Issue Of Power And Control In Macbeth

Essay, Research Paper

When Macbeth becomes king he controls almost everyone, from servants to assassins. He even attempts to order the three witches to do his bidding. However, Macbeth?s actions and demeanor later in the play are the result of Lady Macbeth, who holds sway over her husband. It is she who at first coaxes and controls Macbeth, resulting in the change in his personality. The supernatural, in particular the three witches, exert control over both Macbeth and his lady. In fact, it is their influences that initiate the sequence of events, and are therefore an integral part of the play.

The three witches use cleverly chosen words and prophecies to exert control over others. These prophecies seem to be more potent than any action, as they can be interpreted in any number of ways, and have the ability to provoke otherwise hidden thoughts and desires. For instance, upon hearing the first prophecies and seeing the first part come true, Macbeth says, ?This supernatural soliciting, cannot be ill, cannot be good ? If good, why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs.? This shows the power of the witches, and indeed the supernatural in general. The prophecies, of which Macbeth is convinced are true, have provoked thoughts and ideas, both good and evil.

Hecate, in turn, exerts control over the witches. She, on the other hand, uses her superiority and power to exert control. It is clear to see that there is a clear class distinction between the witches and Hecate, who can only exert control because of her superior abilities.

Apart from directly influencing Macbeth, the witches also vicariously exert control over Lady Macbeth. The prophecies, although being related through Macbeth, have exactly the same effects on his wife. However Lady Macbeth fears that her husband?s nature is ?too full o? the milk of human kindness?. Therefore she resolves to exert her own control over Macbeth, allowing him to become king in the quickest possible way.

Like the witches, Lady Macbeth uses carefully chosen words to exert control over Macbeth. However, whereas the witches? intentions were unclear, it is clear to see that greed and ambition are the reason for her actions. Lady Macbeth seems to have a large amount of influence over Macbeth, which she uses to her advantage. Lady Macbeth uses her relationship with Macbeth and plays on his emotions in order to exert control over him. For instance, when Macbeth falters in his decision to kill Duncan, his quick-thinking wife rallies him by saying, ?I would, while it was smiling in may face (her baby), have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this.? With this statement Lady Macbeth cleverly outlines her loyalty to Macbeth, and also forces him between his loyalty to her and Duncan. This is one of the many instances in which lady Macbeth exerts control.

After killing Duncan, Macbeth seems to undergo a metamorphosis. His conscience, which plagued him earlier, disappears without a trace. His belief in the prophecies allows his confidence to grow. Upon seizing the throne, Macbeth uses its power to exert control over others. He also uses the reputation he has gained. However, the ways he exerts control change with the situation. For example, Macbeth uses words as well as his title to convince the assassins that it is their best interests to kill Banquo. As the play progresses, he seeks to exert more control, and is seen in the eyes of the people who once revered him, as a tyrant.

The struggle for control and power over others not only initiate the events of the play, but end them as well. Macbeth?s lust for power and control lead eventually to his demise. In the end, the play?s power struggle demonstrates one thing. The power of control over others is a two-edged sword, which can just as easily harm its wielder as its victim.


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