Drawbacks of Power
Power, a phenomenon as addictive as any drug, should be given to those who are equipped to properly handle it and its effects. If power is given to those with a strong sense of ambition, it may lead to their downfall. Power is given to Macbeth when him and his companion, Banquo, come upon these three witches who deliver them three prophecies:
- Macbeth will be the Thane of Cawdor
- Macbeth will be the King of Scotland
- Banquo will have a line of sons who will inherit the throne
After the first two prophecies come to fruition presently, Macbeth fears that the third will soon dethrone him and deprive him of his power. Macbeth’s passion for the power he was given, drives him to resort to violence to protect it. Once he decides to use violence to further his quest for power, it is difficult to stop because of his ambition and the constant presence of potential threats”Banquo, Fleance, Macduff. In Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, Macbeth has the constant desire to gain power over others, making it clear that power leads to corruption.
Macbeth’s ambition initially causes him to resort to violence to acquire power. The three witches gave Macbeth a prophecy that led him to believe he will become the King of Scotland. Instead leaving it up to fate to make this come to fruition, he takes matters into his own hands and commits a violent act. He conspires with Lady Macbeth on whether or not to kill King Duncan. The stress of whether to go through with the murder is driving Macbeth insane; so much so that he sees a glowing dagger in front of him. The dagger, in his subconscious mind, leads him to make the decision that will change his life, to kill King Duncan: Thou sure and firm-set earth,/ Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear/ Thy very stones prate of my whereabouts/ And take the present horror from the time,/ Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives./ Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives (2.1.69-74). This quote is from when his greed for power takes over and leads him to kill the King. Now that he is King and has gained all the power, one would think that he would stop the treacherous acts. However, now that he has power, he is so paranoid about losing it, that he continues with the murders. This paranoia to remain in power can also be called corruption.
Macbeth’s constant need to eliminate any threats to his power leads him to travel further into this path of violence and darkness. Even after committing the treacherous act of killing King Duncan, Macbeth goes as far as killing some of his closest allies to stay in control. Banquo, a valiant soldier and Macbeth’s companion, and his young son Fleance, are a threat to King Macbeth’s power. Macbeth finds it unfair how the prophecy declared that he was destined to wear the crown but was also destined to be killed and succeeded as King by the son of Banquo. Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown/ And put a barren scepter in my grip,/ Thence to be wrenched with an unlineal hand,/ No son of mine succeeding. If’t be so,/ For Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind (3.1.66-70). It is at this point in which he decides that he is going to send men to kill Banquo and his son so they cannot interfere with his Kingship. Even after Banquo is killed and Macbeth seems to have eliminated any threats, he is still corrupted and allows his need for power to interfere with his life. Learning that Macduff is suspicious of his actions, Macbeth decides out of sheer malice to order the murder of Macduff’s wife and children. His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls/ That trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool;/ This deed I’ll do before this purpose cool (4.1.173-175). Killing his wife and family, who are no threat to Macbeth’s Kingship reveals what lengths Macbeth will go to to preserve his power. Macbeth is committing cruel acts that have nothing to do with maintaining power and thus continuing on the path of corruption.
With Banquo and Macduff’s family dead, Macbeth should feel satisfied with his power. This is not the case. Macbeth remains paranoid that his power is being threatened. To gain insight on any threats and learn more about any forthcoming power, Macbeth decides to visit the three witches yet again. He demands them to show him his future and answer his questions. Though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown/ down,/ Though castles topple on their warders’ heads,/ Though palaces and pyramids do slope/ Their heads to their foundations, though the treasure/ Of nature’s germens tumble all together,/ Even till destruction sicken, answer me/ To what I ask you (4.1.56-65). Macbeth is so hungry for power and so determined to find answers that he travelled by himself into a dangerous territory:the witches territory. Macbeth’s given power has led to him to become corrupt and his dark side has taken over.
Overall, Macbeth’s struggle for power is what defines his character and leads to his eventual death. Since his desire for power was the main focus of the play and it caused him to commit many unjust acts, it seems to show that power can lead to corruption.