Macbeth 16 Essay, Research Paper
In 1842 Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said God; you shall not have both. In The Tragedy of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, the audience sees Macbeth as a tragic hero. Macbeth is presented as a mature man with an established character, successful and enjoying an enviable reputation. *Werner Heisenberg, a German physicist, discovered an analogous phenomenon with his uncertainty principle. Studying quantum physics, matter at the atomic level, he realized that the act of measuring effected the object being measured. As a result, one could never accurately determine both position and momentum of an electron with precision. The attempt to reach one of these goals hurt the other, and a similar phenomenon is found in our everyday lives. In The Tragedy of Macbeth, the protagonist, Macbeth, is lured to murder King Duncan by the desire for power. When Macbeth reaches the kingship, he finds himself unhappy and insecure. Despite appearances of paradox, Macbeth s goals of joy and power are forever opposed in increment, though the two may decline together.
The witches prophecies and Lady Macbeth s encouragement wet Macbeth s craving for power, spurring appetite for murder. The power from knowledge caused discomfort in Macbeth. As often said, ignorance is bliss. After Macbeth is promised the kingship, Banquo asks why Macbeth is less than euphoric. Banquo states, Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear/ Things that do sound fair? (I,III,54-55). Macbeth s newly acquired knowledge makes him very uncomfortable and unhappy when he realizes the implications. His first thoughts of murdering Duncan appear, and Macbeth is frightened. After Macbeth commits Duncan s murder he states, To know my deed twere best not know myself. (II, II,93). Macbeth knows that he committed this atrocity to gain power, and he is now discontented. It is difficult for Macbeth to act innocent and to deal with his guilt. Macbeth cannot continue his quest for power and be content at the same time.
Before Macbeth commits Duncan s murder, he has a presentiment of his fate (the lack of joy with the presence of power). Macbeth states in one soliloquy, We d jump the life to come. But in these cases/ We still have judgment here, that we but teach/ Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return/ To plague th inventor. (I, VII,7-10). Even before Duncan s murder, Macbeth had feelings against his murder because he knew the resulting decline in happiness. The inventor, Macbeth, was plagued with his decision to kill Duncan and he attempted to keep his judgment. After Macbeth murdered Duncan, he further realized that gaining power causes discomfort. When Macbeth tried to gain power, hoping to increase his pleasure, he found himself wracked with guilt and paranoia. Macbeth sees how lucky the dead and powerless Duncan is when he stated, In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave./ After life s fitful fever he sleeps well./ Treason has done his worst; nor steel nor poison,/ Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing/ Can touch him further, (III, II,25-29). Duncan has no power but he faces no threats either. He is much safer and happier than Macbeth, who lived in fear of losing the throne. As he experienced, To be thus is nothing,/ But to be safely thus. (III, I,52-53). Macbeth s power as king was not as great as he thought it would be, and his power is almost useless because he feels so threatened.
Macbeth is not the only character that speaks of the difficulty of having both joy and power. Hecate set Macbeth up for his final fall, explaining her strategy, As by the strength of their illusion/ Shall draw him on his own confusion./ He shall spurn fate, scorn death, an bear/ His hopes bove wisdom, grace, and fear/. And you all know, security/ Is mortals chiefest enemy. (III,IV,28-33). The security provided by the second set of predictions is fleeting. Macbeth acts wildly, bringing his downfall and loss of both joy and security. The problem with knowledge was that it was power resulting in a decline in joy and comfort. Everything Macbeth had done to gain the power that he desired only resulted in greater discomfort and unhappiness. Macbeth found that the dead were much happier than he. Macbeth echoes his thoughts while stating, Better be with the dead,/ Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent peace,/ Than on the torture of the mind lie/ In restless ecstasy. (III, II,22-25).
Although Macbeth and many other characters seek both joy and power, the two ends are in conflict and never reach their climax at the same time. The power of knowledge and the pursuit of power lead to a decline in joy and comfort, while those without power hold the most joy. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth find power to be troublesome, with those they killed enjoying a better life. Like trying to measure two factors with precision, trying to reach both goals to a high level is impossible. At the same time, joy and power are able to decline together. A balance needs to be found between dangerous pursuits of power and joy. Ralph Waldo Emerson s statement is very true.