Macbeth’s underlining theme is power. Power means different things for different people. How people react to power varies by how you attain power, retain power, and ultimately lose power. Power can lead someone to ambiton and make them vulnerable. What motivates the person with power, shows their true selves. Once someone has power they may be suprised at what they are willing to do to keep it.
Vulnerability and ambition are characteristics of someone in power. Macbeth was a loyal warrior and friend of Duncan the king of Scotland. Although Duncan was a fair and trusting king, it made him vulnerable. Macbeth struggles with his choice to kill Duncan for his own good because he’s related and loyal to him. He should be protecting him from harm versus being the one ready to cause the harm. Duncan is so well-liked and such a good king that when he’s gone, he will still be remembered for his great legacy (Shakespeare Act 1, Scene 7, 13-18). Macbeth was happy being a successful warrior for his country and content from receiving a new title granted to him by the king for his good service. Had it not been for his encounter with the witches, who suggested that one day he could be king, the seed of ambition wouldn’t have been planted. Macbeth struggles with the thought of having to kill someone he admires to fulfill his ambition. Macbeth is finding it hard to motivate himself to do such a deed and realizes that ambition is a foolish reason for doing it (Act 1, Scene 7, 28). When Macbeth told Lady Macbeth about what the witches prophesied she immediately wanted to convince him that he should follow through with what he wants. She believes he’s not strong enough to commit a crime for the sake of becoming king (Act 1, Scene 5, 22-25). After Duncan’s murder, his sons fled the scene for their own safety. They should be the next in line to become king but feel vulnerable since they do not know who wanted their father killed. The sons feel its best to quickly leave before they encouter any danger (Act 2, Scene 3, 134-138).
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Once power is achieved, how that power is used is another story. People can be powerful even if they are not a person in power. Lady Macbeth is powerful in the way she can control Macbeth. She is the force behind Macbeth’s path to being king and is excited to be in the position of being the wife of the king and power that comes with it. Lady Macbeth also references to the wine she drank the night of Duncan’s murder. She reveals that the wine made her arrogant and bold fueling her sense of power. That with hath made them drink hath made me bold; what hath quenched them hath given me fire (Act 2, Scene 2, 1-2). Now that Macbeth has been made king, he is constantly worried about keeping his throne position and goes on a killing spree to eliminate anyone who he thinks is a threat to him. Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill (Act 3, Scene 2, 54). Banquo is not a leader but is given power once the witches prophesied that his sons would be kings. Macbeth fears that Banquo and his sons are a threat to his throne and is compelled to eliminate them. Macbeth feels that he’s not safe and questions the point of being king? He’s very fearful of Banquo because he’s noble, smart, brave, and is carefully cunning (Act 3, Scene 1, 48-54). Macbeth decides not to leave fate to chance and would rather fight to the death than be pushed off his throne (Act 3, Scene 1, 70-71). His fear leads him no choice but to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. Powerful people use a variety of methods to gain and maintain their power. Some resort to evil while others use more acceptable means of getting what they want.
When powerful people take action, its often a reaction to someone else’s action. It could be a desperate attempt for protection or could be a necessary evil to make things right. For instance, Duncan’s son Malcolm had to flee the scene of his father’s murder to protect himself. While in hiding, he created an army to help him fight for his rightful place as king and to save his country. Macduff went to see Malcolm to inform him of the dire situation Scotland is in because of Macbeth’s rule. Malcolm assures him that he is aware of the situation and has thousands of soldiers ready for battle. They will fight together and hopefully be successful in their cause (Act 4, Scene 3, 134-137). Macbeth has the country in a state of turmoil in his greed to retain his crown. In desperation, he seeks out the witches to know his future. His insecurity allows for the witches to trick him into a false sense of security. Macduff is not a leader, however, is given a motive for revenge against Macbeth for killing his family. Macduff is loyal to Scotland and wants to save it. To do so, he will tap into Malcolm’s position of power as an opportunity for his revenge. With the witches help, Macduff is successful in his quest. Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn The power of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth (Act 4, Scene 1, 80-81). Macbeth faces battle feeling invincible until he sees the signs, the apparations warned him about of luring him to his death.
The play has a lot to say about power, the desire of power, and the method of how power is used. Power exemplifes a person’s character and changes their life. Its brings out the good, the bad, and the ugly out of people. Power can be tempting when you don’t have it. Lust for power has been responsible for many terrible events. It is human nature to be driven, however power has to be controlled. True leaders use their power for the good of all, not only for their own satisfaction.
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