Different Effects Of Power In Shakespeare's Macbeth

Everyone has been in a group before, whether it is for school, work, sports, etcetera. In that same group, there will always be that one person who chooses to take over and who seems to have the most power, also known as the leader. It is never a bad thing to lead the group to success until they start abusing the power they have. Much like the play Macbeth written by William Shakespeare, two characters named Macbeth and Malcolm are both leaders who act differently with the power they have. Macbeth and Malcolm gain and utilize their power in different manners as leaders, as individuals and towards society.

Macbeth was a respectable and brave warrior who demonstrated his admirable leadership during battle; he was a man who the public and King Duncan adored until he became selfish and killed for power. Macbeth impulsively decided to steal the power from Duncan forcefully to make himself king and leader of Scotland. During Macbeth’s reign, not everyone wanted him as their leader. A Lord who stated his thoughts on Macbeth said, “...To ratify the work, we may gain/ Give to our tables meat, sleep to our nights, / Free from our feasts and banquets bloody knives...”. He claims that their current leader, Macbeth, is violent and senselessly murders innocent people to feel more powerful making the Lord against Macbeth as their king. Macbeth often takes his power for granted thinking he could do anything just because he is the most powerful man in the country. As Macbeth himself said, “To make them kings, seeds of Banquo kings./ Rather than so, come Fate into the list,/ And champion me to th’utterance”. Just because he fears that he will lose his place as king, he decides to kill his own friend all because of power. Macbeth will go through so much just to keep a title that was not supposed to be his in the first place.

In contrast to Macbeth, Malcolm is a more suitable king for Scotland with his influence from Duncan and learning from his mistake; trusting others easily. Macduff chased Malcolm to ask for his help to fight Macbeth and gain his rightful title, King of Scotland. However, Malcolm did not trust Macduff easily clearly knowing he could be Macbeth’s spy. Instead, he tested him for his loyalty stating he does not have a “bottom…/ In [his] voluptuousness” along with other qualities a king should not have. By doing so, he can figure out if he can trust Macduff, unlike Duncan who trusts easily and Macbeth, who does not trust anyone at all. In addition, all Malcolm wants is for the better of his country. He does not want to be the king if he is not suitable as he said to Macduff, “The cistern of my lust, and my desire/ All continent impediments would o’erbear/ That did oppose my will. Better Macbeth,/ Than such one to reign”. While Malcolm is merely testing Macduff for his loyalty, he said Macbeth would be a better king than he would be since he is lustful, violent and selfish; he wants what is better for his people even if the title as king is rightfully his. Malcolm serves his people and is willing to sacrifice his throne if it will benefit them in the long run instead of ruling over them like Macbeth has, who also took his power for granted and killed innocent lives.

The antagonist, Macbeth is corrupted by his constant hunger for power and wanting to gain more of it. On the other hand, before all this, he was proud of what he has achieved in battle and confident in himself. That all changed when he made the decision to take a shortcut to get the power he has now and kill the king. In cause of this, his life changed for the worse feeling the guilt of murdering someone, especially if that someone is his king; someone who trusted him. His guilt is clear as he says, “Wake Duncan with thy knocking: I would thou/ couldst.” Macbeth could only wish that a knocking could wake Duncan up, but he knows Duncan would never wake up ever again because of him and his greed for power. Through Macbeth’s reign, he becomes more comfortable in using his power to do whatever he wants to keep his position as king. This results in Macbeth paying servants to become a spy for him, reporting each lords’ actions and plans. Macbeth says it himself, “I hear it by the way, but I will send./ There’s not a one of them but in his house/ I keep a servant feed.” (3.4.130-132). This demonstrates Macbeth’s corrupt mindset thinking everyone is a possible threat to him wanting to steal the crown from him or help Malcolm become king. He will do anything at any cost as long as he stays as the King of Scotland.

Malcolm, as an individual has been through a lot ever since the death of his father; ever since, he wants to avenge Duncan by becoming a better leader to their people. If anything, his father’s death has made him stronger and influential. During Malcolm’s encounter with Macduff, he says, “What I believe; and what I can redress,/ As I shall find the time to friend, I will.” Malcolm is more determined than ever, expressing his want to take vengeance on Macbeth, who killed Duncan and is currently killing his people that are not guilty. Malcolm is a man of justice who will punish who did wrong and reward who did good. After their victory of the battle against Macbeth, Malcolm says, “We shall not spend a large expense of time/ Before we reckon with your several loves/ And make us even with you.” By saying this, Malcolm expresses his gratefulness to each soldier who stood by him and trusted him. Unlike Macbeth, Malcolm is worthy of being king as he is what he is everything he described a leader should have, “…justice, verity, temp’rance, stableness,/ Bounty, perseverance, mercy…”.

Unlike a true king, Macbeth does not treat his people as well as he is supposed to, leading them to dislike him as their leader. Living up to what people call him, a tyrant, he continues to use his power as an excuse to do what he wants with it, such as murdering Macduff’s family. After seeing the witches, Macbeth says, “The castle of Macduff I will surprise;/ Seize upon Fife; give to th’edge o’th’sword/ His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls/ That trace him in his line.” Macbeth gives another reason for people of Scotland, including Macduff, to be on Malcolm’s side; if they betray Macbeth, he can end their family in an instant. The longer Macbeth is king, the more their fear of him grows. Even Lennox conveys his true opinions on Macbeth as he says, “His message ere he come, that a swift blessing/ May soon return to this our suffering country. Under a hand accurs’d”. The thane wants to be free of Macbeth’s leadership because of all the wrongs Macbeth has committed. Macbeth is digging his own grave by committing more sins causing people to turn away from him, not wanting him as their king.

The people who are against Macbeth are on Malcolm’s side because of his ability to control and maintain his power without doing any wrong to the society in contrast to Macbeth. Under Duncan’s lead, people of Scotland were content with how Duncan led them, which is why they trust Duncan’s choice of making Malcolm heir to the throne. After the first battle, Duncan announced, “We will establish out estate upon/ Our eldest, Malcolm, whom we name hereafter/ The Prince of Cumberland…”. This announcement made it official that Malcolm has proved himself to be worthy enough to be a king. Though after Duncan died, Malcolm only continues to prove that he is more than ready to lead Scotland by taking the position back. During the battle, Malcolm says, “We have met with foes/ That strike beside us.” Malcolm realizes that people on Macbeth’s army is not doing anything to hurt them showing they are hoping Malcolm to win. He has gained power through his followers by wanting what will benefit them in the end which differentiates Malcolm from Macbeth.

The two opposing leaders, Macbeth and Malcolm contrast each other by having different effects of their power as rulers of Scotland, themselves, and how they act towards their people. In Macbeth, it is evident that these two characters show power in very different ways, Malcolm for the better, while Macbeth uses power for the worse. A good leader is someone who can maintain their power and use it for the better of their country, if power is not used correctly, it could result to destruction and corruption. After all, as Peter Parker said, “With great power comes great responsibilities”. 

16 December 2021
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