The "Flip Side" Of Power An Essay On The Conflict Of Power And Safety In Macbeth

935 words - 4 pages

Recently I read an article which talks about a German physicist named Werner Heisenberg. He discovered an analogous phenomenon with his uncertainty principle. Studying matter at the atomic level, quantum physics, he realized that the act of measuring affected the object being measured. As a result, one could never accurately determine both position and momentum of an electron with precision. The attempt to reach one of these goals hurts the other, and a similar phenomenon is found in our everyday lives. This relates to William Shakespeare's Macbeth. The protagonist is lured to murder King Duncan by the desire for power, an appetite whetted by the witches' prophecies and his wife's encouragement. But when he obtains the thrown, he finds himself insecure. He attempts to remove threats that decrease his security. In the play Macbeth, despite appearances of paradox, Shakespeare uses the motif "safe" to illustrate the theme that men's goals to have safety and power are almost impossible to attain simultaneously.The power from knowledge causes discomfort, and as it has often been said, ignorance is happiness. After Macbeth is promised the throne, Banquo asks why Macbeth is less than ecstatic. "Good sir, why do you start, and seem to fear, Things that do sound so fair?" (Act I, Scene 3, ll54-55) Being King of Scotland makes Macbeth uncomfortable, as he can senses the implications. His first thoughts of considering murdering Duncan make him scared. Also, knowing that he has committed such a vile act makes him uncomfortable. He soon realizes that it will be difficult to act innocent and to deal with his guilt. At the end, Hecate sets Macbeth up for his final fall,As by the strength of their illusionShall draw him on to his confusion.He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bearHis hopes 'bove wisdom, grace, and fear.And you all know securityIs mortals' chiefest enemy. (Act III, Scene 5, ll28-34)The security provided by sets of predictions is only fleeting. Feeling there is no threat to his power, Macbeth acts wildly, bringing his downfall and loss of both comfort and security. The problem with having power results in a decline in comfort.Those who are the most comfortable have the least power. The enjoyment of security precludes strength. The Porter delivers an ironic speech on the evils of drink, explaining,Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes. It provokes thedesire, but it takes away the performance. Therefore muchdrink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery. It makeshim, and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takes him off; itpersuades him and disheartens him; makes him stand to and notstand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and giving himthe lie,...

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