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The Want for Power in Macbeth

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Introduction

What is power? Power is a magnificent thing but at the same time can be evil. People strive to gain power all of their life, how far will they go, to acquire this so-called power? In Macbeth by William Shakespeare, power is a very present theme that can be noticed throughout the play. The play Macbeth is about a war hero, Macbeth, who is presented with three prophecies by three witches referred to as the Weird Sisters. After the witches tell Macbeth the prophecies, he starts to realize that they are starting to come true. Macbeth is constantly put in situations that are caused by or involving power, which can ultimately turn him evil or mess with his decision-making skills. Macbeth makes bad decisions when it comes to power; Power can play a big role when it comes to evil. The want for power can make people do things that they never ever thought were possible. In the article What Makes Good People do Bad Things? By Melissa Dittman, it explains the different reasons that can help explain why someone may choose a path that will turn them bad. Almost all of the bad things done in Macbeth was caused by the want for power.

The Role of Anonymity

In the play, Macbeth, power is not just in the people who rule, people who have authority, but in Macbeth as well. Macbeth is a war hero, which gives him a lot of authority and he gets respect from other people, such as the king and many other soldiers who he fought with. In the play, Macbeth kills Duncan, The King, and framed the guards giving him anonymity. This feeling of anonymity gives Macbeth the power to kill Duncan. In Act 2 Scene 1 Macbeth states ” I go, and it is done. The bell invites me. Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell That summons thee to heaven or to hell” (Shakespeare 53) This quote is showing how the feeling of being anonymous gave Macbeth the power to go through the process of murdering his beloved King Duncan. This line from the article also supports this, “People’s aggression can also increase when they feel anonymous–for example if they wear a uniform, hood or mask.” This line just backs up what is said in Macbeth, when someone is masked or if they feel as if nobody knows who they are, their evil instincts will kick in and cause them to do stuff they never thought of.

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Different Types of Power

Throughout the play, power is seen and shown in different ways. Especially the three witches and how they can tell the future. The three Witches greet Macbeth in a startling way. The first Witch calls him “thane of Glamis,” already his title, because of Sinel’s death. But then the Witches also call him “thane of Cawdor” and “king hereafter” which means that he will be named thane of Cawdor and then king, instead of Malcolm which is Duncans son. Macbeth has always dreamed of becoming king. Macbeth hearing this causes the play to set in motion the plot of the play, as Macbeth and his wife murder the existing king to assure that Macbeth will become king.

The play shows power in the relationship Macbeth has with his wife, Lady Macbeth. In the few times Lady Macbeth has been seen in the play, the audience can tell that she has more power over him. There are many times where she actually makes him rethink his manhood. This can be seen in the play right before Macbeth was planning on killing Duncan where Lady Macbeth says to Macbeth “Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,/ But be the serpent under’t.” (Shakespeare 1,5,3). Here, Lady Macbeth is worried that Macbeth will not be able to put on the mask of the innocent. Again she finds that Macbeth is way too weak to pull off the murder of Duncan without being accused. This causes Macbeth to go against what he thinks just to show his wife that he is not weak. “The experiment showed that institutional forces and peer pressure led normal student volunteer guards to disregard the potential harm of their actions on the other student prisoner” (Dittmann 3). This supports the original quote because it backs up the idea that Lady Macbeth pressured Macbeth into killing Duncan. He felt weak because she made him feel like less of a man. Both of these pieces of evidence show how the power that authority figures hold can influence a person’s emotions and can help play a part in making someone evil.

Conclusion

Ultimately, power is something that everyone strives for, even characters in books and real life. There are many examples in the play Macbeth that serves as a piece on how power can be one of the main causes of situational evil. Although any person may not seem like it, all of us are capable of being evil. Even the courageous fighting heroes that everybody looks up too. It is easy to see that in the story of Macbeth, Macbeth went crazy for power. He went against everything he believed in and went to the extreme. For example, he killed his beloved king Duncan, who thought of Macbeth as a brave son. The same thing can be seen in the minds of real people. As Dittmann stated many times in her article, people will go to any extent for the power that they desire.

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