The Influence of Power in Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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About this sample


Words: 1802 |

Pages: 3|

10 min read

Published: Nov 6, 2018

Words: 1802|Pages: 3|10 min read

Published: Nov 6, 2018

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. How is Power presented in Macbeth?
  3. Conclusion
  4. Works Cited


There are many different types of powers, which a person may possess. Sometimes people are born into families of such class status. Other will strive to improve their status and to better their lives. To achieve such powers, one must manage to successfully challenge the current ruling powers. This is especially true in the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare’s where Macbeth kills the king to overtake the crown. The more power a person has, the more corrupts they become, and the harder it is to maintain. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Throughout the course of the play, the Three Witches and Lady Macbeth are the people with the most influences over Macbeth’s life; they drove Macbeth into total corruption. Macbeth was a great hero when he returned from the battlefield; only when absolute powers fogged his mind and the forces of evil corrupted destiny. Hence, the theme of power in Macbeth is analyzed in this essay.

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How is Power presented in Macbeth?

Shakespeare uses the theme of power to show the way power influences as shown through Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth challenges and questions Macbeth’s manhood as she says “When you durst do it, then you were a man; And, to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more than a man”. Lady Macbeth is seen to manipulate Macbeth cleverly pushing him as he commits regicide killing King Duncan getting what they both want: becoming king and queen. Lady Macbeth emasculates Macbeth as she controls his actions, however, we can see that her power is not from her actions rather her speech which is seen through her manipulation of Macbeth. In today’s context power is “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events.” Today’s equivalent would be seen through the ruthless business tycoon, power-hungry politician or cult leader. In Macbeth power is seen as an instrument in strengthening the system and this can be seen as at the beginning of the play there was an established monarch following the Christian values that legitimise his sovereignty. However, this is disrupted when Macbeth kills King Duncan paving his way into becoming King, unsettling the system of the “Divine Right”. This is then restored when Malcolm takes his rightful place as king showing that whilst there was a disruption to the monarch, his supporting values are more firmly established.

In the play, Macbeth commits regicide; the most heinous of all crimes in Elizabethan times, in order to become king. However, during his rule, Macbeth demonstrates that he is incapable of mastering the power and qualities of king hood. His drive for power and maintaining that power is the source of his downfall. Macbeth’s obsession with power fuels him to his mental deterioration. He is not meant to have authority beyond Thane of Cawdor. When Macbeth is king, he does not use his authority cautiously.

Macbeth was the central character of the play that was a good person, but his personality gives a 180 degrees turn throughout the story. Evil is the worst thing on Earth. It affects everyone. A very good example of the manifestation of the power of evil in the play is the sudden breakdown of Macbeth’s personality. At the beginning of the play, Macbeth appears as a hero, he was brave and loyal to his king. Although Lady Macbeth was successful at convincing Macbeth to murder Duncan, the Three Witches were the people who made it all possible. The Three Witches hold the ultimate power. If the Three Witches had indeed not informed Macbeth about what was to be, the story may have not turn out the same outcome. Three witches encounter Macbeth and address him as Thane of Cawdor and as the future king.

They also tell his friend Banquo that he will not be king but his descendants will rule. The witches disappear leaving Macbeth pleading for more information. In turn, if Lady Macbeth had not been informed about the prophecies, she would have never expected Macbeth to murder Duncan in a desperate attempt to fulfill the prophecies.

Two messengers from the king arrive and tell Macbeth that he was now Thane of Cawdor. That was the start of the changing in the personality of Macbeth because he contemplates to himself on his ambition to be a king, which had been strengthened by these events. Macbeth was afraid of killing king Duncan, he was afraid of “the even handed justice” that says that if he kills the king, another person may kill him; but ambition was greater than decency and he commits the murder. Ambition can ruin a person’s life and we can see it in this tragic play.

Many different people in Macbeth have power, and there are different ways to be powerful, Usually, men are the ones who are outward and aggressive about it, and women are more subdued. Lady Macbeth had a great deal of powers over Macbeth; powers that she possesses are more of “manly” quality than Macbeth. Because of this, Macbeth was ashamed of himself. As a result of Macbeth’s shame, he attempts to do everything in his power to prove his man hood to Lady Macbeth. “When you durst do it, then you were a man,/ And, to be more than what you were, you would/ Be so much more the man.” As a result of Lady Macbeth’s doubts and mocks, Macbeth finally murders Duncan in a final attempt to prove himself to Lady Macbeth.

On the other hand, the Three Witches not only gave Lady Macbeth the opportunity to alter Macbeth into the tyrant which he now is the Three Witches also led Macbeth to his downfall soon after Macbeth came into power. How the Three Witches accomplished this, was they made Macbeth feel over-confident.

In other words, the Three Witches were able to bring Macbeth into power, but in contrast to this, they were also able to take him out of it. The only way that they were able to take him out of it was by deceit.

