How does Shakespeare present ideas of power in Macbeth?

Expert Answers
shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Power is usually considered to be one of the primary themes in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth. Shakespeare looks at several important aspects of power over the course of the play.

1. How is power acquired?

Macbeth ascends to the throne through deceit, manipulation, and violence. Power is not just handed over to him; he has to trick people, then act with ruthless savagery.

2. How is power maintained?

Gaining power is the first problem, but holding on to it is an equally daunting task. Macbeth continues to use violence to frighten and eliminate his opposition. He kills his friend Banquo, then slaughters Macduff's wife and children. For awhile, he holds his power through fear of violent reprisals.

3. What are the effects of the actions needed to gain and hold power?

Shakespeare is most interested in how the actions of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth affect them psychologically. Lady Macbeth begins to suffer guilt over their acts, as she sleepwalks and sees imaginary blood on her hands. Macbeth loses his desire to live, as evidenced by one of the most famous soliloquys from the play:

Life is a tale told by an idiot,

Full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

He has the power he dreamed of, but finds that in the end it leads to a meaningless existence because of the horrible things he has had to do to keep it.