Murder, ghosts, and floating daggers are the usual attractions for most that read William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and yet there is an important theme that some might overlook. Written in the early 17th century, Macbeth is believed to be based upon historical events listed in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of Scotland and other current events of the time. Shakespeare constructs the memorable world of Macbeth with a mysterious and sinister atmosphere, incorporating diabolical elements into this world with the appearance of Hecate, witches, prophecies and ghostly apparitions. Throughout his story, Macbeth becomes controlled by desire for power, by allowing himself to be influenced, using evil means to gain and maintain power to the point that Macbeth is blinded to all else. In Macbeth, Shakespeare vividly demonstrates a recognizable theme of the weighty pull that power holds over those with authority.
Shakespeare masterfully illustrates the demise of man through Macbeth who falls under the control of the lust of power. Throughout the story, Shakespeare gradually suffocates his character, Macbeth, by the potent grasp of the desire for power. In the beginning, Macbeth is spoken of as a war hero; seemingly not concerned with his advancement, but rather honorably fighting for king and country. As described by a soldier after a battle, “But all’s too weak,
For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name—
Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valor’s minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseamed him from the nave to th' chops,
And fixed his head upon our battlements.” (1.2)
However, Macbeth is impressionable and once he is convinced by the witches prophetic predictions, he is consumed by a craving for the crown. Macbeth acting as the susceptible puppet, allows his many puppeteers to use him, heeding twisted promises from witches and forceful prodding from his wife. His appetite for power is fueled by his cunning wife who, taking initiative, plots the destruction of King Duncan.
According to Lady Macbeth’s conspiracy, Macbeth murders the king and despite his guilt Macbeth concedes to his wife’s chiding and assurance, “My hands are of your color, but I shame
To wear a heart so white.
I hear a knocking
At the south entry. Retire we to our chamber.
A little water clears us of this deed.
How easy is it, then! Your constancy
Hath left you unattended.” (2.2)...