APQ3 Rewrite: Power

This is the rewrite of my Q3 piece on how the desire for power shapes a character. I chose the play Macbeth, because power is explored in so many different ways. I wanted to focus on Lady Macbeth because I think that she’s such an intricate character and her role is so instrumental to the play that she in fact should have been the main character. By writing this essay about her, I am nodding my head to her.

Power— whether it be a virtue or a vice— is undeniably woven into the fabric of our history. From romances to tragedies, comedies to dramas; it exists in every form. It is impossible to deny that power plays an instrumental role in humanity. The abuse of power is sin, and all sin is executed in the name of personal ambition. There is no piece of literary merit that exhibits this better than William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Within the span of a mere few pages, Shakespeare gives the readers an insight on his true view on society and the ruthlessness of human nature. He argues that with the oppressive struggle for power, comes the spiral into tyranny. However, the pleasure of power is only temporary, and the sins will eventually catch up and become its own ultimate downfall. This is best represented in the character of Lady Macbeth, whose own obsessive greed displays the very same narrative of cutthroat deceit and eventual self-destruction.


Lady Macbeth’s journey to wrangle power into her arms begins with the manipulation of her husband, setting her on the path of tyranny. She does so by encouraging him to kill King Duncan so that he can be crowned King of Scotland, hence making Lady Macbeth queen. She does this by belittling and insulting him, taking jabs at his masculinity and declaring him a coward. Although he eventually obliges, this action is indicative of Lady Macbeth’s first step towards self-destruction. Shakespeare is not only showing Lady Macbeth trying to exert power over an entire country, but over her husband as well. As she does so, she is starting to pick away at what was once a healthy relationship and transforming it into something far more toxic, placing Macbeth on the brink of his own turn to cruelty for personal gain This shows how the tyranny in her is not something that she can necessarily control. She can’t limit it to just the kingdom— no the evil of selfishness run so deep that it infects other aspects of her life, too. Shakespeare chooses to further emphasise this point by causing the evil to spread from just her actions and her husband to her own mind as well. As Lady Macbeth is the one who convinces Macbeth to kill Duncan, the blame is now mostly on her own shoulders. This taints her future in the play as it continues to drag behind her, not even leaving as we get closer and closer to her tragic end. Shakespeare holds up a mirror to human kind’s vile and most ruthless desires by showing the extent to which Lady Macbeth will go to obtain power and the subsequent spread of evil that follows and that will eventually come back to haunt her.


It’s not long after Macbeth kills King Duncan when Lady Macbeth’s descent from power to insanity begins. As Macbeth savagely continues his killing spree, targeting even his best friend Banquo and Macduff’s innocent family, his wife bears the weight of his actions. Lady Macbeth is thrown into a pit of inescapable guilt. She believes that it was her own cruel behaviour and desperate struggle for power that turned her husband from a man faithful to his morals and reluctant to kill into one who seemed to do so without a second thought (though, unbeknownst to her, he too starts seeing guilt in the form of an apparition of his once dear friend, Banquo). The guilt of her tyranny drives her to madness, essentially destroying the person she was before. She too starts seeing things, exclaiming “Out, damned spot!” when she cannot wash the figurative blood from her hands. Eventually, she can live with herself no longer, and commits suicide. Here, Shakespeare is further showing how an obsession of power is not just limited to the actions, but is so strong that is has the capability to bleed through to other aspects of one’s life. For Lady Macbeth, it was the destruction of the relationship with her husband when neither of them knew the trauma they were both experiencing. It was also the implosion of her own sanity and sense of self as her guilt stripped away all sense of control. This is reflective of the exact message Shakespeare is warning people of in his work: that the human drive for power ultimately leads to an all-consuming tyranny that self-corrects by destroying everything in its wake.


In conclusion, Lady Macbeth’s incessant desire for power ultimately becomes her downfall. By writing her character so, Shakespeare expands the significance of Macbeth beyond just a distant tale in a far off land into a reflection of the dangers of personal ambition in mankind’s experience of the world.

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