How does Shakespeare convey the corrosive nature of power in Macbeth? Macbeth, written in the early 1600’s by William Shakespeare, depicts the destructive nature of power through a variety of personalities in his archetypal characters. These characters portray the negative impact power has on the mind, making it seem like power in itself is a corrupt idea. Each character, such as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, depicts power blended with the flaw in their personalities which creates a wide array of channels through which Shakespeare conveys the corrosive nature of power.
Macbeth, the central character of this play, lets ambition, greed and power subdue his mind, making it impossible for him to emerge from the confines of his thoughts. The opinions of Macbeth and Banquo are juxtaposed after having met the three witches and their first prophecy coming true. Banquo is shown to be one that would let fate unfold as it is, but Macbeth is portrayed with a conflicted mind, where his greed eventually takes over. When Macbeth says “ This supernatural soliciting / Cannot be ill, cannot be good. the juxtaposition used shows the first hint of his inconsistent mind. At that point in time, he resolves to let events unfold, but as time goes on, he is pressed by his wife to let the greed overcome his mind. He follows his ambition, killing the king, but his first killing took away a part of his humanity. This is further emphasised in “ I had most need of blessing and ‘Amen’ / Stuck in my throat. ” The despondent tone of voice shows how disappointed he is to not be able to say ‘Amen’ and he may consider himself damned.
Macbeth’s conscience amplifies his fear when he thinks he hears “‘Sleep no more: Macbeth does murder sleep’… ‘Glamis hath murdered sleep’. ” Macbeth seems to lose his innocence while murdering and the guilt does not come back to plague him until his feast as the King of Scotland. He reaches his goal – being the King – but at a great cost. He pays attention to his moral values at the feast, which brings about the ghost of Banquo. “Avaunt and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee! ” uses exclaimed dialogue to show the fear and uncertainty in Macbeth’s voice.
This is the second indication that Macbeth’s power is corroding his mind and personality, the first being the “air-drawn dagger”. Steadily, Macbeth gains more power throughout the play. Towards the end, which is one of his peaks in power, he treats messengers and minors like filth. He even demands rather than asks for the witches’ help. The condescending tone used in “The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon. Where got’st thou that goose-look? ” shows that Macbeth has really let the power get to him, compared to Duncan who was always the humble and modest king.
This shows that Shakespeare has certainly conveyed the corrosive nature of power through the characterisation of archetypal characters in Macbeth. Lady Macbeth, also one of the main characters in Macbeth, is controlled by her desire to dominate and gain authority by hook or by crook. Her personality is shown to be the opposite of that of Macbeth’s, and during the play, they gradually switch roles. Lady Macbeth initially comes over as an evil ruler when she portrays her thoughts on Macbeth’s letter to the audience. Her confidence in speech, such as in “yet do I fear thy nature.
It is too full of the milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way” shows that she too, is overly ambitious, but unlike Macbeth at the beginning of the play, is able to act upon what she wants, and does not think about the moral implications of her actions as yet. This is echoed in the scene after in which Macbeth kills King Duncan where she questions Macbeth’s manliness in saying “When you durst do it, then you were a man. ”The beginning of the play seems to the peak point of Lady Macbeth’s character, as she goes on a steady downfall from there, reiterating the fact that the power she gains corrodes away her sanity.
Lady Macbeth creates a variety of masks for her character to portray – the ambitious wife, gracious hostess, and merciless murderer. She handles the murder of King Duncan better than Macbeth, and becomes a reigning queen. She also controls Macbeth’s fits at the feast by again question his manhood when saying “Are you a man? ” Her demise starts after the murder of Lady Macduff and her son, when Lady Macbeth’s maid and doctor find her sleepwalking and talking to herself. Her famous dialogue “Out damned spot! Out I say! One two. portrays insanity and shows that she is now feeling the guilt of killing and helping kill so many people. It is hinted the last scenes that she takes her own life due to the pangs of remorse coursing through her mind and body. Characterisation in Macbeth shows in many ways the negative impact of power and the corrosive nature of power. Characters like Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, through quotes techniques and effects depict this in explicit forms as the play ends with the downfall of both characters, thought at different times and in different ways. Avni Garg Words – 878