Power is a force thatshould not be reckoned with and if it is used for evil instead of good, chaoswill be unleashed. Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, focuses on a tragic herowho desires to become the King of Scotland, and this overwhelming need forpower ultimately consumes him. In Macbeth,the characters with power take actions that lead to corruption for themselvesand for those around them. The witches in the play are powerful due to theirability to prophesize Macbeth’s future and this is used to corrupt him. LadyMacbeth is another character that becomes sinister, as she desires power, andshe is very influential in the transformation that Macbeth makes throughout theplay. Lastly, the title character,Macbeth, desires to become King, and he will do anything at all to make it thishappen. Macbeth is one of the many victims who stumbles across the witches whouse their dangerous powers to change him from an innocent man to a ruthlesskiller.The witches in the playare one of the most powerful and important figures in the play.
The witchesdemonstrate their power in their first interaction with Macbeth by providinghim with a picture of his future. These prophecies are responsible for Macbeth turningto evil and sinister actions to ensure these predictions are realized. When Macbethstumbles across the witches they proceed to “hail” Macbeth with his currenttitle of Thane of Glamis, and the next two positions he is yet to fulfill inthe not so late future. “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!/ Allhail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!/ All Hail, Macbeth, that shalt beking here after”1 Macbeth does not believe the witches initially,then Ross and a messenger arrive to spread the news to Macbeth that he has gainedhis title of Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth then realizes that he can rely on thewitches and he puts his trust in their predictions. This initial interactionbetween the witches and Macbeth is the motivation for further tragic events.
Thewitches are so powerful that they can provide others with the power to seevisions and apparitions. Macbeth was granted this power and during KingDuncan’s murder scene, he envisions a dagger, and he sees this as a symbol ofwhat he is meant to do and what his future holds. “Thou marshal’st me the waythat I was going, / And such instrument I was to use.”2When Macbeth tries to cope with the murders of Banquo, and King Duncan, hisfirst instinct is to go straight to the witches for advice on how to proceed.Macbeth feels he cannot control anything, and he asks, and begs the witches totell him what to expect. “Even till destruction sicken, answer me/To what I askyou”3 This shows that the witches hold a strong power over Macbethby using visions and motivating words to control him. The witches force Macbethto perform corrupt actions to ensure the prophecies come true.
Thedesire to become King, leads Macbeth to do anything he can to ensure that hewill wear the crown. This craving forpower eventually leads to his ultimate demise. Shakespeare demonstrates howpower corrupts by using Macbeth, who performs corrupt actions just with thethought of having power over others. Macbeth’s actions clearly demonstrate thatthe amount of power he obtains depicts how corrupt the acts he commitsare. As he gains more power, hiscorruption becomes clearer and more destructive. “The air/ Nimbly and sweetlyrecommends itself/ Unto our gentle senses”4 It was said of thecastle that “heaven’s breath/ Smells wooingly here.
“5 These two quotes suggest the positive imagethat Macbeth is portraying as the Thane of Cawdor. He does not yet want to beking and therefore he is not driven to corrupt actions. “If chance willhave me King, why, chance may crown me/ Without my stir.”6 Thisattitude is similar to his thoughts at the beginning of the play, which proveshe has changed very little.
However, later in the play it is clear that Macbethdid have “black and deep desires.”7 Macbeth’s viewseventually change and he desires desperately to be King. When Malcolm becomesPrince of Cumberland, Macbeth considers this “a step on which I must falldown or else o’erleap/ for in my way it lies.” 8 Macbeth beginshis demise into evil actions with just corrupt thoughts but eventually tragicevents ensue. Eventually, with thepersuasion of Lady Macbeth, Macbeth decides to murder the King. He struggleswith his conscience after this murder but eventually when Macbeth attains hissought after title of King, his personality continues to change. He no longer hesitates or requires LadyMacbeth’s persuasions and instead becomes very bold and incrediblymanipulative.
He plans the murder ofBanquo in a very skillful and confident manner. He tells themurderers: “I will advise you where to plant yourselves; Acquaintyou with the perfect spy o’ the time, The moment on’t; for ‘t must be doneto-night.” 9 He questions the murder of Duncan but without anyhesitation he puts Lady Macduff and her children to death. The increase inpower leads to a string of horrific, corrupt events. Lady Macbethis instrumental in Macbeth’s transformation from a heroic warrior to a cunningkiller.Lady Macbeth is corruptfrom the very beginning of the play and she becomes thirsty for additionalpower and control.
The corruption for power is evident in the beginning when Macbethsends her a letter, recounting the event of his interaction with the witchesand how he trusts in their prophecies. Lady Macbeth becomes motivated herself, and makes an effort to manipulateand control Macbeth to ensure their fate is sealed. She makes it obvious thatshe is willing to do anything at all, so that she will have the most power inthe land of Scotland. “Come, you spirits/that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex mehere,/ And fill me from the crown to the toe top full/ of dirtiest cruelty.Make thick my blood.”10 Lady Macbeth loses her femininity andbecomes the force and power behind the murder of King Duncan and she leadsMacbeth to follow the same path.
Lady Macbeth is persistent, and will doanything it takes to get her husband to change his innocent ways, so they canachieve the ultimate power. “Your face, my Thane, is as a book where men/ Mayread strange matters. To beguile the time/ Look like the time; bear welcomeyour eyes/ Your hand, your tongue; look like th’ innocent flower,/ But be the serpent under’t.”11 Thecorruption eventually begins to poison Lady Macbeth’s mind, and she starts tolisten to her conscience and eventually guilt consumes her. “Here’s the smell of the blood still. All/ theperfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand./ oh,oh,oh!”12 LadyMacbeth realizes that her previous passion for power has transformed intounimaginable guilt and this ultimately leads to her suicide. These events arevivid examples of how using power for evil will produce a path of destructionin its wake.
In conclusion, the questfor power is the driving force in the corruption of the characters and theirspecific actions in the play Macbeth. As the play progresses, it becomesclear that characters are willing to do almost anything to achieve the ultimatepower and control. The path Macbeth follows, proves that one cannot guaranteetheir fate and future, and that corruption will only lead to guilt andself-destruction. The witches and Lady Macbeth are the ones that controlMacbeth’s actions and ultimately are responsibility for his transformation intoa corrupt killer. Power and corruption is very evident in today’s society.
Itcan be seen in politics, religions, and in the various relationships between regularpeople. Many people are addicted and consumed by the benefits of power and someare willing to do anything to be on top with more money, control and success.Shakespeare uses Macbeth to prove that such a path that can lead to self-destructioninstead of success, and most likely the future will not be what one has hopedand worked toward.