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An Analysis Of The Corrupting Nature Of Ambition And Power

1835 words - 7 pages

Dictatorship, in its diverse forms, has remained a norm in human systems of government since time immemorial. Whether manifested as the absolute monarchs of yore or the recent communist and fascist dictators of the 20th century, conventionally, dictators became oppressive and incapable of governing due to the corrupting influence of power, and most met their ends at the hands of the angry masses, such as the famous execution of King Louis XVI of France. The play Macbeth by William Shakespeare and the biography of recently deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi both show the damaging nature of unbridled ambition and power. The former is the story of the tragic-hero Macbeth, once a celebrated soldier, who was driven to regicide to hasten a prophecy that hailed him as King of Scotland after the death of the present king. As king, Macbeth’s sanity rapidly deteriorated, and his tyranny and bloodthirsty ambition to eliminate political rivals led many Scots to revolt against and eventually kill him. The latter account shows how a military officer of humble origins overthrew the inefficient monarchy for social good. However, once he became leader, his unchecked power led to economic corruption, political censorship, sponsorship of terrorism, and finally his own death by rebels. Macbeth and Qaddafi may have replaced their respective monarchs for different reasons, but once in power, their absolute authority led them to oppress their countrymen, which caused large-scale revolts that eventually led to the dictators’ downfall. Regardless of the real or fictional nature of these two rulers and their respective eras, it is clearly established through their biographies that desire for power and unquestionable authority is a destructive influence to correct moral character.

The presence of unrestrained ambition and selfish motives in Macbeth’s character and the lack thereof in Qaddafi’s both led them to overthrow their respective monarchs. First, the motive that drove Macbeth to depose King Duncan was his desire to see the fulfilment of the Three Witches’ prophecy about him becoming king after Duncan, since their other prophecy about becoming Thane of Cawdor had indeed come true. However, there was no need to overthrow Duncan since he was a virtuous king, as attested to by Macbeth’s own words: “Duncan / hath borne his faculties so meek […] that his virtues will plead like angels […] against / The deep damnation of his taking-off” (1.7.16-20). Confessing to himself about his foul motive, Macbeth also said, “I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition” (1.7.25-27). As someone who had already experienced honour as a celebrated general (1.4), Macbeth’s desire for further glory was greatly strengthened by the prophecies, because of which he contemplated murdering Duncan even though there was no justifiable reason for doing so. True to his intention – and bolstered by his wife’s encouragement – Macbeth finally...

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