did not kill. Kim Jong Il and Macbeth’s mind sets are very similar in that they kill out of spite to keep power. This mindset has led to the corruption of both leaders in their time.

Joseph Stalin was the leader of the Soviet Union during the Russian Revolution in the 1920’s. He supported the more radical Bolshevik party which gained him great political power at the time. He controlled the political media and crushed his opponents. By the end of 1929 Stalin rose to power in the Socialist Soviet Union. Stalin was an aggressive leader, feeling the need to turn on anyone who had appeared to oppose him, just as Macbeth had turned on Macduff and Banquo. Eventually murder had become the norm in Russia for arresting any of those with contrasting beliefs. Stalin grew to be what he was from a very young age. His family squalor had given him an early taste for ambition. Some say it was fate that brought this on him just as the witches had brought their three prophecies upon Macbeth. Joseph Stalin had complete power during his time of reign.

He lived a life of secrecy and was constantly underestimated by his opponents. However, fair is foul and foul is fair (Act 1 Scene 1), and with that said many people who opposed him in Russia were soon arrested and killed. Once Stalin and Macbeth had a taste of a little power, they quickly developed an addiction for it. For both Macbeth and Stalin, it did not stop with just a single life taken. First a Russian or King Duncan, but then they went on to kill more people, and in Stalin’s case it was millions. Well, may you see things well done there: adieu! Lest our old robes sit easier than our new! (Act 2 Scene 4) This quote represents all the traitors in Macbeth’s life and Stalin’s. To Stalin, all major party figures were seen as saboteurs, and similarly all the thanes of Scotland seemed this way to Macbeth.

Mao Zedong was a chinese revolutionary, political theorist and communist leader. Some see him as the savior of China, but others blame him for bringing great economic and cultural tragedies to China over the past century. For example he was blamed for costing millions of lives and created a severe famine and damaged China as a whole. In addition to these accusations Mao was paid to spy on the nationalists by the communist parties in his own country of China at a young age. Similarly Macbeth was forced to spy on each one of the thanes of Scotland, There’s not a one of them but in his house I keep a servant fee’d (Act 3 Scene 4) Just as Macbeth has said, All our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out,out, brief candle Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor slayer that struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.(Act 5 Scene 5) Mao had felt exactly the same way. Throughout Mao’s life he had been a heavy smoker and abused sleeping pills, he soon suffered a heart disease and illness that took away his ability to walk and speak. His life became full of troubles and regret that were hard to bare, tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The rise to and fall from power has happened to many corrupt leaders throughout history. If they recognize the wrongs they have committed they may experience great deals of regret and hardship, but to be fair they brought it all on themselves.

Kim Jong Il, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong lives as leaders mirrors many of the themes in the play Macbeth. Kim Jong Il has similar characteristics to Macbeth by how Kim knew he was destined to become leader once his father passed. Macbeth also knew that he would rule Scotland because the three witches told him his destiny. Joseph Stalin became leader of the Soviet Union also due to family ties. Much like Macbeth, once Stalin got a taste of power his desire for it grew stronger and stronger leading to millions of people’s deaths. Mao Zedong’s guilt and sorrow manifested in his becoming a recluse, rarely being seen in public. Macbeth too fell into this guilt fest just as Mao did, regretting everything he had done. The human desire for power is a strong one. Many of the pitfalls of the pursuit of power that happened to Macbeth were also suffered by these three leaders from our world’s history.

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Corruption of Power in Macbeth. (2019, Dec 23). Retrieved from