Power In Macbeth

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An Exploration of Power in Shakespeare’s Works
Power, as countless timeless quotes and political figures have taught us, tends to be perceived either as the tool of a justified disciplinarian or, more often, the weapon of choice for the malicious despot. As such, every generation of writers has embraced its complexities in the hopes of shedding new light on this ancient yet ever-evolving concept. These writers, Shakespeare included, have helped in both defining the role of power in the past and outlining an ideal for it in the future through questions such as: who should have control? Who benefits when one person is in charge? And, most pressingly, is there any way to ensure power can be yielded while avoiding corruption? In both The Tragedy
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Shakespeare illustrates these degradations of character through the use of tragic flaws to show the manifestations of power’s grip on the characters. In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Macbeth’s tragic flaw, ambition, introduces the concept that an insatiable thirst for influence can lead to one losing their sense of reality and humanity. As the protagonist plots how he’s going to reach the crown, he begins to consider the people in his way not as individuals, but instead as “a step / on which I must fall down, or else o 'erleap / For in my way it lies” (I.iv.55-58). This inadvertent dehumanization of others is just the first step of his wicked journey on which he finds himself murdering those he once looked up to for their title. The closer Macbeth gets to his goal, the more corrupted he becomes, and even in power, he finds himself tormented by the thought of losing it. This intense ambition, coupled with Macbeth’s relatively normal disposition in the beginning of the play, works to characterize power as inherently corruptible and, ultimately, to be kept under close surveillance. Similarly, King Lear finds himself perverted by the power he once held- so much so that he can’t even recognize himself without it, exclaiming, “does…show more content…
Manipulating Macbeth and driving his first few steps towards the throne, Lady Macbeth is distinct in her desire for power and willingness to pursue it. This was, of course, especially significant for the time period where women were generally expected to operate in the shadows, adding to her scandalous nature. While plotting her path to the top, Lady Macbeth worries aloud that Macbeth “is too full o ' th ' milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great, / Art not without ambition, but without / The illness should attend it” (I.v.17-20). When presented with the chance to claim the crown, Lady Macbeth’s mind immediately turns to murder, her only concern being the morality of her counterpart, characterizing her as a dominant and manipulating woman. The way she is able to convince her husband to murder the king and his trusted friend speaks to her influence and, in turn, evokes the audience’s fear of powerful women, also known as women with opinions. Through this characterization, Shakespeare suggests that women, when corrupted by the power of thought and opinion, are a force to be feared. In parallel to Lady Macbeth, Goneril and Regan stand out in their ability to accomplish goals without the help of their husbands. However, not to be called a feminist play, their actions are portrayed as, at their

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