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A Theme Of The Negative Influence Of Power On A Person’s Actions In Macbeth

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

In Macbeth, the playwright, William Shakespeare uses Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s guilt toward the end of the play, to show how power can influence a person’s actions negatively and affect them in the long run leading to consequences. The play takes place in Scotland, beginning with Macbeth receiving a prophecy from three witches feeding him with the notion that he will one day be king. This idea of the prophecy clouds Macbeth’s thoughts and is the beginning for he and his wife’s long battle with guilt and regret. Macbeth is convinced by Lady Macbeth that murder is the only option to gain the power he believes belongs to him. Along committing the chain of murders to achieve this goal, Lady Macbeth began feeling extreme amounts of guilt that end up taking over her thoughts. “To bed, to be! There’s knocking at the gate. Come, come, come, give me your hand! What’s done cannot be undone. To bed, to be, to bed!”. Lady Macbeth ends up dreaming about her murderous acts out of guilt.

At the start of the play when the conversation of murdering Duncan became a reality between the two, Macbeth clearly expressed his doubts. “First, I am his kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then, as his host, who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife myself. In his soliloquy, it’s apparent that Macbeth does not want to go through with killing Duncan. Knowing that the murder of an innocent person is against his morals he displays to Lady Macbeth that his job as his host is to protect Duncan, not harm him. This feeling of doubt does not last long as Macbeth changes his mind and decides to go through with killing Duncan to obtain the power he craves after hearing the prophecy.

After Lady Macbeth later convinces Macbeth to part-take in the murdering of Duncan, Macbeth experiences many signs of guilt. One of them being that Macbeth starts to envision things that are simply not there. Macbeth imagines a dagger in front of him which is essentially foreshadowing the future event of him and his wife’s plan to take out Duncan. “Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feelings as to sight? or art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation. Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?”. The dagger symbolizes the begining of Macbeth’s guilt even before he commited murder.

Once Lady Macbeth and Macbeth had managed to kill King Duncan, his son Banquo was still in the way of Macbeth’s chances of taking the throne of Scotland. The Macbeth’s knew what had to be done, even though they were both experiencing remorse over Duncan’s death, they were willing to do whatever it took no matter what evil deed, to be crowned. Macbeth finally has two hired assassins murder Banquo. The Macbeths host a dinner party and Macbeth sense of guilt starts to reveal as he starts to lose his sense of reality and Banquo’s ghost appears to only him. “Avaunt, and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee.Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold. Thou hast no speculation in those eyes”. Macbeth couldn’t be sure whether the ghost of Banquo was a vision or not but it starts to show that his conscience is directing him to insanity.

The Macbeth’s desire to become king and queen, driving them to killing multiple people in order to fulfill the prophecy leads them both to insanity, and is an example that proves the wrong ambition can end up equaling dire consequences. After seeing banquos ghost, Macbeth believes something went wrong with the murder and becomes overly paranoid. “..The times has been that, when the brains were out, the man would die, and there an end; but now they rise again, with twenty mortal murders on their crowns, and push us from our stools. This is more strange than such a murder is” (III,iv,77-84). This reaffirms that Macbeth’s guilty conscience is negatively affecting him in the long run, and he is unable to escape his wrongdoings.

Lady Macbeth’s guilt differs from Macbeths. She is the instagater throughout every murder, and is the person who drives her husband to do such horrible deeds. Unlike Macbeth’s feelings of guilt, Lady Macbeth expresses hers subconsciencly, without realizing it. Even though she appears to be strong minded and has no feeling of remorse, she can not escape the feeling of guilt caused by her horrific actions. “Out, damned spot! Out, I say! — One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky! — Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? — Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him”. Violence begets violence in this situation because their plan to kill duncan that lead to a chain of murders, ends up costing both of the Macbeths their lives. This is only the beginning of Lady Macbeth’s guilt proving to drive her mad, and eventually leading her to commit suicide.

In the play Macbeth, the main characters Macbeth and Lady Macbeth steal the kingdom of Scotland away from it’s rightful owners and gained power by murdering to obtain their positions. Shakespear designs the fall of the Macbeth’s by teaching the two a lesson. Guilt took over both of their consciences and created negative things to occur in their lives. Violence begets violence when a person does something evil, it will eventually come back to that person, creating a downfall in their life. A society like the one in Scotland circa 1600 could not have survived long based on the leadership of the time, mostly because they were not basing their actions on what was best for the citizens. The leadership made decisions based on their personal gain, which would not work in this day in age.

While reading the play Macbeth, it was clear to see that Macbeth and his wife’s murderous deeds and stolen power would end up coming back to them in a negative way. People are not meant to get away with these horrible acts, and that’s why the Macbeth’s ended up paying for their deeds through feelings of guilt. Lady Macbeth had so much built up guilt and regret that she ended up making the choice of taking her own life rather than live with the truth. Macbeth became paranoid and the thoughts of wrongdoings clouded his mind. He ended up with a dead wife and was arrogant enough to go into battle thinking he couldn’t be killed by anyone ‘of woman born,’ and was then killed in battle. The tragedy of both Macbeth and his wife’s death was brought on themselves and proves that power can influence a person’s actions negatively and affect them in the long run leading to consequences.  

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