Macbeth does not anticipate the self-destructive effects of getting what he wills, for he suffers the consequences of his corruption in diminishment of strength, first, within himself. He deprives himself of sleep and troubles himself with fears of the living and even of the dead (Banquo’s ghost) and of the yet to be born (Banquo’s royal descendants). He loses his wife to her own paralyzing fears. He thinks he has lost—that is damned—his immortal soul. At last he loses power to intimidate when his troops come to detest him more than they fear him. Then he loses crown and life at the same time to a surviving son of the legitimate king he had killed. For those subject to the power of a ruler beset by ambition and fear, the consequences are what often must attend a quest for absolute power: looking to the ruler, constant fears of violent death at the hands of another; looking to those who are ruled, destruction of civic friendship, now giving way to a general distrust. Macbeth installs in every prominent family spies so as to detect disaffection. One consequence thereof: no one can know whether within his own household he deals with friend or enemy.
Although Macbeth is but one case, it is not clear that Shakespeare shows any individual who became corrupted through possession of power. Does he show any who are made better through holding power? There is of course the difficult and complex case of Prospero. But on balance he seems to have become better not through wielding power but through losing power. When Duke of Milan, he spent his time and attention on his studies to the neglect of his dukedom and his duties. It is only when supplanted and exiled that he comes to take seriously his responsibility for the welfare of those over whom he rules. On his island and with his small polity he becomes less corrupt in the sense of more responsible. But as Alvis rightly says, Prospero remains an enigma.
How Macbeth is corrupted by power Essay Sample
Macbeth may not have a public-policy agenda as extensive as Hillary Clinton’s, but he has a claim of justice lying beneath his admission of ambition: he is more deserving of rule than Malcolm or than Duncan, for that matter, if we understand justice to require the commensuration of highest honor with highest worth. Shakespeare may not agree with Macbeth about military prowess as the highest claim of worth, but he no doubt does agree that honor is a respectable and valid aim of rule. Aristotle surely does agree. Honor can be a good and incorrupt aim, for it may lead a ruler to attempt to rule in such a way as to deserve honor, that is to say, to rule in a way that benefits his subjects and thus earns their esteem. Ambition is not corrupt in itself and it does not seem that Shakespeare means to show that honor achieved through attaining power is necessarily corrupting. A clearer case of one who is corrupt before attaining power is Richard III. It is difficult to say that possessing absolute or near absolute power made him worse; it merely gave him the opportunity to do more mischief.
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In Macbeth, the play's theme is the strife created by the wrongful seizure of power and the corruption of morals of those who acquire power by evil means....
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Macbeth acts as his own adversary shown through his paranoia and insecurity that ultimately, led him to be a corrupted individual because of his greediness to obtain more power....
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But to what extent has the irreligious man's conscience proven efficacious against the absolute corruption Acton considered endemic to absolute power? We might consider that the worst atrocities of 20th-century dictators were committed by those who--like Marlowe's Tamburlaine--set themselves up above any divine accountability. Responding to Skwire, Alvis states, "Power made responsible is power diminished." From Shakespeare's perspective, human power is responsible to a Higher Power, and if the human power does not acknowledge this himself through virtuous self-regulation and the appropriate diminishment of power, defeat from without is inevitable. Indeed, we may say that plays like Macbeth and Richard III offer a metaphysical comfort not present in most interpretations of the modern totalitarian state.