Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known and popular plays. The story follows Macbeth, a Scottish general, who becomes obsessed with power and ambition after hearing a prophecy that he will one day be king. Macbeth’s thirst for power leads him to commit murder and other atrocities, which ultimately lead to his downfall.
While Macbeth is undoubtedly a tragic figure, he is also a complex and fascinating character. One of the things that makes him so interesting is the paradox of his power. On the one hand, Macbeth possesses great physical and military power. He is strong, brave, and skilled in battle. On the other hand, Macbeth’s power is ultimately his downfall. His obsession with power leads him to make poor decisions and ultimately brings about his own demise.
In many ways, Macbeth is a cautionary tale about the dangers of power. Shakespeare shows us that power can be both a blessing and a curse. It can be used for good or for evil. And it can ultimately lead to ruin if it is not used wisely.
People have a difficult time obtaining what they desire, and the items they desire may be mutually contradictory. Macbeth’s protagonist is lured to murder the king, Duncan, by his lust for power, which has been sharpened by witch prophecies and his wife’s encouragement. He arrives at the throne, but he feels threatened. He tries to eliminate threats that jeopardize his security, such as Banquo and Fleance, who are expected to rule in his place.
Macbeth’s actions, based on his paranoid delusions, have the opposite effect of what he intends: they increase his insecurity. Macbeth is finally destroyed by a rebellion led by Macduff, another person prophesied to be king. The play Macbeth is a tragedy because the main character Macbeth has a tragic flaw, paranoia, which causes him to make choices that lead to his ruin.
Macbeth’s fatal flaw is his ambition, which is fueled by his wife’s encouragement and the witches’ prophecies. His desire for power leads him to kill Duncan and take the kingship. Once he becomes king, he realizes that he is not as secure as he thought he would be. Macbeth’s paranoia leads him to kill Banquo and Fleance, which backfires because it makes Macbeth look guilty and increases the number of people who are out to get him. In the end, Macbeth is destroyed by a rebellion led by Macduff, who was prophesied to be king.
After witches lure Macbeth into a false sense of security by further foretelling, his lords become enraged and seize power successfully. Despite the appearance of incongruity, man’s aims of comfort and power are perpetually opposed in increment, however the two may decline at the same time. Knowledge’s power causes discomfort. It has been said many times that ignorance is supreme bliss.
And in Macbeth, Shakespeare implies that any increase in power will be accompanied by an increase in paranoia and fear. Macbeth’s tragedy is not simply a result of his own actions but also of the society around him. had he been born into a time of peace, it is possible that Macbeth would have never resorted to such extreme measures to gain power.
The ghost of Banquo asks Macbeth why he is less than enthusiastic about the title. Sir, why do you start and appear to be afraid of things that sound so fair?” (Act I, Scene 3) Macbeth’s new knowledge makes him uneasy, as he understands the consequences. His first thoughts about murdering Duncan came to mind, and he was terrified.
When he commits the murder, Macbeth says, “It would be better not to know what I have done.” (Act II, Scene 2) Knowing that he has committed a horrible crime makes him uncomfortable. It will be difficult for him to act innocent while coping with his guilt.
Macbeth’s power is the paradox that it brings both happiness and Macbeth’s realization of his own guilt. Macbeth tries to wash away his sense of guilt, but he cannot. The blood on his hands is a metaphor for Macbeth’s sense of guilt. No matter what he does, he cannot get rid of it. The blood will always be there, haunting him.
Macbeth is advised by his wife not to know how he will kill Banquo and Fleance. When he is ready to murder Banquo and Fleance later, he tells his wife, “Keep your mouth shut till you applaud the act.” (Act III, Scene 2) Hecate sets Macbeth up for his final fall. The second set of predictions only provided temporary security. Macbeth becomes more aggressive as a result of feeling there is no longer a threat to his position of power. Power comes with responsibility; therefore, those who are most satisfied have the least amount of it. Security prevents you from being strong.
Macbeth, in his quest for power, lost both. Macbeth had to be constantly on the lookout for anyone who may have been a threat. When Macduff flees to England, Macbeth says, “The worm that’s fled / Hath nature that in time will venom breed, / No teeth for the present.” (Act IV, Scene 3) He is worried that Macduff may come back and take his revenge. This causes Macbeth to live in constant fear and insecurity. In the end, it is this insecurity which leads to his downfall.
The paradox of power is that those who have it are often the least comfortable and secure. Macbeth provides a prime example of this. His quest for power led to his downfall and loss of both comfort and security. Macbeth illustrates that the more power one has, the more paranoid and insecure they become.
“The Porter delivers an ironic speech on the evils of liquor, noting that ‘lechery, sir, it stimulates and inhibits; it excites the desire but takes away the performance; therefore much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery: it makes him stand up and make a show of himself, but mars him in the process.” (Act II, Scene 3) While drinking might provide warmth, this is contradicted by its other effects. It destroys his ability to function effectively.
Macbeth, like the Porter, is an equivocator. Macbeth’s power comes from his ability to deceive others. He is a skilled politician who knows how to manipulate those around him. But this power is also his downfall. Macbeth is unable to trust anyone, including himself. His paranoia leads to his undoing.
Power is both a blessing and a curse. Gaining power causes discomfort. People become racked with guilt and paranoia when attempting to gain power in the hopes of improving their pleasure. Macbeth understands how fortunate Duncan, who was dead and powerless, really is.
Because he has no authority but faces no threats, Duncan is much more secure than Macbeth, who lives in constant fear of losing the crown. “To be thus is nothing; / But to be safely thus” (Act III, Scene 1). His royal power wasn’t as strong as he imagined it would be; and his authority is essentially meaningless because he feels so threatened.
Macbeth’s wife, on the other hand, is all about power. She wants Macbeth to kill Duncan so that she can be queen. She enjoys the feeling of power and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep it. In the end, both Macbeth and his wife are destroyed by their lust for power. It is a tragic story of how power can lead to ruin.