Essay, Research Paper: Macbeth And Machiavelli

Shakespeare: Macbeth

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From top to bottom of the ladder, greed is aroused without knowing where to find
ultimate foothold. Nothing can calm it, since its goal is far beyond all it can
attain. Reality seems valueless by comparison with the dreams of fevered
imaginations; reality is therefor abandoned. "Many have dreamed up
republics and principalities that have never in truth been known to exist; the
gulf between how one should live and how one does live is so wide that a man who
neglects what is actually done for what should be done learns the way to self
destruction rather than self-preservation." Italian political philosopher
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) states that greed leads men to their downfall, a
concept which is paralleled with Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. This play is the
representation of human society in which Macbeth represents man. The play opens
with 3 witches who honor Macbeth with three titles: "Thane of Glamis"
(his present title), "Thane of Cawdor" (his son to be announced title)
and the prophecy that he will be "king hereafter." Macbeth who is
roused by his vaulting ambitions, lust for power, tempted by these titles,
murders his rivals to the throne with his wife. As a result of his ruthless
quest for power leads him to his fate. Erich Fromm (1900-1980), a psychologist
once stated "greed is a bottomless pit which haunts man in an endless
effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction. He who comes
along greed is condemned to this bottomless pit." Shakespeare demonstrates
that greed that harms others, destroys the holder: mentally and morally, and
eventually leads to ones ultimate destruction. When man is driven by greed to
achieving their goal, they are stripped away of their morals and ethics. Macbeth
is fighting a war, a deadly game where man takes advantage of others to win and
claim the title of king. "if it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere
well it were done quickly. If the assassination could trammel up the
consequence, and catch, with the surcease, success; that but this blow might be
the be-all and the end-all here, but here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
we’d jump the life to come. But in these cases we still have judgement here;
that we but teach bloody instruction, which being taught, return to the plague
of inventor: this even handed justice condemns the ingredients of our poison’d
chalice to our own lips. " (Act I, Scene VII) Macbeth has confused feelings
about murdering Duncan, his "worthiest cousin." He hesitates to murder
Duncan because he is scared of the consequences which may somehow "return
and plague" him. He questions to himself, "how would his new subjects
react?" However, his ambition numbs the fear and the conscience concerning
consequences and his morals. At this point, he is already morally degraded.
Macbeth does not question the morality of the actions of what he is about to
take but instead worries about the consequences he may have to face if he fails.
Thus Macbeth does not fear or feel any moral remorse in committing the murder
itself. "Our fears in Banquo stick deep; and in his royalty of nature
reigns that which would be fear’d: ‘tis much he dares: and to that dauntless
temper of his murder he hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour to act in
safety. There is none but he whose being I do fear: and under him, my genius is
rebuked. " ( Act III, Scene II) Macbeth is irritated by Banquo, whose
existence is a hinderence towards his fulfillment of the prophecies. "My
lord, his (Banquo’s) throat is cut; that I did for him. " (Act III, Scene
II) Macbeth deals with this by murdering Banquo. However, this time he does not
contemplate over whether or not to murder Banquo but the actions he takes are
caprice. By the end of the play, Macbeth does not feel a bit of hesitation to
taking the life of another. "Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o’ the
sword his wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line.
" (Act IV, SceneI) Greed degrades a man’s morals by blinding him of them,
only allowing a narrowed vision of only their ambition. Greed destroys man from
many aspects which one happens to be mentally. Although not directly,
greed-driven actions bring regret and remorse and thus haunts one with guilt.
The guilt thus condemns the individual of their mental coherence. "Me
thought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep. Glamis
hath murdered sleep and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more: Macbeth shall
sleep no more. ‘" (Act II, Scene II) Macbeths shows the consequences that
huants him after he murders Duncan. His guilt starts to chip away at his
mentality driving him to insanity. Macbeth’s downfall is brought upon by the
degradation of his mentality. "Avaunt! And quick my sight! Let the earth
hide thee! They bones are marrowless, they blood is cold, though hast no
speculation in those eyes which thou dost glare with." (Act III, Scene IV).
Macbeth admits to killing Banquo which arouses the suspicion in Macduff who at
the end of the play leads an army that defeats Macbeth. "Out, damn spot!
Out I say! One: two: why then ‘tis time to do’t. Hell is murky. Fie, my
lord, fie! A soldier, a feared? What need we fear who knows it, when none can
call our pow’r to accompt? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had
so much blood in him?" (Act V, Scene I) Even Lady Macbeth is haunted with
guilt after assisting Macbeth in murdering Duncan. Lady Macbeth descends to
insanity and gets up every night and washes blood off her hands, a symbolic
representation of the guilt she must live with for the rest of her life. Lady
Macbeth commits suicide because she cannot bare to live with the heavy burden of
guilt on her back anymore. Greed leads both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to their
downfall. Greed and ambitions that harms others destructs the one who posses it.
"all ambitions are lawful except those which climb upward on the miseries
or credulities of mankind. All intellectual and artistic ambitions are
permissible, up to and even beyond the limit of prudent sanity. They can hurt no
one." States Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), a Polish born English novelist. The
ambitions of Banquo were much more simple and paradoxical than that of Macbeth
and Lady Macbeth. Though Banquo was curious when it concerned the witches
prophesy, he was reluctant to believe it. Banquo was much more simple, honest,
and harmless in character. He did not challenge his own fate like Macbeth and
Lady Macbeth, therefore he did not corrupt himself. Banquo thrusted his
ambitions toward leading an orthodox life, and he did not allow other forces to
interrupt his ambitions such as the witches, his destiny and greed. "why do
you start, and seem to fear things that do not sound so fair? I'the name of
truth, Are ye fantastical, or that indeed which outwardly show? My noble partner
You greet with present grace and great prediction of noble having, and of royal
hope, That he seems rapt withal; to me you speak not: If you can look into the
seeds of time, And say which grain will grow and which will not, Speak to me,
who neither not by fear Your favours nor your hate. "(Act I, Scene III)
Banquo was skeptical of the witches prophecy, thus prohibiting their spell to
penetrate his soul, leaving him pure. If Macbeth and Lady Macbeth had not
allowed their greed to take over and cause them to murder Duncan, their outcome
may have been different.
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