Perhaps I will have more luck here than on the Hamlet board, where teacher and student alike seem loath to enter any sort of in depth discussion about my questions. Anyway, in the examination of the effect of absolute power on a particular person I have three characters in particular I wish to compare: Banquo, Macbeth, and Malcolm. This will be a gross generalization but I felt that two major traits that differed among the three men were general courage and moral fiber. Macbeth was in general a brave man, but did not seem naturally so: he would be quick to run into a battle headlong to face mortal danger; however, throughout most of the play he is terrified of one thing or another, either the consequences of his action, the retribution he faces as a result of said actions, etc. Banquo seems brave both in battle, and seems on more morally stable ground than Macbeth does. When we first see the weird sisters, Banquo bravely calls out to them whilst Macbeth is paralyzed with fear. Malcolm does not possess the same sort of physical prowess that the two generals do, and flees the country and lives in fear of taking action. We do perceive his morality as strong as he is anxious about ascending to the throne in case he becomes like Macbeth, who had hitherto seemed a paragon of everything esteemed in their society.
There are a few points where we see flashes of what Macbeth was thinking in Banquos own troubled thoughts, and we see the same sort of ambition that he struggles to-
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why do you think Macbeth is considered to be one of Shakespeare's most important plays?
Macbeth, an exceptionally gifted & valiant soldier, did have a seed of ambition to become the king of Scotland, if necessary, by killing Duncan. The witches chose him as their victim to use him as an agent of evil. Further, there was Lady Macbeth to chastise Macbeth with the valour of her tongue to goad him to the horrid 'deed'.
Banquo was also a great general, apparently much clearer in conscience than Macbeth. But he too asked for the witches' prophecies, and fell a victim to evil temptation. Banquo was enamoured of the prophecy that his issues would be the successors to the throne. Unlike Macduff, Banquo prefers to adopt a line of compromise with Macbeth & pays the penalty for it.
Malcolm escapes to England to mature in political & military acumen . At the end of the play, he is going to be coronated as the legitimate king. His assumption of kingship is a vindication of lawful authority.
Macbeth, far more complex a character than both Banquo & Malcolm, is the protagonist. Banquo & Malcolm are both foils to his character.
We know he had the desire for that power, just the fear of what would happen to him if he seized it as he did, but if he was justified, I doubt Macbeth would have any moral reservations about usurping a hated leader (unlike Duncan who was loved).
Then in Banquo, being in general the more capable and respectable of the two men, would probably have been equally viewed in the publics eye as a possible savior, except Macbeth would have been the more likely to act on murder. However a fear and jealousy of a potential rival would probably have caused him to first try to snuff out Banquo in secret. Here it would be easy to see how Macbeth could still become king for awhile, however prompted again by new fears of being usurped himself, would likely still resort to being a not so great leader himself.
Here it would be relatively easy to see how a Fleance character might years later grow up to seek revenge on a then despised Macbeth. Also how, being the son of Banquo, people might then look to place him on the throne.
I know none of this actually pertains to the play, however if we remove the supernatural aspects of the play and still treat it mainly as an examination of absolute power, I can very easily see this play working in a completely nonsupernatural setting. The witches and spirits serve to make it much more entertaining as a play, and also speed things up considerably. However I think the underlying examinations remain perfectly functional even without them or the prophesy.
I find myself thinking one other thing, what if Macbeth has simply waited like he originally said, 'if chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, without my stir.' Thing had already seemed to have been unfolding, and what if he had waited, how then would the prophesy have fulfilled itself? Better yet, would the events have unfolded anyway if there were no prophesy at all? Again I mean to examine the effects of absolute power on people, it's pretty obvious how the play treats it but it's interesting to think about.
We see Malcolm grow greatly as a man because of the tragedy that is thrust upon him by Macbeths vile actions. Through his example of a horrible leader, Malcolm learns what it means to temper ones own faults. However if Macbeth had simply waited, perhaps it would have been HIM that would eventually have ascended the throne and become a horrible leader. He said himself he had certain qualities which might make him just as bad a leader, if perhaps in different ways. His younger brother was so minor a character, and so weak and unimportant a figure, we can assume that he would not have played any importance one way or another. However if Malcolm had been allowed to become king without learning his lessons from Macbeth, maybe he would have eventually been overthrown by Macbeth who then might have been called upon by the people to sieze power.
try to stifle. I find myself wondering what each man would have done had their positions been switched, and what that would mean in terms of the effect that absolute power has on certain qualities in men. Malcolm, not particularly wanting the crown at all, would probably have been fine, but would he have learned the same lessons if he did not have Macbeth to learn from? He mentions he has his own sexual demons to fight, and one wonders if he would have succumbed to those demons were he not first hardened by the experiences Macbeth has thrust upon him.
Banquo I really struggle with, I am not quite sure one way or another where he would have gone. He seems right on the edge of being able to commit those crimes and not, and unlike Macbeth, he would not have needed the goading of his wife to do it, he was brave enough to act on his own if he committed to it.
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