Macbeth's Illegitimate Power

658 Words3 Pages
William Shakespeare's eponymously titled play Macbeth is one of the most celebrated writings in history and is still being performed and studied today. The play reflects the established socio-cultural beliefs of power and the effects of an illegitimate rule during the Jacobean period. Written in the seventeenth century when belief in a divine-ordained hierarchy prevailed, it was thought that if monarchical power was accessed via illegitimate means, destruction of the mind and state would result.

Through the character of Macbeth, Shakespeare positions his readers to believe that power can attract even the most noble of men. In the opening of the play, a loyal Macbeth is approached by three witches who entice him with their claim that “[he] shalt be king thereafter.” (1-3-50). This information stimulates his hidden thirst for power and willingness to keep the throne for himself. He plots to murder the king and takes the liberty of killing Banquo, and anyone else who poses a threat to his reign to aid his own insecurity. Macbeth begins to lose trust in those around him and becomes unstable. Shakespeare shows through Duncan, who carries a legitimate power, that only direct threats to the kingdom are punished accordingly.

Illegitimate power is also shown to result in manipulated relationships. Macbeth’s relationship with Lady Macbeth is evidence of this. They were both madly in love with each other in the beginning, Macbeth greeting his mistress tenderly and saying that she is his “dearest love” (1-6-57). However as the events unfold, they become allies more than lovers in their quest to claim the throne, and Macbeth is manipulated and encouraged to do wrong. His determination is questioned by his wife as she states that “[he] live a coward in [his] own esteem.” (1-7-42) This corrupts Macbeth’s mind even further and their relationship is destroyed completely by the
Open Document