When discussing any of Shakespeare’s pivotal works, it is nearly impossible to somehow relate them to Hamlet. Whether it is stark differences in character, plot similarities, or simply through literary devices, Shakespeare created a masterpiece through Hamlet. Nicolo Machiavelli also coined a treasure with The Prince. Through the lens of Hamlet and The Prince, one is able to dissect Shakespeare’s Macbeth with a greater understanding of Machiavellian beliefs. By placing Macbeth against Hamlet’s incredibly high standards, it becomes clear that the character of Macbeth is not a Machiavellian prince for one simple reason: he is not smart enough and lacks the foresight that Machiavelli preached.
The character of Hamlet is far removed from a Machiavellian prince. He is unconcerned with his own public image and instead focuses on deep knowledge of a person and himself. The opening line of Hamlet, “who’s there?” (Shakespeare 1.1.1), sets up the play for the theme of self-discovery that Hamlet and Shakespeare himself are obsessed with. The thesis of Hamlet quickly exposes itself in (1.1.2) as, “stand and unfold yourself,” which starkly disagrees with The Prince’s thesis of taking on the traits of both a lion and a fox (Machiavelli 69).
Machiavelli’s concern for being cunning through power does not accurately translate in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth himself have an uncontrollable thirst for power but are not “fox-like” in pursuing their influence. Although Macbeth longs to be Machiavellian in his leadership, his desire for supreme power does not allow for this. While Macbeth is still concerned with his public image, he is not removed enough in his position. The thesis of Macbeth becomes obvious in (1.3.143) when Macbeth states, “and nothing is but what is not,” in direct disagreement with the thesis of Hamlet. This conflict creates tension between the two works and confirms that Shakespeare himself is wrestling with Machiavellian ideals throughout the two works.
At the beginning of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth appears to have all the power harnessed in the play. Macbeth simply does her bidding, for fear of not being viewed as a man. Lady Macbeth controls her husband and forces him to “become a man” through terrible deeds. She manipulates tells Macbeth, telling him, “when you durst do it, then you were a man; and to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man” (Shakespeare 1.7.48-52). Through this...