Unchecked Power In Shakespeare's Macbeth And King Lear

1470 words - 6 pages

In many of the plays by William Shakespeare, the central character goes through internal and external changes that ultimately shake their foundations to the core. Numerous theories have been put forth to explain the sequence of tragedies Shakespeare wrote during this period by linking it to some experience of melancholy, anger, despair, and the antagonist's ultimate fall from grace in their lust for power. But such theories overlook the fact that it is in this very same period and in the same tragic works that portray the heights to which human nature can rise and fall in its purest and noblest, if not happiest terms. Surely the creation of so much light alongside the darkness and the perfection of the artistic medium through which Shakespeare gives them expression argues against the idea that the greedy side of human nature is his chief concern. His efforts to portray human life in its rarest form and not only the dark depths, but also the treasure rooms of our being. He tries to pierce beneath the superficial motives and forces of surface behavior, social, and cultural expressions and to the deeper levels of individual character and human nature. Shakespeare then places these aspects of human existence in their true relation to the wider field of universal life. In relation to the tragic hero, there are many similarities between the tragic heroes in Macbeth and King Lear. However, the differences between the two outline the re-occurring themes in both plays. In Shakespeare's plays the central characters' own weaknesses and lust for power lead to corruption. The unchecked power in Shakespeare's Macbeth and King Lear ultimately leads to corruption, tragedy, and the hero's fall from grace.In Macbeth, Macbeth's power goes unchecked within himself, his wife, and within the kingdom. The title character is a tragic hero, a person of high rank who is brought to eventual ruin by his desire for power. At the beginning of the play, Shakespeare defines Macbeth as a valiant hero very clearly. His courage is unquestionable in defense of Scotland in the opening scene. When King Duncan names Malcolm Prince of Cumberland, Macbeth decides to murder Duncan. Macbeth is loyal to the King and he imagines murder but rejects the idea. Macbeth is aware that his thoughts are corrupt and he knows that justice will somehow punish him. Then in Act I Scene 3, Macbeth considers killing King Duncan to make the witches' prophesy come true. He says, "Why, if fate will have me king, why chance may crown me." Yet increasingly his ambition defeated his good nature. Macbeth's limited power as Thane of Cawdor ignites his desire for complete and absolute power at any cost. The most apparent flaw, and perhaps the most tragic in Macbeth's character, is his lack of patience and hunger for total power.Macbeth tries to upset the natural order established by the gods. Most important to the theory that Macbeth is responsible for his own actions would be a point that the infamous witches and...

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