While Macbeth was in this power, he had power over the common people’s lives, even though he used this power ruthlessly, “Send out moe horses, skirr the country round:/ Hang those that talk of fear. Give me mine armor”. He had power over these common people, even though it was only for a minuscule amount of time. What Shakespeare suggests about power, is that the more power a person had, the more corrupt they become. That was what Shakespeare attempted to communicate to the readers throughout the entire play. Macbeth changed from a man with high morals and values, “We still have judgment here that we but teach/ Bloody instructions, which being taught return/ To plague the inventor. This even-handed justice”, to the merciless and over-confident murderer which he was, “I will not be afraid of death and bane,/ Til Birnam forest come to Dunsinane.”

In conclusion, the Three Witches and Lady Macbeth were the people with the most power over Macbeth’s life. This was especially true for the Three Witches. The more power that Macbeth came into, the more corrupt he became. Power was the best thing that a person, with the characteristics of Macbeth, can have; but since everything that goes up has to come down. After he kills Banquo, he starts seeing Banquo’s ghost and went insane. Macbeth’s personality changes dramatically, from being a loyal and brave man into a powerful king and then at last an insane person. At the end of the play he suffers by the comprehension that his life could have been entirely different. Macbeth was not a monster, but he cannot accept his evil coldly, he suffers for it.

Macbeth started his rises toward power by committing serious murders, killing the king, which set off the chain reaction of the even handed justice that came back to them. Power, like a disease, pollutes whatever it touches is a true statement that demonstrates the cruel human nature and was displayed throughout many works of literature. Power was the root of all evil. Power, like a disease, pollutes whatever it touches. In other words, many characters in literature become corrupted because of their quest for power. I fully agree with Shelley that power pollutes everything that it touches because having too much power concentrated in the hands of one person leads to dictatorship and its bad consequences. Power is the root of all evil.

Before he desired the power of being king, Macbeth was a respected noble called a “valiant cousin!” and a “worthy gentleman. He was labeled, “brave Macbeth” for his actions in battle. Once Macbeth became king, he became overpowered with keeping his authority. Macbeth realized that he was being used just so that Banquo’s sons can inherit the throne.

Macbeth, consumed by these feelings, convinces a pair of men to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. By having Banquo and Fleance murdered, Macbeth believes that it will prevent Banquo’s sons from becoming king; basically, an attempt to overthrow fate and the prophecies. Macbeth, as well, hires the murderers to kill Macduff’s family. Which demonstrates Macbeth’s obsession, indicating that Macbeth values his power and absolute control over his friends.


Macbeth’s obsession with domination causes him to feel guilty and lose his sanity; as a result he did not show the qualities needed to be a stable King. As Macbeth’s mental health deteriorates, he develops un-kingly qualities such as overconfidence, paranoia and loss of reasoning, as a mechanism to regain control and power. He was ready to destroy the entire universe with himself. His egotism was all he had left. Macbeth insists on keeping the power until the end.

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Macbeth was not meant to have the power beyond Thane of Cawdor. He did not hold the correct bloodline. In Macbeth’s time the title of king was inherited, not taken by force. People were loyal to the king because he was regarded as closest to god. Macbeth became a king unnaturally, his power was not authentic, and the real king was Malcom. The end of the play restores order restored when Macbeth loses his power and Malcom becomes king. He abuses his power and rules by an iron fist. Macbeth was unable to control the power and responsibilities of being king. His drive for power and maintaining his power was the reason for his downfall. Due to his fixation with domination, Macbeth loses his sanity and gains destructive qualities. He was once a good man and a brave soldier, but because the influences from the three witches and his wife he was bound for ill faith; added to this list is his short-sited view for absolute powers. He was corrupted by evil despite his triumph fight the influences.

Works Cited

  1. Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. Riverhead Books, 1998.
  2. Campbell, Lily B. Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes: Slaves of Passion. Routledge, 2016.
  3. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Shakespearean Criticism, Volume 1. Elibron Classics, 2005.
  4. Garber, Marjorie. Shakespeare's Ghost Writers: Literature as Uncanny Causality. Routledge, 2016.
  5. Greenblatt, Stephen. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. W.W. Norton & Company, 2004.
  6. Hadfield, Andrew. Shakespeare and Renaissance Politics. Arden Shakespeare, 2004.
  7. Leaver, Richard A. The Tragic Imagination: Othello and Macbeth. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2016.
  8. Lupton, Julia Reinhard. Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology. University of Chicago Press, 2005.
  9. Moulton, Ian Frederick. Before Pornography: Erotic Writing in Early Modern England. Oxford University Press, 2000.
  10. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Nicholas Brooke, Oxford University Press, 1990.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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An Analysis of Power in Macbeth by William Shakespeare. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
“An Analysis of Power in Macbeth by William Shakespeare.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021,
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