Power “hail” Macbeth with his current title of Thane

Power is a force that
should not be reckoned with and if it is used for evil instead of good, chaos
will be unleashed. Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, focuses on a tragic hero
who desires to become the King of Scotland, and this overwhelming need for
power ultimately consumes him.   In Macbeth,
the main characters who possess power make choices that eventually lead them to
corrupt themselves and destroy those who surround them. The witches in the play
are powerful due to their ability to prophesize Macbeth’s future and this is
used to corrupt him. Lady Macbeth is another character that becomes sinister,
as she desires power, and she is very influential in the transformation that Macbeth
makes throughout the play.  Lastly, the
title character, Macbeth, desires to become King, and he will do anything at
all to make it this happen. Macbeth is one of the many victims who stumbles
across the witches who use their dangerous powers to change him from an
innocent man to a ruthless killer.

The witches in the play
are one of the most powerful and important figures in the play. The witches
demonstrate their power in their first interaction with Macbeth by providing
him with a picture of his future. These prophecies are responsible for Macbeth turning
to evil and sinister actions to ensure these predictions are realized. When Macbeth
stumbles across the witches they proceed to “hail” Macbeth with his current
title of Thane of Glamis, and the next two positions he is yet to fulfill in
the not so late future. “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!/ All
hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!/ All Hail, Macbeth, that shalt be
king 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 gained
his title of Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth then realizes that he can rely on the
witches and he puts his trust in their predictions. This initial interaction
between the witches and Macbeth is the motivation for further tragic events. The
witches are so powerful that they can provide others with the power to see
visions and apparitions. Macbeth was granted this power and during King
Duncan’s murder scene, he imagines a dagger. He believes that the dagger is a
sign that dictates his next actions and what will happen in the future. “Thou
marshal’st me the way that I was going, / And such instrument I was to use.”2
After the murders of Banquo and King Duncan, Macbeth flees to the witches to
ask their advice on what to do next.  Macbeth feels he cannot control anything, and
he asks, and begs the witches to tell him what to expect. “Even till
destruction sicken, answer me/To what I ask you”3 This shows that
the witches hold a strong power over Macbeth by using visions and motivating
words to control him. The witches force Macbeth to perform corrupt actions to
ensure the prophecies come true.

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Macbeth’s
ultimate desire to become King provokes him to do almost anything as to secure
his future. This craving for power eventually leads to his ultimate demise.
Shakespeare demonstrates how power corrupts by using Macbeth, who performs
corrupt actions just with the thought of having power over others. Macbeth’s
actions clearly demonstrate that the amount of power he obtains depicts how corrupt
the acts he commits are.4 As he gains more power, his corruption
becomes clearer and more destructive. “The air/ Nimbly and sweetly recommends
itself/ Unto our gentle senses”5 It was said of the castle that
“heaven’s breath/ Smells wooingly here.”6   These two quotes suggest the positive image
that Macbeth is portraying as the Thane of Cawdor. He does not yet want to be
king and therefore he is not driven to corrupt actions. “If chance will
have me King, why, chance may crown me/ Without my stir.”7 This
attitude is similar to his thoughts at the beginning of the play, which proves he has changed very little.
However, later in the play it is clear that Macbeth did have “black and
deep desires.”7 Macbeth’s views eventually change and he
desires desperately to be King. When Malcolm becomes Prince of Cumberland, Macbeth
considers this “a step on which I must fall down or else o’erleap/ for in
my way it lies.” 8 Macbeth begins his demise into evil actions
with just corrupt thoughts but eventually tragic events ensue.  Eventually, with the persuasion of Lady Macbeth, Macbeth decides to
murder the King. He struggles with his conscience after this murder but
eventually when Macbeth attains his sought after title of King, his personality
continues to change.  He no longer
hesitates or requires Lady Macbeth’s persuasions and instead becomes very bold
and incredibly manipulative.  He plans the murder of Banquo in
a very skillful and confident manner. He tells the murderers: “I will
advise you where to plant yourselves; Acquaint you with the perfect spy o’
the time, The moment on’t; for ‘t must be done to-night.” 9
He questions the murder of Duncan but without any hesitation he puts Lady
Macduff and her children to death. The increase in power leads to a string
of horrific, corrupt events.  Lady Macbeth
is instrumental in Macbeth’s transformation from a heroic warrior to a cunning
killer.

Lady Macbeth is corrupt
from the very beginning of the play and she becomes thirsty for additional
power and control. The corruption for power is evident in the beginning when Macbeth
sends her a letter, recounting the event of his interaction with the witches
and how he trusts in their prophecies. 
Lady Macbeth becomes motivated herself, and makes an effort to manipulate
and control Macbeth to ensure their fate is sealed. She makes it obvious that
she is willing to do anything at all, so that she will have the most power in
the land of Scotland. “Come, you spirits/that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me
here,/ And fill me from the crown to the toe top full/ of dirtiest cruelty.
Make thick my blood.”10 Lady Macbeth loses her femininity and
becomes the force and power behind
the murder of King Duncan and she leads Macbeth to follow the same path. Lady
Macbeth is persistent, and will do anything it takes to get her husband to change
his innocent ways, so they can achieve the ultimate power. “Your face,
my Thane, is as a book where men/ May read strange matters. To beguile the
time/ Look like the time; bear welcome your eyes/ Your hand, your tongue; look
like th’ innocent flower,/  But be the
serpent under’t.”11 The corruption eventually begins to poison Lady
Macbeth’s mind, and she starts to listen to her conscience and eventually guilt
consumes her.  “Here’s the smell of the
blood still. All/ the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand./
oh,oh,oh!”12 Lady Macbeth realizes that her previous passion for
power has transformed into unimaginable guilt and this ultimately leads to her
suicide. These events are vivid examples of how using power for evil will
produce a path of destruction in its wake.

In conclusion, the quest for power is the driving force
in the corruption of the characters and their specific actions in the play Macbeth.
As the play progresses, it becomes clear that characters are willing to do
almost anything to achieve the ultimate power and control. The path Macbeth
follows, proves that one cannot guarantee their fate and future, and that
corruption will only lead to guilt and self-destruction. The witches and Lady
Macbeth are the ones that control Macbeth’s actions and ultimately are
responsibility for his transformation into a corrupt killer. Power and corruption is
very evident in today’s society. It can be seen in politics, religions, and in
the various relationships between regular people. Many people are addicted and consumed by the benefits of
power and some are 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-destruction instead of success, and most likely the future will
not be what one has hoped and worked toward.

 

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